Lonesome When You Go Blog Tour – Interview with Saradha Koirala

Saradha Koirala is the author of the wonderful Lonesome When You Go, a YA novel that follows Paige and her high school rock band in the lead up to Rockfest.  To help spread the word about Saradha’s book, her publisher, Makaro Press has set up a blog tour.  I’m very pleased to be part of the Lonesome When You Go blog tour and today I get to share my interview that I did with Saradha about her book.  Thanks for joining me Saradha!

lonesome-cover-w-outline

  • What inspired you to write Lonesome When You Go?

I was on a train heading out to Johnsonville to see my brother and his oldest friend and just started thinking about when we all played in a band together in high school and what an excellent and tumultuous time that was in the midst of all the other dramas that those years can throw at you.

I wrote the briefest idea out on a scrap of paper there and then and talked to them about it when I arrived. We had a good old reminisce!

Our high school band’s rise and fall was pretty ordinary really and I wanted the story to be much more dramatic than that. It was a chance to revisit that time but I also ended up amalgamating a bunch of different high school experiences – as student and teacher – and a whole lot of rock and roll times, real and imagined. It seemed like a fun concept and it did turn out to be a lot of fun to write.

Being a high school teacher lent itself quite naturally to wanting to write for teenagers too, and I had an idea of what I thought some of the young women I’d been teaching might want to read about – a cool rock chick who isn’t fixated on a mysterious sparkly boy!

  • What are the songs that shaped teenage you?

I spent a lot of my early teen years listening to whatever I could find in the house, which was mostly popular tunes from the 60, 70s and 80s. It wasn’t until people started giving me mixed tapes and I could buy my own CDs that I really saw how music could change my views of self and shape my teenage identity.

Radiohead, Violent Femmes, Smashing Pumpkins, Dinosaur Jr, Stone Temple Pilots and Shihad were often on high rotation in my CD player. Music is much easier to access these days, but back then I really got to know the few albums I owned inside out! I would analyse the lyrics, read the liner notes, talk to my friends about them, sing along and all that.

I really think those bands of the mid-nineties tapped into a collective feeling that teenagers hadn’t been able to vocalise yet. They gave us permission to feel moody and outraged, while also acknowledging the sweetness we desired from the world. But it’s been a long time since I was a teenager, so maybe that’s Paige talking.

  • What genre of music best sums up your life?

Some days I would say it’s been a bittersweet folk album in the vein of Joni Mitchel’s Blue, but mostly I like to look at life as an Indie pop band full of cheesy catchy lyrics, bright colourful beats and frivolous synthesizers.

If Nobel Laureate Bob Dylan could write a soundtrack for the novel then everything in the world would make sense to me!

Actually I say that because I think he’s a master of creating story and character in very few words, but his music probably isn’t quite garage rock enough to capture the rock and roll aspect of the book.

So in that case, I’d say The Pixies. I kind of had The Pixies in the back of my mind as I described Vox Pop playing and I think they’re just an incredible band with a totally kick-ass bass player.

  • What is the most important lesson that you learned from being in a band?

Because I tend to be quite a self-sufficient person and my favourite things to do (writing and reading) are largely solo tasks, I think playing in bands taught me how to be part of something beyond myself. I never really played team sports, but was always in school orchestras, choirs, chamber music groups and, later on, rock bands.

In all those groups we had competitions to work towards, tours to organise, performances in front of sometimes many, but often very small audiences, rehearsals to get to on time and other band members to consider when making decisions and playing. It isn’t enough to just learn your part well and play it through, you really need to tap into what everyone else is doing and how they’re going, what they need and how what you’re doing affects all of that.

  • As well as being the author of Lonesome When You Go you’re also a poet.  Is the process of writing a novel similar to writing poetry for you?

They’re really very different processes for me and I’ve continued to do both simultaneously since finishing Lonesome. I enjoy being able to shift between the different forms.

