Tag Archives: Australian author

Picture Book Nook: In the Lion by James Foley

‘In the city there’s a zoo.  In the zoo there’s a lion.  And in the lion there’s…’  Richard and his family are visiting the zoo one day when they witness the lion swallowing the zoo dentist whole!  This is only the first of many things that end up ‘in the lion.’  Will anybody be able to stop the lion?

In the Lion is a hilarious picture book about a very hungry lion and the havoc that he causes.  The story gets sillier and sillier at more and more things end up in the lion.  Children will be laughing out loud because they’ll figure out very quickly what is going to happen next.  Just when you think you know what is going to happen on the next page, James Foley surprises us and brings in the hero of the story.  I love James’ illustrations because there are lots of extra details that you might not notice the first time (look at the shadows and reflections on each page). The expressions of the characters in the story (both people and animals) are hilarious, especially at the end of the book.  Every page in the book is illustrated and full of colour, including the very cool end papers.  If there was an award for the best picture book cover it would have to go to In the Lion because it’s absolutely fantastic and will really appeal to children.

The story works well as a read-aloud, but is even better for one-on-one sharing so that you can make the most of the illustrations.  James Foley is a very talented author and illustrator and I’ll look forward to reading more of his picture books.

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Interview with Ambelin Kwaymullina, author of The Tribe

Today I’m joined by Ambelin Kwaymullina, author of the fantastic new futuristic Young Adult series, The Tribe.  The first book in the series, The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf was released last month and if you haven’t heard all the hype about it you can read my review here on the blog.  I caught up with Ambelin to ask her a few questions about her hot new series.

  • What 5 words would you use to describe The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf?

Wow, it’s really hard to describe your own work!  I guess I can describe what I wanted the story to be…although I think it’s really up to my readers to judge. Here goes:

Mysterious. Dramatic. Thrilling. Smart. Hopeful.

  • What inspired you to write The Tribe series?

Mostly, it was Ashala herself. She is such a strong character, that it would have been impossible for me not to tell her story. From the beginning, the first line of the book has always been the same – ‘He was taking me to the machine.’ Those words followed me around for a few days before I began writing, lurking in my consciousness and demanding that I write more. Then, once I started writing, I had to keep going until I reached the end – I certainly couldn’t leave Ashala trapped in the detention centre!

  • The Tribe has a spiritual connection to the land and the creatures that inhabit it which, I think, makes your story unique. Is this aspect of the story from your own culture?

Yes, it is. Aboriginal people, and Indigenous people from all over the world, have strong connections to our homelands and the ancient spirits of our peoples. Ashala’s world is very different to the one we live in now, of course – the tectonic plates have shifted, creating a single continent, and people no longer make divisions on the basis of race. But Ashala’s ancestors were Aboriginal, so I knew she’d have a deep love for the forest that she lives in. And I knew that her connection to country would be a source of strength and courage for her, the same as it is for Indigenous peoples now.

  • Do you know how the Tribe’s story will end or will you wait to see how the story evolves?

No, I know how it ends. Many of the small details are mysterious to me, but I know where all of the Tribe will be, at the end of the story. And, for this particular story, I think that’s important. I don’t think I could tell it the way that it deserves to be told otherwise.

  • Will we find out more about the abilities of the Tribe and where these came from?

 Oh yes. I didn’t have a lot of narrative space to explore this in the first book, but as the series goes on, readers will find out much more about how all the different abilities function, and what their strengths and limitations are. There’s some tough times coming for the Tribe, too – so they’re all going to have to push themselves, and be able to control their abilities a lot better than most of them can now.

  • How did you find the experience of writing a novel, compared to creating a picture book?

Harder! Much, much harder…also, with picture books, I’d gotten used to being able to pore over every single word until I was satisfied the text was completely perfect. It takes much longer to do that with a novel, which was something I hadn’t realised until I was hopelessly overdue on a deadline.  I think, though, that writing picture books, where you have to tell a complete story in not a lot of text, did teach me to be more disciplined with words than I would have been otherwise. That was helpful. On the other hand, I am going to have to learn to restrain my perfectionist tendencies, or I’ll never get the second book done.

  • What books would you recommend to anyone who enjoyed The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf?

There’s so much great dystopian fiction, and sci fi/fantasy fiction, for young adults – here’s some I’ve particularly enjoyed: Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games series, Isobelle Carmody’s Obernewtyn series, Veronica Roth’s Divergent series, and Moira Young’s Dustlands series.

