Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Molly and Pim and the Millions of Stars by Martine Murray review

Review of Martine Murray's Molly and Pim and the Millions of Stars by guest reviewer Ella Sharpe, bookseller at The Younger Sun Children's Bookshop in Melbourne.

Molly’s life is a little unusual. Her father and brother have disappeared somewhere in Cuba and her mama makes strange potions out of weird-smelling herbs. Molly would like nothing more than to have a normal life and a normal home – like her best friend Ellen who always has an apricot muesli bar in her lunchbox instead of weird pieces of fruit (pomegranates are not appropriate for eating at school). But when Molly’s mama makes a potion that transforms herself into a tree, Molly must try to find a way to reverse the spell before her nasty neighbours cut the tree down. 

She is helped by the strange, intense Pim who spends his time looking at trees and investigating balls of dirt. But even with Pim’s help time is running out and Molly can’t remember why she ever wanted a different mama. If only she could get her back.

This is a beautiful story, by one of Australia’s best authors for children, teaching the importance of loving yourself and appreciating the things that make everyone different. Molly is an inquisitive and compassionate narrator and it is impossible not to be captivated by this magical, whimsical tale full of love, laughter and tears.

Reading age recommendation 8+

Thursday, September 17, 2015

WINNER of the MY LIFE Short Story Competition

Finally... I can announce the WINNER of the My Life Short Story Competition! After much deliberation, reading and re-reading the many brilliant stories submitted, the winner is.... Indigo from the ACT. She wins $1000 cash for herself, $1000 worth of books for her school and a signed set of MY LIFE books. The picture above was taken minutes after she heard about her win.

Indigo's story, 'Painfully True', will be shared with you in the not-too-distant future. Here's what I said about it in my comments: ‘Painfully True’ is a very funny scenario, vivid in its detail, shocking, honest, well-structured with a brilliant final line. The reader feels the protagonist’s pain but there is humour in every paragraph. And the word ‘bum’ is mentioned several times which, for a My Life story, helps.'

Thank you so much to everyone who submitted a story and please, please keep writing. Keep developing your story and making it better and better with each draft. I hope you see this as another step forward for you as a writer and I hope you feel you have improved your storytelling skills by sending in a story.

There were over 1000 entries and only one winner so missing out on the top prize does not mean that your story was not good. Many deserving entries missed out. Hit up my CREATE page for writing tips and tools and just keep on reading and writing the best stories you can: 

Good luck! I have another super-fun competition to announce when MY LIFE & OTHER EXPLODING CHICKENS is released in March 2016. :)) To hear about giveaways and new competitions you can sign up for my monthly kids' book eNews here: .

Big thanks to the team at Penguin-Random House Australia for putting up such a generous prize.



Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Ugly by Robert Hoge review

Review of Robert Hoge's Ugly by guest reviewer Ella Sharpe, bookseller at The Younger Sun Children's Bookshop in Melbourne.

In 2013 Robert Hoge wrote a memoir about growing up and living ugly. This year he has published a young reader’s edition. When Robert was born his own mother didn’t want to take him home. After a month of being in the hospital, he was finally taken home for the first time and his whole family, including his mother, fell in love with him.

Robert was born with two deformed legs – both of which had to be amputated below the knee – and a massive tumour in the middle of his face that pushed his eyes far apart and flattened his nose. Robert received special medical attention from a wonderful team of surgeons who made medical history with the operations they performed on Robert’s face and body – allowing him to live a relatively normal life.

In this book Robert defies assumptions about disability and is an inspiration to all children – be they disabled or not. He proves both his mental and physical capabilities, just not necessarily in the traditional way. Denied the opportunity to play traditional team sports that young people are involved in he takes up lawn bowls, forms a strong friendship with his elderly teammate Frank and goes on to be very successful in this field. He makes friends, pulls pranks, grows up just like any other kid and does the best thing of all – accepts himself for who he is.

This is a wonderfully accessible memoir with a great message at its heart and is something that every child or adult should read. Robert’s inner beauty shines through in his prose and, through his admirable self-acceptance and determination to not be defined as other, he has become the disabled role model he lacked when growing up.

Reading age recommendation – 8+


Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Helix and the Arrival, by Damean Posner, review

Review for Damean Posner and Jules Faber's Helix and the Arrival (Random House Australia), by guest reviewer Ella Sharpe, bookseller at The Younger Sun Children's Bookshop in Melbourne.