When writing a novel I find I can set myself much more tangible goals – 1000 words a day, complete a particular scene etc. It’s a more continuous process too, as you’re developing and building on what you wrote last time and thinking about where you left your characters and what might happen to them next. With a novel there’s a lot of planning involved (for me, anyway) and behind the scenes stuff that helps inform my picture of the characters and their world.

I find poetry more difficult to describe in terms of a process as I’m less systematic about it. The poems come from everywhere and sometimes when I least expect them. I find I need to be open to poetry’s own schedule rather than try and force out a number of lines a day or give myself a deadline to complete something. Poetry doesn’t have to stay within a certain world or voice either, so there’s less need for continuity or meeting reader expectations.

The crafting process is probably similar for both. I think you need to be able to look at the world in a certain way to be a poet, and it’s a way of seeing the world that I really value.

Leave a comment

Filed under books, New Zealand, New Zealand author, young adult, young adult fiction

The Red Book by Beck and Matt Stanton

Beck and Matt Stanton are creators of books that drive kids crazy.  Their previous picture books, This is a Ball and Did You Take the B from my _ook? have been hits with kids, even if they do make them go a little crazy.  Their latest picture book is The Red Book and it is absolutely hilarious!  It is my favourite book to read aloud at the moment.

y648 (2)

Even before you open the book you know that it is going to be funny just by reading the instructions for grown-ups on the back:

For the Grown-Ups:

Okay, Big Wig.
We have a challenge for you.

It’s your job to convince the nearest kid that everything in this book is actually red.

And we mean everything.

It will not be easy! They will try to persuade you that things are not as red as you say, but you will stay strong!

And the kids will love it!

The Red Book is fantastic, interactive picture book that will both infuriate kids and have them rolling on the floor laughing.  I’ve been reading this book to the Year 1 and 2 kids at my school over the last couple of days and they absolutely love it!  As soon as you show them the cover and read the title they start arguing with you and yelling ‘No!’ because the cover of the book is purple (or so they keep telling you).

IMG_2068

The first page gets the kids on board with you, making sure that they agree about the colours on the page.  When you turn the page though you tell them that they are all wrong and that everything is red. It’s your job to try and convince the kids that everything in the book is red, but they won’t have a bar of it, because they can see that Fergus the Frog and Rose the Penguin aren’t red.  The kids get more and more frustrated and you (as the reader) eventually snap and tell them that you’re the grown-up and what you say goes.  By the end of the book though you will convince them that this book is red.

IMG_2067

The text is perfect for this interactive book and really gets everyone involved in the story.  The kids can’t help but join in and argue with you because what you are saying is so silly. If you’ve got kids who loved The Book with No Pictures (who doesn’t love that book!) or Do Not Open This Book then they’ll love this one. The illustrations are simple but bold and really stand out on the plain white background.

Get The Red Book for your home or school library now and drive your kids crazy!

Leave a comment

Filed under books, funny, picture books

Scar Island by Dan Gemeinhart

I loved Dan Gemeinhart’s first book, The Honest Truth. It was heartbreaking but such a great story. I was curious to read his new book, Scar Island (which came in the Scholastic Standing Orders). Wow, this book is amazing!  I’ve just finished it (thankfully my toddler had a long nap today!) and it kept me on the edge of my seat the whole time. 


The story focuses on Jonathan who has committed a terrible crime that he doesn’t speak about. He has been sent to Slabhenge Reformatory School for Troubled Boys, a crumbling island fortress that was once an insane asylum. Jonathan is here with 15 other boys who have created various crimes and we meet them through the course of the story. The place is cold and wet and the boys get treated horribly, until something happens to the adults, leaving them to fend for themselves. There are no rules – they can eat what they like, sleep where they like and do whatever they want. However one of them decides that he is in charge and things start to get out of control. When a huge storm heads for the island their world starts to crumble and the only way they can survive is if they work together.
Scar Island is like Holes and Lord of the Flies rolled in to one. It is one of those books you just don’t want to put down. When you’re not reading it you’re wondering what will happen next. It’s an adventure story and a survival story with a dash of darkness.  It’s an immersive story too because you can feel and smell the damp, cold fortress, hear the click of the rats scurrying paws and feel the fear and dread of these boys who are trapped.

