Monthly Archives: June 2015

2015 New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults: Interview with Donovan Bixley

Donovan Bixley’s book Little Red Riding Hood … Not Quite, written by Yvonne Morrison, has been voted for by kids all over New Zealand as a finalist in the Children’s Choice Picture Book  category. Little Red is also on the judge’s finalist list. Donovan and Yvonne collaborated last year, on the Children’s Choice award-winning The Three Bears (Sort Of), and here is the interview that Booksellers NZ had with him last year. https://booksellersnz.wordpress.com/2014/05/22/finalist-interview-the-illustration-of-the-three-bears-sort-of-by-donovan-bixley/

This is just one of three titles that Donovan has had recognised in the 2015 Book Awards for Children and Young Adults, and two of these – this and Dragon Knight: Fire! are also in the children’s choice category. For that reason, this interview covered both books.

  •  What was your approach to illustrating Little Red Riding Hood…Not Quite – was it any easier than with The Three Bears?

Three Bears was a real head spinner, simply trying to figure out how on earth to illustrate the manuscript. I worried that it was all going to be a big mess of different styles and not hold together visually. Well, with last year’s award, obviously it seemed to have worked – so Red Riding Hood was much easier in that regard. However, it’s a tricky business doing a sequel. I figure a sequel should be more of the same, but different. So that’s what I tried to do.

  • What are the challenges and advantages of working on illustrations for authors who you have worked with prior?

I can usually see the finished book clearly in my head, and I forget that others aren’t telepathic. One of the best things about working with authors again and again is that I can just do a messy scribble, and they know what I mean because they’ve seen previously the process of how I can turn that little scribble into a finished painting. It saves lots of time and explaining.

  • Does how you illustrate junior fiction differ from how you illustrate a picture book? How do you target children in each age bracket with illustration?

For any book I try to expand and reinforce what the words are saying. But then I always like to stick in lots of little additions to discover. Some for adults and some for kids – as long as they don’t overwhelm the story that needs to be told on that page. For example, in Dragon Knight you might see Foole in the background (who strikes a remarkable resemblance to the idiotic Shlok from Dinosaur Rescue), although he’s not actually a character in the story. Similarly, Red Riding Hood contains dozens of hidden surprises – ‘hidden’ because I don’t want them to overshadow the flow of the story.

The main difference, is that in a picture book, the words are often reduced down to elegant and evocative sentences, meaning that the pictures carry a lot of the practical storytelling (the who, where, when, how). On the other hand, in a chapter book, the words are doing a lot more practical storytelling, which allows the pictures to do things which aren’t pure storytelling. So in Dragon Knight I can create all sorts of funny asides that expand upon the world of the actual story, like: ‘Dragon Illnesses’; or ‘Common Knight School Injuries’. On top of that, a chapter book has a lot of pages to fill. The text generally takes up about a quarter of the 96 pages. With all that space, I have a lot more freedom to control how the story flows, with dynamic reveals and page-turning surprises.

Of course I also try to do that in a picture book, but you have limited options with only 32 pages.

  • Can you recommend any books for children who love your style of illustration?

I love stories that have a lot to discover. A reason to go back again and again. Sometimes I look at favourite books I had as a kid and discover a joke that makes sense now I’m all growed up. Asterix, and Graham Oakley’s Church Mice series are examples of superb storytelling with pictures. They are jam-packed with funny references to things which you may not understand for years. Harder to find is anything by Mordillo, like his Crazy Crazy Jungle Life. Mordillo was a master of the wordless book. Another of my favourites is Bill Peet, if you can track down his marvelous books like How Droofus the Dragon Lost his Head, Wump World, or Burford the Little Bighorn. Bill Peet was one of the original founders of Disney and he worked on Dumbo before having a fall-out with Walt Disney and starting a second career in children’s books.

  • What advice would you give any would-be illustrator?

Absorb what other illustrators do. Figure out what you like and don’t like (and why) then develop your own ideas – that’s what makes you a unique artist. A picture book illustrator is different from other types of artist – you don’t need to be the best drawer or painter, instead you need to be a great storyteller.

  • What do you find yourself drawing when you aren’t working, perhaps when you are just thinking something through

If I’m mindlessly doodling tend to draw little swirling lines, usually with pointy arrow heads for some reason. It takes about a year before the pad on my drawing desk ends up completely covered with these squiggles and gets thrown away. It’s not the type of thing I normally keep.

