Tag Archives: Donovan Bixley

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!

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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.

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Win a copy of Fuzzy Doodle

Fuzzy Doodle is the stunning new collaboration between the very talented Melinda Szymanik and Donovan Bixley.  Fuzzy Doodle will be a favourite with young and old alike and I think everyone needs to own a copy of this wonderful book.  You can read my review here on the blog.

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Thanks to the lovely people at Scholastic NZ I have a copy of Fuzzy Doodle to give away.  All you have to do to get in the draw is email bestfriendsrbooks@gmail.com, with the subject ‘Fuzzy Doodle,’ along with your name and address.

Thanks to everyone who entered.  The winner is Craig.

 

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Fuzzy Doodle by Melinda Szymanik and Donovan Bixley

I love everything that Melinda Szymanik and Donovan Bixley do, so when I heard that they were collaborating on a book I was incredibly excited.  The more I heard about this book, Fuzzy Doodle, the more I wanted to get my hands on it.  We don’t have many books published in hardcover here in New Zealand but you know that when a publisher releases a book, especially a picture book, in hardcover that they really believe in this book.  Fuzzy Doodle has just been released and it is an absolutely stunning book!

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Fuzzy Doodle follows a scribble on a page as it starts to eat the ink, then nibbles letters and words, until it moves on to gobbling pictures full of colour.  When it is full to bursting it makes a cocoon and then emerges and unfolds as a dazzling book.  The story perfectly captures the process of creating a story, from the first scribble of an idea, building on that idea, adding colour and layers to the story, sending it out into the world and hoping that it will unfold into a book.

Fuzzy Doodle has ‘award-winning’ written all over it.  It is one of those books that everyone is going to know and it will be a favourite with kids and adults alike.  It is a book that speaks to you as a reader and a lover of books.

There is something magical about this book, from Melinda’s delightful text that is a joy to read aloud to Donovan’s stunning, vibrant illustrations that make Fuzzy leap off the page. Melinda has a lot of fun with words and the story is sure to introduce children to lots of fantastic new words.  Fuzzy does lots of eating so Melinda uses words like ‘gobbled,’  ‘chomped,’ ‘famished,’ and ‘scrumptious.’ Donovan’s illustrations in this book are like nothing we’ve seen from him previously but they are perfect for this story.  Fuzzy starts off as quite dull but the magic really happens when he discovers the ink.  The ink is glossy on the pages (which looks amazing!) and so as Fuzzy eats more ink and words he starts to become glossy himself.  Then Fuzzy discovers colours, and you can’t help smiling as Fuzzy gets brighter and larger.  It really feels like you are holding a valuable piece of art when you are holding this book.  You know that it is something special to treasure.

I urge everyone to buy a copy of this book (multiple copies if you can afford it).  Fuzzy Doodle should be in every home, school and library in the country, and I hope that those outside New Zealand get the opportunity to discover this wonderful book too.  If you are a teacher or a parent you need to share this book with your children.  You will fall in love with this adorable Fuzzy Doodle.

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Flying Furballs: Dogfight by Donovan Bixley

Donovan Bixley is one of our most talented illustrators in New Zealand and I’d have to say he’s my favourite illustrator.  Not only has Donovan illustrated stories for other wonderful authors like Kyle Mewburn, Yvonne Morrison and Margaret Mahy, he has also written and illustrated his own books.  His style is unique but it varies slightly depending on the topic, with a particular talent for poo, vomit and snot.  Donovan has recently released a new series, called Flying Furballs, that he has both written and illustrated.  The first book in the series, Dogfight, really proves why Donovan is one of our most talented creators of great books for kids.