Dan keeps you guessing the whole way through. Although most of the boys explain why they are at Slabhenge Jonathan keeps dodging the question. Dan drip feeds you details but doesn’t reveal everything until near the end.  You have to keep reading to find out if everyone survives until the end of the story. 

Scar Island is sure to be the perfect book to hook reluctant readers and it would make a great read aloud for Years 7 and 8.

2 Comments

Filed under adventure, books, children's fiction

The Goldfish Boy by Lisa Thompson

A boy spends every day looking out his window. He sees the people in his street going about their business; leaving for work, watering their gardens, and chatting over the fence. One day though, the neighbour’s grandson goes missing and this boy is the last person to see him. Soon the police turn up and they need to know anything that would help their investigation. The reason this boy watches everything from his window is that he has crippling OCD. This boy is Matthew in Lisa Thompson’s amazing new book The Goldfish Boy.

9781407170992Matthew Corbin suffers from severe obsessive-compulsive disorder. He hasn’t been to school in weeks. His hands are cracked and bleeding from cleaning. He refuses to leave his bedroom. To pass the time, he observes his neighbors from his bedroom window, making mundane notes about their habits as they bustle about the cul-de-sac.

When a toddler staying next door goes missing, it becomes apparent that Matthew was the last person to see him alive. Suddenly, Matthew finds himself at the center of a high-stakes mystery, and every one of his neighbors is a suspect. Matthew is the key to figuring out what happened and potentially saving a child’s life… but is he able to do so if it means exposing his own secrets, and stepping out from the safety of his home?

The Goldfish Boy is an absolutely gripping mystery with an incredible young boy at its heart. I knew from reading the blurb that this book was going to be unlike anything I had read before and I wasn’t disappointed. Lisa Thompson grips you from the first page and doesn’t let you go until the last sentence. She keeps you in suspense trying to figure out what has happened. There are so many questions that pop up as you read (What is wrong with Matthew and what is the connection to the death of his brother? What has happened to Teddy?) but Lisa ties up all the loose ends.

I loved this book not just because of the gripping mystery but also because of the intriguing character of Matthew. At the start of the book he hasn’t been out of the house in several weeks, he washes constantly and stares out of his window at the people in his street.  The story is narrated by Matthew and as the story progresses we get to know more about him and his crippling fears.  Lisa Thompson takes you inside the head of a boy suffering from OCD and you really get a sense of how terrifying it must be for him.  There are times that you think Matthew makes some progress and starts to get better, only for him to break down and need to clean himself furiously.  I loved that this story wasn’t just about the mystery of Teddy going missing and who did it, but about how Matthew manages to overcome his condition to find the answers.

The Goldfish Boy is one of my favourite middle grade reads so far this year.  It is a perfect read aloud for Years 6-8, the only problem being that the kids won’t want you to stop reading until you’ve reached the end.  I can’t wait to read whatever Lisa Thompson writes next!

Leave a comment

Filed under books, children's fiction, mystery

Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls by Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo

Some books encourage children to imagine, some books teach children a new skill, and some books inspire children to do amazing things.  Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls is an incredible new book by Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo that is bursting with stories of amazing girls and women from all over the world. This is a book that everyone needs to read and I guarantee you will be amazed and inspired every time you pick it up.

9780141986005

There are 100 tales of extraordinary women in Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls.  Inside you’ll find stories of artists, mountaineers, nurses, activists, sportspeople, writers, scientists, spies and rock stars.  There are women that you will have heard of before and others who you’ll read about for the first time.  There is such a range of women that there is someone for every girl to relate to.  Each double-page spread features a short biography told in the style of a fairy tale alongside a full page portrait that captures the spirit of each heroine.  Each of the portraits has been created by a different female artist from around the world so they are all completely different styles.

