Archive for the ‘Children’s fiction’ Category


Growing up in the bush, I cut my chops on prime Aussie slang.

Life was full of dills and drongoes, drop-kicks and silly galahs, useless buggers who couldn’t run a bath, and funny buggers who claimed to have hit every branch of the ugly tree on the way down.

Language was full of fun and effect. Cheating and stealing were lower than a goanna’s gearbox, and if you were caught in the act, you took off like a choko vine over the back dunny….

Yet these days, using Aussie slang can be a bit like speaking a foreign language to today’s kids. Hands immediately shoot up in the classroom. ‘What’s a dill? What does drongo mean?”

It occurred to me that some Aussie vernacular was in danger of dying a death if someone didn’t do something….so I wrote Drongoes to help breathe some new life into a favourite Aussie expression.

This latest chapter book in Scholastic’s Mates series of great Australian yarns introduces drongoes – (the bird, the word, and the dogged little triers it has come to represent) – to a whole new generation of newly independent readers.

Drongoes will meet its first readers at the Brisbane schools launch at St Ambrose’s, Newmarket, on Sunday 3 March from 3pm.

First reviews are now in – yay! You can read Fran Knight’s review for ReadPlus by clicking here, Dimity Powell’s review for Boomerang Books, by clicking here and Megan Daley’s review and teaching activities at Childrens Books Daily by clicking here.

Teachers Notes can be found at


It’s here, it’s here, my first little Aussie Mate. (And seriously, with a title like Drongoes, what else could it be?)

When the fabulous Dyan Blacklock at Scholastic first asked me if I’d like to write something for their Mates series for newly independent readers, my immediate reaction was hell, yeah – I’m a sheila from Biloela, I live for great Aussie yarns.

And I have to say that writing Drongoes was about as much fun as I’ve had at a keyboard. It took me back to my own early reading discoveries and the thrill of graduating to big kids’ books with proper stories and chapters and everything (just like younger readers will find in Drongoes ;))

Drongoes is out now, so look out for it in Scholastic Book Club in schools. Or if you’re really keen, you can order it by clicking here. 🙂

Love to hear what you think of it.

Can Jack beat arch-enemy Rocket Robson in this year’s cross-country? If only! A heart-warming story of mateship and drongoes, where the real winner isn’t always the first over the line.

Sending air kisses into the ether – mmwa – to everyone who voted for Dust and Henry Hoey Hobson in THE BIG READ celebrating stories set in Queensland.

Thanks to you, they’ve both come in winners – Dust for Older Readers, and Henry Hoey Hobson in the Younger Readers category.

Saturday’s announcement at the State Library of Queensland by Book Links Qld as part of the National Year of Reading was a great way to end Book Week …and an every better kickstart to Literacy Week (oh yes, the big weeks just keep on rolling for we wranglers of words).

Tomorrow I’m off to Calvary Christian College, and then on to All Hallows and Mt Alvernia later in the week to talk books and writing to secondary students.

And for Brisbane lovers of picture books, please feel free to drop by Riverbend Books at 5pm on Tuesday 28 August for the launch of Gus Gordon’s gorgeous Herman and Rosie. We’d love to see you there. 🙂

Man, oh man, I am so looking forward to putting my feet up this weekend.

(I even have it scheduled in: 7.30 pm this Saturday, 25 August, to help celebrate The Reading Hour as part of the National Year of Reading.)

Book Week is a huge month for authors – it’s our time to shine.

We drag ourselves away from the keyboard and out of the dacks of track, and into our silver writing sneakers to sashay our way through talks and workshops all over town.

The best bits are always the kids and their shiny bright ideas. Though I do have a soft spot for the lunch treats all those lovely librarians and teachers roll out for visiting authors (yes, Warrigal Road State School, I am talking about you. Homemade gyoza. Nom nom. Thank you, Mary and Maureen!)

My Book Week kicked off a couple of weeks ago, but it really hotted up this week and is showing no signs of easing till the end of the month.