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Strap on your flying goggles, prepare your bi-plane and get set to join Claude D’Bonair and the CATs Air Corps for adventure, crazy missions, dangerous rescues and plenty of laughs.  Donovan Bixley shows us the Great War like we’ve never seen it before.  It’s the CATs (Cat Allied Troops) versus the DOGZ (Dog Obedience Governed Zone) as the CATs try to stop the DOGZ from taking over Europe.  It’s up to Claude and the team at CATs HQ to fight for all of katdom.  In this first book Claude decides to take matters into his own hands when the CATs most famous dogfighter, Major Tom, is captured and held in the DOGZ castle headquarters.  It’s up to Claude to rescue Major Tom and bring him home.

Dogfight is a witty and very funny start to the Flying Furballs series.  Donovan really knows his audience and tells a story that kids will love.  Donovan’s trademark humour shines through in both the illustration and the text.  There are cat and dog puns galore dotted throughout the story.  At one point in the story when Claude meets Major Tom he says that he was afraid that the DOGZ were torturing him and Major Tom’s reply is:

‘Oh yes, got plenty of that.  They pulled my tail. Rubbed my fur the wrong way.  Dunked me in a bathtub.  And the mongrels dangled a piece of wool in front of me, just out of reach  – for a week!’

Even the characters names are hilarious, from Syd Fishus, the cat who flew with Claude’s father, to Commander Katerina Snookums, and C-for, the CATs resident inventor.

Like the Dinosaur Rescue series and Dragon Knight series Donovan has included some cool diagrams in Dogfight.  These explain how gadgets and planes work and show the different important parts.

Dogfight will have you laughing out loud and desperately wanting to get hold of the next book in the series.

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My Most Anticipated September Kids & YA Releases from Scholastic NZ

Piranhas Don’t Eat Bananas by Aaron Blabey

Hey there guys. Would you like a banana?
What’s wrong with you, Brian? You’re a piranha.

Brian is a piranha. He is also a vegetarian. But do you think he can convince the others to join him?

Quaky Cat Helps Out

Quakey Cat Helps Out by Diana Noonan and Gavin Bishop

Quaky Cat, five years on … It’s been five years since the first big Christchurch earthquake, but some of Tiger’s friends still have broken homes – or none at all. Kind-hearted Tiger rounds them all up for a gathering of friends.

300 Minutes of Danger

300 Minutes of Danger by Jack Heath

George is trapped in a falling aeroplane with no engine and no pilot. Milla is covered with radioactive waste and her hazard suit is running out of air. Otto is in the darkest depths of the ocean, where something hungry is circling . . . 10 dangerous situations. 10 brave kids. 30 minutes to escape.

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Dragon Knight: Dragons! by Kyle Mewburn and Donovan Bixley

The terrifying cyclorgs want their gold back – NOW!

If Merek can’t outwit the evil Lord Crumble, the village is doomed.

Star Wars Jedi Academy: The Phantom Bully by Jeffrey Brown

It’s hard to believe this is Roan’s last year at Jedi Academy. He’s been busier than ever learning to fly (and wash) starships, swimming in the Lake Country on Naboo, studying for the Jedi obstacle course exam, and tracking down dozens of vorpak clones (don’t ask). But now, someone is setting him up to get in trouble with everyone at school, including Yoda. If he doesn’t find out who it is, and fast, he may get kicked out of school! Why can’t middle school just be easy?…

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My Most Anticipated August Kids New Releases from Scholastic NZ

The Bad Guys: Episode 1 by Aaron Blabey

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?

Dragon Knight: Witch by Kyle Mewburn and Donovan Bixley (Book 3)

A witch’s curse and brussel sprouts are bad enough. But will Percy’s revenge be the end for Merek? From the creators of Dinosaur Rescue comes an outrageous and revoltingly funny medieval adventure series that’ll set you on fire!

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Stan the Van Man by Emma Vere-Jones and illustrated by Philip Webb

Sometimes, being helpful is not enough . . .

When the mail van driver walks out, Miss Mickle from the Post Office store is left in a right pickle.  Enter Stan, a helpful chap who offers to drive the delivery van. Unfortunately Miss Mickle doesn’t give him the chance to explain that he actually can’t read … and parcel pandemonium ensues!  When the angry recipients storm the Post Office and find out the reason for the misdeliveries, they decide to band together to help Stan learn to read.