Helix is a caveboy on the verge of becoming a caveman. His Arrival is only a few weeks away, where he will go into the woods to hunt a beast to bring back to Rockfall. But how will he be able to pass when all he’s managed to hunt so far is a rock gerbil (which he then released)? Helix should be preparing for his Arrival but he is more interested in the forbidden world outside of his home in Rockfall. Is the Dark Side, where people are banished, really as terrifying as they say? Are the people from Newstone, where the caves are bigger and the people cleaner, really as dumb as the keeper of stories would have Helix believe? And do the River People from the Lowlands, sworn enemies of the mountain folk, really grow from mud?

When Helix’s friend’s father, Ugthorn, is seriously injured Helix makes the decision to travel to the Lowlands to find help. With his friends Ug and Saleeka, and a tale of miraculous medicine from the Lowlands beyond, Helix crosses the river into a world that is more different than he could have ever imagined. Helix, Ug and Saleeka’s adventure will have extreme consequences for their way of life, that will echo through the mountains for eternity.

This is a light-hearted, entertaining and engrossing read that is difficult to put down. If you like history, adventure and discovering the truth, then this book is for you. This is the first novel of Australian author Damean Posner and I can’t wait to see what he comes out with next.

Reading Age 9 +


Monday, August 31, 2015

Children's Book Week 2015

Congratulations to all the teachers, librarians, authors, illustrators, Melbourne Writers Festival staff and volunteers, parents, kids and teens who made this the best Book Week ever. Thanks for all the work you do to inspire young readers to pick up a book and tell their own stories.

Here is my Book Week 2015, kicking off with the CBCA Awards above. (Pic courtesy of Lu Smith, CBCA Vic. You can see lots more pics and my wrap-up on the presentation here) and continuing with school visits and festival fun.

An interview with the lovely Millie from NBN about the Two Wolves and the CBCA Awards.

The amazing view from ABC Brisbane studio on Monday afternoon, talking about the CBCA awards, the value of kids' books and inspiring children to read.
My first cake of Book Week. I managed to halve my cake consumption this year, thus staving off diabetes for another year. (But this caramel Minion cupcake was delicious, thanks to the staff at Our Lady of Angels school in Brisbane.)
Schools interpreted the Book Week theme of 'Books Light Up Our World' in lots of inventive ways. Here, a planet Earth light globe.
I spied my first Honour Book sticker on a copy of Two Wolves. :))

I was lucky enough to get hold of an advance copy of John Boyne's follow-up to The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas. It's called The Boy at the Top of the Mountain and I think it's every bit as good.
I spied my son reading Jack Heath's new one, The Cut Out, which he is urging me to read and says it's one of his favourite books.
I set off for Melbourne Writers Festival, this year coinciding with Book Week.
6:28am Wednesday morning. The view from the amazing Sofitel Hotel. (We do it pretty hard, kids' authors.)

I spent most of my time at MWF speaking at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image and wandering their extraordinary book store between sessions.
I shared a couple of sessions with the lovely Lili Wilkinson (new book Green Valentine just out with Allen & Unwin).

Write Across Victoria session with Lili Wilkinson, Skye Melki-Wegner and Elizabeth Flux, talking about how we started out and presenting the winners of Express Media's young writers competition.

Part of ACMI's David Bowie exhibition.

At the Booked Out speakers agency party with Gus Gordon and Serena Geddes. Lots of fine authors and illustrators made it along including James Moloney, Kirsty Murray, Shamini Flint, James Phelan, Andrew Macdonald and lots more. Great to catch up with Booked Outers, Simon, Lauris, Hannah, Esther and the gang who connect us with schools and readers.

So good to see this bloke, Gus Gordon, the other half of My Life Tom Weekly's brain. He's a thoughtful, funny and talented man and I feel lucky to create the series with him and consider him a friend.

I was slimed by the lovely hosts at ABC3. Thanks Grace and Tim. Am planning my revenge.

Writing morning pages on the 37th floor. Looks like a Spiderman set.

'Your Life & Other Stuff You Made Up' workshop at Melbourne's ArtPlay studio. Fantastic space to work in with some very creative and inspiring young writers.

The best part of Book Week is bringing stories to life and testing out new material on young readers. I had a ball. Thanks to everyone who came to see my sessions and who gave such enthusiastic feedback on the day and on Instagram afterwards. It was a week I will remember for a long time.

Next up? Sleep. Then, writing a book. I think I'll go into semi-hibernation so that I can dive down into a story that I've been playing around with for about three years. I'm pretty excited about the possibilities. Who knows what might happen? I'll let you know in February.
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