Last Sunday, I had a fun day with my made-of-awesome Year-of-the-YA-novel students in at the Qld Writers Centre, followed by many fun days with the lovely girls at Moreton Bay College and the champion little writers in at Warrigal Road State School.

Next week, I’m looking forward to spending my days at All Hallows School, Calvary College’s Literature Day, and Mount Alvernia College. And of course, there’s also the wonderful Gus Gordon’s book launch to look forward to (Tuesday 28 August at 5pm at Riverbend Books for those little and big people who love picture books).

If you need me before 31 August, I’ll be hard to track down during the day. But at night, you need look no further than my couch. I’ll be assuming the position. Feet up. Reading a book.

Ah yes, the CBCA gongs have sounded for another year, and let me say that this year’s choices all resonated with me.

Winner of the Book of the Year for Older Readers is Scot Gardner’s The Dead I Know, a gritty, yet sensitive tale about a troubled boy apprenticed to a kindly undertaker. A celebration of life in the face of death.

Honour books include two of my favourite reads for the year: Bill Condon’s poignant and funny story of first love, first job, A Straight Line to My Heartand Robert Newton’s moving story of two brothers marching off to the Great War, When We Were Two.

Book of the Year for Younger Readers was Kate Constable’s time-slip novel exploring black-white relations, Crow Country, with Jackie French’s excellent Nanberry: Black Brother White and Susan Green’s The Truth about Verity Sparks taking out Honour Books.

Early Childhood Book of the Year goes to Nicholas Bland and Freya Blackwood’s The Runaway Hug, and Picture Book of the Year to Bob Graham’s A BUS CALLED HEAVEN.

For a complete list of all Winning and Honour Books, please click here and congratulations to all Book of the Year, Honour Book, and Short-listed authors. 🙂

Nawww, who could resist this?

Gus Gordon’s gorgeous new picture book Herman and Rosie has already taken New York by storm, with Roaring Brook Press/Macmillan winning the North American rights at auction.

‘It took an extremely talented Australian to remind me why I moved to New York 40 years ago.‘  Neal Porter, the book’s North American publisher.

‘Quirky, soulful and alive…a book to treasure, like a favourite song.’ Markus Zusak, author of the Book Thief.

This gorgeous picture book is as endearing as its author/illustrator, multi-talented, all-round nice-guy, Gus Gordon.

Come meet Gus in Brisbane for the launch of Herman and Rosie at Riverbend Books, Bulimba on Tuesday 28 August at 5pm.

We’d love to see you there. And yes, there will be wine. 😉

I’m a big fan of assorted treats, and the latest anthology from Ford Street Publishing promises to win over the fussiest of readers.

Trust Me Too showcases a Who’s Who of Aussie kids literature with fifty-seven writers and illustrators contributing something bite-sized and delicious to each and every page.

There’s something to tempt all tastes: Sci Fi, fantasy, adventure, crime, humour, speculative fiction, historical, contemporary, sport, poetry and even Zombie Salad Eater comic strips!

I admit the first one I sampled I had already read (Killer Stories by Christine Bongers :)). But then, I hadn’t seen Peter Viska’s illustrations which added a whole new dimension to my original idea of writers cannibalising lives…

Spoilt for choice, I’ve been working my way through some favourites – Shaun Tan, James Roy, Lorraine Marwood, Steven Herrick, Leigh Hobbs,  Meredith Costain, Pat Flynn, Isobelle Carmody and am still chortling over Doug MacLeod‘s whimsical meditation on the trials and tribulations of the writing life, I am an Author.

Fortunately, I don’t need to gorge it all at one sitting. With 480-odd pages and the school holidays upon us, there’s time to savour every bite.

Unfortunately, I don’t share. Sorry. If you’d like your own copy, you’ll  have to click here or trot down to your local bookstore.

(FYI, Trust Me Too is aimed at 11-14 year-olds. But hey, we’re all still big kids at heart, right?)