3_Elizabeth_Spread_530x

I love everything about this book!  The fairy tale style biographies are the perfect introduction to each of these extraordinary women.  The authors have captured exactly what it is that makes these women heroines and they’ve done so in a way that is accessible to children young and old.  Each of the biographies really would make great good night stories as you can imagine girls (and boys for that matter) dreaming about the amazing things that they themselves could achieve.  Unlike the fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Anderson, these are real women who have overcome adversity to achieve great things.  I love the design of this book, with the double-page spread for each woman.  Their name is at the top of the page, along with what they were known for, and their date of birth (and death if applicable) and the country they came from are at the bottom of the page. A quote from each woman is overlaid on the portrait of them, which is a nice little touch.  There is a contents page at the start of the book but the book is laid out alphabetically by first name so that you can easily flick back to a bio that you want to read again.  The production quality is high too, as it is a beautiful hardback book with ink and paper that you can smell.  A feature that I especially love is the space at the back of the book for girls to write their own story and draw their portrait.

I found this book absolutely fascinating and I learned so much.  There were women that I had never heard of before, such as Jingu, an exceptionally talented and tough Japanese empress, and Claudia Ruggerini, an Italian partisan who helped to bring down Mussolini.  I also learned that as well as being a famous chef Julia Child was a spy in World War Two who cooked cakes to repel sharks.

Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls needs to be in every home and school library.  It’s not just an important book for girls to read but also boys.  Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo show us how strong, brave, determined and fearless women can be and that girls can achieve amazing things.  I can’t recommend this book highly enough.

 

1 Comment

Filed under books, children's nonfiction

See You in the Cosmos by Jack Cheng

Sometimes a book comes along out of the blue and blows you away. The blurb sounds interesting but it’s not until you start reading it that it grabs you and won’t let got. Jack Cheng’s debut children’s book, See You in the Cosmos, is one of these books. Once I started reading it I fell in love with Alex and this unique story.

33282947All eleven-year old Alex wants is to launch his iPod into space. With a series of audio recordings, he will show other lifeforms out in the cosmos what life on Earth, his Earth, is really like.

But for a boy with a long-dead dad, a troubled mum, and a mostly-not-around brother, Alex struggles with the big questions. Where do I come from? Who’s out there? And, above all, How can I be brave?

Determined to find the answers, Alex sets out on a remarkable road trip that will turn his whole world upside down.

See You in the Cosmos is an amazing story that sent me on an emotional rollercoaster.  One minute I would be laughing at Alex’s funny world view and the next I’d be biting my nails wondering what would happen to him next. It’s one of those books that I couldn’t stop thinking about and I really didn’t want it to end. Alex is a character that will stick around with me for a long time and I’ll keep wondering how he is doing.

Alex is one of the most interesting characters I’ve come across in a long time. He wants to send his golden iPod in to space for alien life forms to find, just like his hero, scientist Carl Sagan. The story is narrated by Alex who is making recordings on his iPod to send in to space in the rocket that he has made. He has saved his money and prepared everything he thinks he needs to get him to a rocket festival, where he will launch his rocket. Alex records all his thoughts and feelings on his iPod so you experience everything alongside him.  He is 11 (with the responsibility of 13 he tells us) but he’s also quite naive. As the reader, you can tell that things aren’t quite right with his home life but he doesn’t see this. The more I learnt about his home life the more I just wanted to hug him and tell him everything was going to be OK. Despite his home life Alex is full of hope and his dreams are big. He is determined to follow in his hero’s footsteps no matter what gets in the way. It is this hope and determination that made me want to keep reading so I could see if Alex achieved his dreams.