 

The next stop on Ambelin’s blog tour is with Celine at http://forget8me8not.blogspot.com.au/.
 

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The Extraordinaires: The Extinction Gambit by Michael Pryor

I’ve been a fan of Michael Pryor’s ever since I first picked up Blaze of Glory, the first book in his Laws of Magic series.  I was captured by the old-style covers and as soon as I started reading I was transported to a world very similar to ours.  The series was full of magic, politics, intrigue, espionage and brilliantly witty characters.  When I found out that Michael had started a new series I was eager to delve into his new story and meet new characters.  His new series is called The Extraordinaires and the first book, The Extinction Gambit, introduces us to a shadowy London where dark creatures lurk just below the surface.

Kingsley Ward knows nothing of his parents.  His foster father, Dr Ward, refuses to tell him how he came to be looking after Kingsley.  On the night that he is to make his professional debut on stage with his death-defying escapology, his performance ends in disaster.  Kingsley has a wolfish nature that bursts free at the most inappropriate times, especially in the middle of his performance in front of hundreds of people.  A strange albino girl called Evadne comes to his rescue and takes him back to his foster father’s house, only to find his father is missing, the house keeper has been murdered, and two abnormally large, very ugly men are ransacking Dr Ward’s library.  Kingsley has no idea who these men or what they have done to Dr Ward.  Evadne takes Kingsley to her secret hideaway and explains that she is part of the Demimonde, the ‘world of the dispossessed and the fugitive, of outlaws, thieves and cutthroats, of the lost and abandoned, of the strange and uncanny.’  Through alternate chapters Michael Pryor introduces us to other members of the Demimonde: Jabez Soames, the human inside the Demimonde who wheels and deals and knows just how to bargain with the various groups in the Demimonde; the True Humans or Neanderthals (depending on whether you’re one of them or not) who want to wipe out the Invaders (Homo sapiens) by travelling back in time and killing them; and the Immortals, a group of immortal sorcerers who need to inhabit the bodies of children to live the longest.  As the story progresses the paths of these various groups cross and it’s up to Kingsley and Evadne to disrupt their plans before it’s too late.

Michael Pryor has once again created a story filled with action, suspense, mystery and fantastic characters.  I loved the idea of this group of shady characters lurking underneath London and having a group of Neanderthals that didn’t die out is brilliant.  The Immortals at first sounded a little like vampires, but I think they’re far creepier.  There’s also a slight hint of the Frankenstein story creeping into this story, as the Immortals create their minions, the Spawn, from their own body parts that they cut off.  Like Aubrey in The Laws of Magic, Kingsley is a fantastic character who is intelligent and witty.  At first I thought Kingsley’s wolfish nature might be hinting at him being a werewolf, but the true is much more exciting, and is linked with Rudyard Kipling who is also a minor character.  Evadne is a girl who can look after herself (and Kingsley at times) and is also incredibly intelligent.  There is a sense that there are many layers of Evadne that Kingsley, and the reader, hasn’t been introduced to yet.   The Extinction Gambit is the perfect book for anyone who likes their supernatural/fantasy stories without the gushy romance.  I can’t wait to see what Michael Pryor has in store for Kingsley and Evadne next.

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Guest Author: Michael Pryor on The Extinction Gambit

It’s exciting to begin a new series. It’s like taking a first step through a secret door leading to places unknown with tantalising prospect of adventure awaiting. The release of ‘The Extinction Gambit’, the first book of ‘The Extraordinaires’, is just like that.

I also have a strange sensation that comes from leaving a series behind. In May 2011, ‘Hour of Need’ – the last book of ‘The Laws of Magic’ – was published. I’d worked on this series for more than eight years, and having it finally coming to an end was most peculiar. I’d lived with those characters for a long time, after all. I’d worked with them, I’d known their hopes, their dreams, their fears – and they’d been very patient with me as I subjected them to the bizarre, the dangerous and the embarrassing. Waving goodbye to them was sad. It was as if they were leaving home, going off and having more adventures and I wouldn’t be there to write about them.

And so, to ‘The Extinction Gambit’. Like ‘The Laws of Magic’, this new series is set in a world that is delightfully old-fashioned. It’s a world of manners and decorum, of society and class, of being dreadfully proper – and of some of the most stylish clothes you’re ever likely to see. Top hats anyone? Gorgeous lace? Silk capes and gloves?