I don’t really do any drawings are not ‘work’. I’m not the type of artist who secretly longs to paint landscapes or abstract art. I love the art form of the picture book, it’s my artistic obsession, so that’s what I do for fun. When I’m not working on ‘work’, all my spare time is devoted to scribbling research pictures, reference compositions and doodles for projects that I hope will be published one day. Usually these books start as something that I want to draw pictures of – I wrote Monkey Boy so I could draw pictures of 19th century warships, battles and ghastly ghouls. The only thing I draw outside of picture books are my family. I have quite a collection of drawings and paintings of my three daughters.

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If you want to know more about Donovan, check out his website here: http://www.donovanbixley.com/

For reviews of Little Red Riding Hood (Not Quite), check out the Booksellers NZ review here: http://booksellersnz.wordpress.com/2015/04/09/book-review-little-red-riding-hood-not-quite-by-yvonne-morrison-illustrated-by-donovan-bixley/

And my review here on the blog.

This is day seven of the blog tour featuring each of the finalists in the Children’s Choice category of the awards. Later today, I will post Yvonne Morrison’s answers to the author’s interview for  this title.  Yesterday’s feature was I am not a Worm, by Scott Tulloch, whose interview can be found here: http://thriftygifty.blogspot.co.nz/2015/07/nz-book-awards-for-children-and-young_2.html.  Monday’s feature will be our third picture book, Doggy Ditties from A to Z, by Jo van Dam and Myles Lawford will be covered back on Thrifty Gifty http://thriftygifty.blogspot.co.nz/.

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Filed under 2015 Children's Choice Award, 2015 New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults, authors, books, children, children's fiction, Illustrators, New Zealand

Aaron Blabey reads Thelma the Unicorn

Aaron Blabey is one of my favourite picture book author/illustrators.  Not only his is text a delight to read aloud but his stories are full of humour and silliness.  His illustrations are absolutely hilarious too (I especially love his illustrations for his Pig the Pug books).  Thelma the Unicorn is Aaron’s latest picture book and it’s absolutely terrific!  Check out this cool video of Aaron reading Thelma the Unicorn and you can also watch the book trailer for his new series coming from Scholastic in August, The Bad Guys, right here on the blog.

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My Most Anticipated Kids and YA July Releases from Scholastic NZ

The Bloodtree Chronicles: Sanspell by Elizabeth Pulford

When the Bloodtree loses its last leaf, there will be no more stories in the Silvering Kingdom . . .

The Silvering Kingdom is the home of fairy tales but the kingdom and all those within are in danger of vanishing because the Bloodtree – the source of all stories – has been poisoned.

‘Sanspell’ is a story that has been cursed. It is up to Abigail to enter the fairy-tale world, where she is known as Spindale, and save the story tree. Together with Flint, whose mother Trinket is being held captive by the evil Rackenard, they set off on a journey: three drops of Trinket’s blood is what is required to save the tree. The race is on . . . but can they survive the wicked Zezmena’s spells?

Tyranno-sort-of-Rex by Christopher Llewelyn and Scott Tulloch

Everyone’s heard of a Tyrannosaurus Rex and a Diplodocus a Tyranno-Sort-of Rex and a Bit-odd-ocus?

When the ship carrying boxes of dinosaur bones to a dreadful storm, the boxes are broken and the bones museum curator is tasked with the job of putting them the next day’s exhibition – with curious results!

Tyranno-Sort-of Rex by Christopher Llewelyn

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Winners of the 2015 Carnegie and Greenaway Medals

The winners of the 2015 Carnegie and Greenaway Medals were announced on Monday in the UK.  Tanya Landman was awarded the CILIP Carnegie Medal for Buffalo Soldier and William Grill was awarded the CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal for his debut picture book, Shackleton’s Journey.  They each received a medal and £500 of books to donate to their local library and William Grill also received the Colin Mears Award of £5,000.

xxxxxCharley, a young African-American slave from the Deep South, is freed at the end of the American Civil War. However her freedom is met with tragedy after her adopted mother is raped and lynched at the hands of a mob, and Charley finds herself alone with no protection. In a terrifyingly lawless land, where the colour of a person’s skin can bring violent death, Charley disguises herself as a man and joins the army. Trapped in a world of injustice and inequality, it’s only when Charley is posted to Apache territory to fight “savage Indians” that she begins to learn about who she is and what it is to be truly free.