Apart from Alex’s voice the other thing I really liked about this book was the range of characters that Alex met on his journey. Jack Cheng shows readers just how kind and caring strangers can be. Alex meets a boy who pretends to be his brother to help him, makes new friends at the rocket festival (SHARF) and discovers a family member he never knew about him.  All of these people help Alex to achieve his dreams and get to where he needs to go.  They put their lives on hold to make sure that Alex is safe and to help him get home.

I can’t recommend See You in the Cosmos highly enough.  You need to read this book!

1 Comment

Filed under books, children's fiction

New Dinosaur Trouble series from Mewburn and Bixley

I’m always on the lookout for great series for young readers who are just starting chapter books.  Sally Rippin’s Billie B Brown and Hey Jack series and James Roy’s Chook Doolan series are always flying off the shelf.  I was really excited to hear that Kyle Mewburn and Donovan Bixley were releasing some new adventures of Arg, the brainy caveboy from their Dinosaur Rescue series, but aimed at beginner readers.  The Great Egg Stink, the first book in their new Dinosaur Trouble series is out now and it is a whole lot of disgusting fun!

large_9781775433668

Arg is bored waiting for his mum to bring home some food.  When his mum returns with armfuls of eggs Arg discovers that one of the eggs might hold something he doesn’t want to eat.  Things are about to go from boring to exciting and a bit dangerous, especially if Arg’s sister Hng finds his egg.

The Great Egg Stink is a great intro to the wacky prehistoric world of Kyle Mewburn and Donovan Bixley.  It’s the perfect chapter book for beginner readers, with a simple but entertaining text and heaps of Donovan’s wonderful illustrations.  Like their Dinosaur Rescue series, this new series is full of disgusting details that boys will love and plenty of laughs.  There are farts, vomit and  (my favourite part) an exploding mastadon.

The thing I love the most about the books that Kyle and Donovan create together are the puns.  They don’t disappoint, starting with puns about the ‘web’ and Arg’s ‘tablet.’  They don’t dumb anything down for these younger readers, which makes this series a perfect one to hook kids on reading.

We need more of these clever, engaging early chapter books for young readers so I hope that we see more series like Dinosaur Trouble.  I can’t wait to promote Dinosaur Trouble to the young readers at my school.

Leave a comment

Filed under books, children's fiction, New Zealand, New Zealand author

Hooray for Birds by Lucy Cousins

Children have been growing up with Lucy Cousins’ illustrations for many years now.  Her bold illustrations are very distinctive and you certainly can’t miss them.  Children have gone on adventures with Maisy, been captivated by her fairy tale retellings, and discovered all sorts of beautiful fish.  In Lucy’s latest book, Hooray for Birds, children will fall in love with birds.

9780763692650

Children will find themselves becoming birds of all kinds as they wake up shouting “Cock-a-doodle-doo!” like a rooster, pecking like a woodpecker, and standing tall on just one leg like a flamingo.   They will hop, swim and swoop their way through the book until, worn out from all the excitement, they cuddle up close with Mama in their nest.

0763692654.int.3

Hooray for Birds is a bright, busy, noisy book that will make children flap their wings with delight.  It’s a delightful picture book that adults will be only too happy to read again and again.  Lucy encourages children to join in with the birds and flap, sing and waddle along with these colourful creatures.  I love Lucy’s illustration style and it really appeals to young children especially.  One of my favourite aspects of Hooray for Birds are the gorgeous endpapers which are covered with birds.

I think this would be a great book for teachers to incorporate in to the classroom as I can see lots of ways to extend the story across the curriculum.  Lucy uses lots of wonderful descriptive language for the different actions of the birds, so this could be worked in to the English curriculum.  The book could be part of a drama lesson where the children are acting as the different birds.  Children could create colourful birds of their own as part of an art lesson.  There are so many opportunities to extend the fun of this book.

Hooray for Birds is a delight to share and I’m sure it will be a favourite with the younger children in your life.