Unlike ‘The Laws of Magic’, ‘The Extinction Gambit’ isn’t set in an alternative Edwardian world. It’s set fairly and squarely in London in 1908 – the time of the first London Olympic Games. The Olympics form the backdrop to a dizzying adventure that mostly takes place in the Demimonde, mysterious world that lies side by side with the ordinary world. The Demimonde is a world of magic, of lost legends and of sinister plots, of inhabitants who are startling, shadowy and highly unpredictable.

The main characters in ‘The Extinction Gambit’ are Kingsley Ward and Evadne Stephens. Kingsley is a young man, seventeen years old, who has decided to put his studies to one side and pursue a life in the theatre. He has always had a dream to be a stage magician. More than that, he wants to be an escapologist, one of that special breed of magician who escapes from handcuffs, from locked trunks, from straitjackets suspended over a pit of crocodiles. At his first ever professional engagement he meets Evadne Stephens, an astonishingly beautiful, outstandingly talented juggler, who also happens to be an albino and an inventor who delights in building frighteningly lethal weapons and other machines of destruction. She also makes an excellent cup of tea.

When Kingsley’s foster father is abducted, Kingsley hurries to find him. Evadne insists on coming along and soon proves her worth as they plunge into the Demimonde. They flee through drains, tunnels and along London’s long lost underground rivers. They battle ancient magic and strange devices. They encounter the last surviving Neanderthals who are fanatically determined to wipe out the human race. They are assaulted by a trio of immortal magicians who want Kingsley as part of their plan to enslave the world. They are assisted by a famous author who seems to have an agenda of his own.

None of this was what Kingsley had been imagining when he stepped onto the stage of the Alexandra Theatre, and it’s made more difficult for him as he constantly has to struggle with a side of him that is wild, uncontrollable and undeniably wolfish. This is only natural, of course, since he was raised by wolves as a young child.

In short, ‘The Extinction Gambit’ is a helter-skelter fantasy comedy adventure with sandwiches, at the appropriate time.

I’ve had a wonderful time writing ‘The Extinction Gambit’. As usual, I’ve had to undertake mountains of research, but this is almost as much fun as writing the actual story. I’ve uncovered surprising details about the underground geography of London, about the organisation of the Olympic Games and about the nature of Homo Neanderthalis. Much of this didn’t end up in the book, but nothing is ever wasted. After all, we have another two books to come in the series!

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The Extinction Gambit book trailer

One of my favourite Australian authors, Michael Pryor will be joining me on the blog tomorrow to talk about his new book, The Extinction Gambit, the first in his new series, The Extraordinaires.  I’m a huge fan of his Laws of Magic series (great mix of fantasy, history and political intrigue for kids/teens) so I’m eager to get my hands on a copy of The Extinction Gambit (due out December 1st).  To whet your appetite here is a book trailer for it that Michael himself produced.

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All I Ever Wanted by Vikki Wakefield

My favourite quote from one of the greatest books of all time, To Kill a Mockingbird, is

‘You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view…until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.’

I was reminded of this quote while I was reading a wonderful book by debut Australian author, Vikki Wakefield.  Her book, All I Ever Wanted is the story of Mim, who is growing up in the suburbs.  She knows what she wants and where she wants to go – anywhere but home, with her mother who won’t get off the couch and her brothers in prison.  She’s set herself rules to live by, like ‘I will finish school, I will not drink alcohol, I will not be like everybody else, and I will not turn out like my mother.’   However, things aren’t going to plan; drug dealers are after her, her best friend isn’t talking to her, and the guy she likes is a creep.  Over the nine days before her 17th birthday, Mim’s life turns upside down.

All I Ever Wanted is a brilliant debut from Vikki Wakefield and I’ll eagerly await her next book.  I loved the character of Mim, whose voice was original and authentic.  Even though her life is tough, she stays true to herself and is determined not to turn out like the rest of her family.  The thing that really makes this book so great is the other people we meet who are a part of Mim’s life.  There’s the vicious, dodgy Mick Tarrant (who beats his family and his dog Gargoyle), her neighbour Mrs Tkautz (the grouchy woman who everyone thinks is a witch), Lola (the shy girl who lives next door), and Kate (the straight-laced sister of Jordan).  When Mim actually gets to know them she realises she has misunderstood them and maybe they aren’t so bad after all.  Mim and the cast of characters in All I Ever Wanted will stay with you long after you’ve finished their story.      Recommended for 13+      8 out of 10

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