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Win Dragon Knight: Fire by Kyle Mewburn and Donovan Bixley

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Today I’m hosting an interview with Kyle Mewburn to celebrate Dragon Knight: Fire, Kyle and Donovan’s finalist book in the New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults.  You can read Kyle’s interview here and Donovan’s interview from last week about Little Red Riding Hood: Not Quite and Dragon Knight: Fire.

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Thanks to Booksellers New Zealand I have a copy of Dragon Knight Fire to give away.  The main character in the Dragon Knight series is Merek, who is half boy and half dragon.  To get in the draw just leave a comment on this post telling me ‘What is your favourite mythical creature?’

Competition closes Thursday 16 July (New Zealand only).

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Little Red Riding Hood (Not Quite) by Yvonne Morrison and Donovan Bixley

Yvonne Morrison and Donovan Bixley joined forces a couple of years ago to create the wonderful The Three Bears (Sort of).  It is a real favourite of mine and a book that I come back to again and again. When I saw that Yvonne and Donovan were collaborating on a new picture book, this time retelling Little Red Riding Hood, I knew that it would be fantastic and hopefully just as good as The Three Bears (Sort of).  I certainly wasn’t disappointed!

In Little Red Riding Hood (Not Quite) Yvonne uses the same storytelling technique that worked so well with The Three Bears (Sort of).  A parent reads the story of Little Red Riding Hood to their child (Small Blue Polka Dot Pyjamas) who keeps interrupting to question the story and poke holes in it.  This child is very switched on and has lots of questions like ‘Why was she called that?,’ ‘Don’t wolves usually hunt in packs?,’ and ‘Why didn’t he just eat the girl right there – and then go to Granny’s for dessert?’ The very patient parent answers all the child’s questions, adding their own twists to the tale.

Little Red Riding Hood (Not Quite) is another perfect picture book from this award-winning team.  I absolutely love this book and have to tell all the kids, parents and teachers I know all about it!  Yvonne Morrison sure knows how to tell a story and she gives readers a delightful twist on the traditional tale that is full of humour and a dash of sarcasm.  Little Red Riding Hood (Not Quite) is a great book for reading aloud, to children of any age, and it is especially fun to have two people reading the two different parts.

Donovan Bixley is one of my absolute favourite illustrators and his illustrations for Little Red Riding Hood (Not Quite) are stunning.  There are so many things I love about Donovan’s illustrations for this book that I have to list them:

  • The little details in the illustrations, from the wolf pattern in the wallpaper at the beginning to grandma reading Call of the Wild.
  • The wolf’s wonderful expressions, especially when he’s choking down grandma.
  • The range of materials that Donovan incorporates in to the story, including diagrams and maps that help to prove the child’s points.

Donovan has also done the brilliant design for the book.  I think that it’s this design that makes the book work so well and gives it that special appeal to children.

Little Red Riding Hood (Not Quite) is a book that every family should own.  It is a book that will get shared again and again, never loosing its appeal.  I can certainly see why children from around the country have chosen this book as a finalist in the 2015 Children’s Choice Award.  I can’t wait to see which story Yvonne and Donovan do next!

Check back tomorrow to read an interview with Donovan Bixley and Yvonne Morrison about how they went about creating Little Red Riding Hood (Not Quite).  You can also enter here to win a copy of this wonderful book.

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Win Little Red Riding Hood (Not Quite) by Yvonne Morrison and Donovan Bixley

My Best Friends Are Books is part of the blog tour to celebrate the Children’s Choice Award in the 2015 New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults.  Tomorrow I’m hosting interviews with Yvonne Morrison and Donovan Bixley here on the blog and you can read my review of their wonderful book, Little Red Riding Hood (Not Quite).

Thanks to everyone who entered the competition.  The winner is Chris.

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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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