 

1 Comment

Filed under animals, books, picture books

Frankie Fish and the Sonic Suitcase by Peter Helliar

What is your worst nightmare?  Trapped in a pit of snakes?  Trapped in a room full of clowns? Being forced to listen to Taylor Swift songs over and over?  Frankie Fish’s worst nightmare is being stuck in the past with his grumpy grandad.  He may hate it but it is certainly hilarious for readers of Peter Helliar’s new book, Frankie Fish and the Sonic Suitcase.

300x600

Twelve-year-old Frankie Fish hates visiting his grandparents. Grandad Fish is cranky, and yells a lot, and has a creepy hook for a hand – plus he NEVER lets Frankie go inside his shed. But after a teensy tiny prank goes wrong at school, Frankie is packed off to Old-People Jail for the whole holidays.

What Frankie doesn’t know is that Grandad has been building a home-made TIME MACHINE in the Forbidden Shed, and the old man has big plans to get his missing hand back. But when Grandad goes back in time, he changes history and accidentally wipes out Frankie’s entire family – Nanna, Mum, Dad, even his annoying sister Saint Lou. Somehow, everyone is gone but Frankie and Grandad! And it’s only a matter of time until Frankie disappears too…

As the last Fish men standing, Frankie and Granddad must race back in time to undo this terrible mistake. But can they stand each other long enough to put the past back together again? And even if they manage the impossible – will Grandad’s wonky time-machine ever get them home?

Frankie Fish and the Sonic Suitcase is a wacky time-travel adventure with a cool new character.  There is something in this story for everyone – pranks, time travel, family secrets, a weird grandparent with a hook for a hand, magicians, strange transformations, the Water Tank of Death and plenty of laughs.  Peter Helliar’s other career as a comedian shines through in this book as he certainly knows what makes kids laugh.  Peter hooks you right from the start and makes you need to keep reading to find out what happens.  Like any good time travel story this one asks ‘if you could go back and your past would you do it?’

Frankie Fish is a character that kids, especially boys, are going to love.  Frankie is a mischievous kid who loves playing pranks with his friend Drew Bird.  When Frankie starts poking around in his grandad’s shed he finds himself stuck in a place and time unlike the one he knows, with his grumpy grandad.  Suddenly, Frankie is the sensible one who must keep his grandad on the right track and stop him from making even more of a mess of his life. Thanks to his grandad’s meddling Frankie finds himself changing more than he could ever imagine.

Lesley Vamos’ illustrations add some extra fun to the story, especially when there are several different grandad’s involved. The cover is fantastic and the title literally jumps off it.

It’s good to know that Frankie Fish and the Sonic Suitcase is only the first book in a planned series featuring Frankie.  I certainly want to read more of Frankie and Alfie Fish’s adventures!

Leave a comment

Filed under books, children's fiction, funny, humourous

Dave’s Rock by Frann Preston-Gannon

Dave, the lovable caveman from Frann Preston-Gannon’s brilliant picture book, Dave’s Cave, is back again. This time there is a bit of competition between Dave and his friend Jon.

Dave's Rock-72705-3

Dave’s Rock is about two cavemen and their love for rocks.  Dave loves his rock and so does Jon.  They both think that their rock is bigger, taller and faster.  They realise though that they can make both of their rocks better.  The competition between Dave and Jon makes this a thoroughly entertaining read.

I absolutely loved Dave’s Cave and Dave’s Rock is just as good.  The simple text and illustrations  work so well which makes it such a great book to share one-on-one or with a group.  You can’t help but read the story just like a caveman.  The bright green cover, with Dave hugging his rock, jumps off the shelf and makes kids want to pick it up and see what’s inside.

The thing that I love the most about Frann’s books about Dave is that they have such a wide appeal.  Younger children will love Dave for his silly antics and the mistakes that he makes and older children will appreciate the way that Frann tells the story in caveman talk.  They are books that adults will enjoy just as much as the kids and won’t mind reading over and over again.

Add Dave’s Cave and Dave’s Rock to your collection now for guaranteed laughs.

Leave a comment

Filed under books, picture books