The judges said: Engrossing from the very beginning, the strong narrative voice engages the reader in the world described; perfectly conveying raw emotions without the overuse of sentimentality. This is a beautiful, powerful piece of writing that will remain with readers long after the last page.

xxxxxIn the last days of the Heroic Age of Exploration, Ernest Shackleton dreamed of crossing the frozen heart of Antarctica, a place of ferocious seas, uncharted mountains and bone-chilling cold. But when his ship, the Endurance, became trapped in the deadly grip of the ice, Shackleton’s dreams of crossing Antarctica were shattered. Stranded in a cold, white world, and thousands of miles from home, the men of the expedition set out on a desperate trek across the ice in search of rescue.

The judges said: This beautiful non-fiction book seems to effortlessly bring a modern and fresh feel to the story of Ernest Shackleton, whilst remaining traditional and classic. This is an exciting, quality book which provides a true experience and reminds us that it is the people, not the journey, that truly matter.

I haven’t read either of these books but they both sound really interesting.  My picks were More Than This by Patrick Ness for the Carnegie and Goth Girl and the Ghost of a Mouse by Chris Riddell for the Greenaway.  There were certainly some great books on the shortlist and I’m sure it would have been a tough decision.

The Carnegie Medal is awarded annually to the writer of an outstanding book for children. The shortlisted books this year were:

  • When Mr. Dog Bites by Brian Conaghan
  • Apple and Rain by Sarah Crossman
  • Tinder by Sally Gardner
  • Cuckoo Song by Frances Hardinge
  • The Fastest Boy in the World by Elizabeth Laird
  • Buffalo Soldier by Tanya Landman
  • The Middle of Nowhere by Geraldine McCaughrean
  • More Than This by Patrick Ness

The Greenaway Medal is awarded annually for an outstanding book in terms of illustration for children and young people. The shortlisted books this year were:

  • The Promise, illustrated by Laura Carlin
  • Jim’s Lion, illustrated by Alexis Deacon
  • Shackleton’s Journey, written and illustrated by William Grill
  • Dark Satanic Mills, illustrated by John Higgins and Marc Olivent
  • Smelly Louie, written and illustrated by Catherine Rayner
  • Goth Girl and the Ghost of a Mouse, written and illustrated by Chris Riddell
  • Tinder, illustrated by David Roberts
  • Rules of Summer, written and illustrated by Shaun Tan

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My Most Anticipated July Kids and YA New Releases from Allen and Unwin

My Brother is a Superhero by David Solomons (Children, 8+)

Behind every great superhero is a very angry younger brother…

Luke is a comic-mad, eleven-year old who shares a treehouse with his geeky older brother, Zack.  Luke’s only mistake is to go for a wee right at the wrong time. While he’s gone, an alien gives his undeserving, never-read-a-comic-in-his-life brother superpowers and tells him to save the universe. Luke is massively annoyed about this, but when Zack is kidnapped by his arch-nemesis, Luke and his friends have only five days to find him and save the world… Laugh-out-loud funny with enough heart to fill the entire galaxy!

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Because You’ll Never Meet Me by Leah Thomas (Young Adult)

Ollie and Moritz are two teenagers who will never meet. Each of them lives with a life-affecting illness. Contact with electricity sends Ollie into debilitating seizures. Moritz has a heart defect and is kept alive by an electronic pacemaker. If they did meet, Ollie would seize. But turning off the pacemaker would kill Moritz.

Through an exchange of letters, the two boys develop a strong bond of friendship which becomes a lifeline during dark times – until Moritz reveals that he holds the key to their shared, sinister past, and has been keeping it from Ollie all along.

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The Bad Guys Book Trailer

They sound like the Bad Guys, they look like the Bad Guys . . . and they even smell like the Bad Guys. But Mr Wolf, Mr Piranha, Mr Snake and Mr Shark are about to change all of that! Mr Wolf has a daring plan for the Bad Guys’ first
good mission. The gang are going to break 200 dogs out of the Maximum Security City Dog Pound. Will Operation Dog Pound go smoothly? Will the Bad Guys become the Good Guys? And will Mr Snake please spit out Mr Piranha?

The Bad Guys is a fantastic new series by Aaron Blabey coming in August from Scholastic NZ.  Aaron Blabey is the author and illustrator the brilliant picture books, Pig the Pug, Pig the Fibber and Thelma the Unicorn. The Bad Guys:Episode One is Aaron’s first book for slightly older readers and it looks like it’s going to be hilarious.  I can’t wait to read it!

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I Can’t Wait For…The Bakehouse by Joy Cowley

Viewed from a distance of seventy-plus years, 1943 was history soup, everything mixed up, and it was difficult to separate reality from what he had read or been told.  One event, though, was crystal clear and refused to be forgotten.  He’d never talked about it to the others, not Meg and certainly not Betty, but he didn’t want to be buried with the truth.