Forget Queensland Day on June 6, I’ll be celebrating QUEENSLAND WEEK up at the Townsville Literary Festival from 4 to 10 June.

Looking forward to catching up with a brilliant line-up of Queensland authors and illustrators including Matthew Condon, Lucia Masciullo,  James Moloney and Kerry Brown.

You can click here for the complete program.

Or, if you really want to back a Queenslander, join The Big Read and vote for the children’s books that best define the Sunshine State.

The competition is being run by Book Links – Qld as part of the National Year of Reading 2012. (Very chuffed that Dust and Henry Hoey Hobson both got a guernsey on the shortlist. :))

All you have to do is click on this link and cast your vote for the children’s and YA books that you think best define Queensland. Voting closes 31 July 2012.

So, I’m at the beach playing Masters and Slaves with my kids. We’re having fun (as we like to remind ourselves, there’s no winners and losers in this family…..just losers).

But eventually I need a break from loserdom and check facebook … and nearly topple off my perch. Egad, it’s today!

The day that has every YA and children’s writer and illustrator in this country on tenderhooks, stabbing at the refresh button, waiting for the announcement of this year’s Shortlisted and Notable Books on the CBCA website.

Well, every YA and children’s writer and illustrator, that is, except me. Because after two nail-biting Aprils in a row, I don’t have a book in the running this year. And funnily enough, it’s a bit of a relief.

I can scour the list with wild abandon and leap with joy when I see favourite books pop up in the shortlists. (Yes, Michael Gerard Bauer, Bill Condon and Katherine Battersby, I’m talking about yours :)).

You can check out the full list here. Congratulations to all those who made it, and commiserations to those that didn’t – anyone who manages to get a book written and published in this country deserves a medal and a hug. You’re all winners in my book.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, it’s time to take the beagle stand-up-paddling.

If I don’t speak to you before, Happy Easter to you all.

Lately I’ve been feeling like a one-armed woman in a phone booth with a swarm of bees. Too many things coming at me at once.

Talks, deadlines, workshops, Mum in hospital, hubba hubby overseas (on a Brokeback Mountain-biking week, no less  – better bring back some fish!), a crescendo of kids’ sporting commitments, an unfinished novel burning a hole in my desktop, a ker-ching of tilers, builders and electricians battering all the bent bits of my life into shape.

The only tradesman I haven’t been blessed with lately is the plumber, which must be why the fridge and bathroom tap have just started leaking….

At 8pm last night, I had a melt-down. Then I got to work. By 11pm, I’d made a big dent in my in-tray AND sent off my edits for my illustrated chapter book Dronges to Scholastic. (Very happy that Dan McGuiness, author of Pilot & Huxley, is doing the illustrations. Check out his cool website here.)

At 5.30 this morning, I hauled my grumpy bum out of bed to flip 300 pancakes for my daughter’s waterpolo breakfast at school. She rocked up, all smiles, at 8am with her gaggle of gfs. ‘Having fun, Mum? she asked.’

And you know what? I realised that I was.

The sun was shining, my co-workers were fun, and our pancakes were the bomb. I squirted maple syrup on a huge hotcake, stuffed it in my mouth and made a mental note to myself:

When there’s a lot on your plate, don’t forget to savour the good bits. 

Since I got home, I’ve been ticking off the jobs like a machine.

Next on my list is my Six-Pick for next week’s CBCA Qld Short List Night.  I’m a Clayton’s judge again this year for books for Older Readers and let me tell you, nominating a Top Two Dozen is fun, but narrowing down all those fabulous books to a Top Half Dozen is downright harrowing. Definitely not a job for sissies….  Click here if you’d like to come along and get the inside running on top kids’ books for 2012.

But right now, you will have to excuse me.

I have a talk to prepare, a workshop program to finalise for my Year of the YA Novel Course (starting 29 April at the Queensland Writers Centre), a novel to finish…And after all that, I think I’ll be ready for another pancake. 😉