Someone should know what happened that winter day.

Bert wants nothing more than be old enough to fight in the war—to handle weapons, defend his country, and have a life filled with adventure. Little does he know that the secrets and danger of war don’t always stay at the front line, and that one boy’s actions can change everything.

I have loved Joy Cowley’s previous books from Gecko Press, Dunger and Speed of Light, and The Bakehouse sounds equally as good.  Gecko Press always produce beautiful books and their covers for Joy Cowley’s books are no exception.

The Bakehouse is released in NZ in August.

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Happy 10th Birthday to Percy Jackson!

Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief, the book that introduced us to Percy Jackson, Camp Half Blood and the modern day Greek gods, turns 10 this year.  It’s hard to believe that this series has been around so long but it certainly seems to be as popular as ever.  It’s been good to see Rick Riordan writing new series featuring different mythologies (Egyptian mythology in The Red Pyramid and Norse mythology in the soon to be released Magnus Chase series) which really hook kids in and get them interested in mythology. One of my sons absolutely loves Percy Jackson and is an expert in Greek mythology!

The Lightning Thief has sold millions of copies worldwide and got plenty of accolades over the years:

  • Time magazine’s 2014 List of 100 Best Young-Adult Books of All Time
  • a New York Times Notable Book of 2015
  • School Library Journal Best Book of 2005
  • more than six years on the New York Times bestseller list (and counting)
  • Plus a major movie!

To celebrate 10 years of Percy Jackson Rick Riordan and his publishers have put together an event kit so you can host your own Percy Jackson party.  I love it when publishers to this as they create some great resources that you can use in your library or your school for free.  The event kit includes ideas for games and some activity sheets for kids.  I’m hoping to hold a Percy Jackson party in my library and here is the link if you want to download the kit and host your own party – http://readriordan.com/book/the-lightning-thief/.

Do your children love Percy Jackson? How will you celebrate Percy Jackson’s 10th Anniversary?

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Attention Rick Riordan Fans – Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard is coming!

Magnus Chase has always been a troubled kid. Since his mother’s mysterious death, he’s lived alone on the streets of Boston, surviving by his wits, keeping one step ahead of the police and the truant officers. One day, he’s tracked down by an uncle he’s never met—a man his mother claimed was dangerous. His uncle tells him an impossible secret: Magnus is the son of a Norse god. The Viking myths are true. The gods of Asgard are preparing for war. Trolls, giants, and worse monsters are stirring for doomsday. To prevent Ragnarök, Magnus must search the Nine Worlds for a weapon that has been lost for thousands of years. When an attack by fire giants forces him to choose between his own safety and the lives of hundreds of innocents, Magnus makes a fatal decision. Sometimes, the only way to start a new life is to die . .

Rick Riordan fans the world over (including me) will be jumping up and down with this exciting news – Rick Riordan has a brand new series coming out in October, Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard.  This new series focuses on Norse mythology.  Here’s what Rick Riordan says about the series:

‘I’ve always wanted to do something based on Norse mythology, but Percy Jackson happened to be the story that sprang to life first because my son was interested in Greek mythology at the time. Still, the idea for Magnus Chase has been with me for years. I have outlines of the general premise going back to at least 2007. In a very satisfying way, this series is coming full circle for me. Norse mythology turned me into a reader. Now, at last, I get to do my own take on it as a novelist.’

I love Norse mythology so I will be eagerly awaiting this new series.  I can’t wait to see Rick Riordan’s take on Odin, Loki and the other Norse gods!

The Sword of Summer is released in New Zealand by Penguin Random House on 7 October 2015.

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2015 LIANZA Children’s and Young Adult’s Book Awards Winners

The award ceremony for the 2015 LIANZA Children’s and Young Adult’s Book Awards was held at the National Library in Wellington last night.  Congratulations to all the finalists and the winners!  Here are the winners:

  • Russell Clark Illustration Award Winner: Mrs Mo’s Monster by Paul Beavis– Gecko Press
  • Elsie Locke Nonfiction Winner: Maori Art for Kids by Julie Noanoa and Norm Heke– Potton and Burton Publishing
  • Te Kura Pounamu Winner: Kimihia by Te Mihinga Komene and Scott Pearson – Huia Publishers
  • Librarian’s Choice Award Winner: I am Rebecca by Fleur Beale – Penguin Random House
  • LIANZA YA Fiction Winner: Night Vision by Ella West – Allen and Unwin
  • Esther Glen Junior Fiction Award Winner: Conrad Cooper’s Last Stand by Leonie Agnew – Penguin

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