When Alice finds that she can’t fit through the little door to get into the beautiful garden because she is too big, she notices a glass bottle with a paper label which reads Drink Me.
A Drink Mepotion is a magical liquid in Wonderland – it has the effect of making the drinker shrink in size
This potion bottle has magically appeared on the table. Alice wonders if it is safe to drink, and she thinks to herself ‘If one drinks much from a bottle marked Poison it is certain to disagree with one, sooner or later’. However, the bottle did not have the word Poisonwritten on it, so Alice drinks every last drop of the bottle’s liquid and finds that it tastes delicious. It had a flavour of cherry tart, custard, pineapple, roast turkey, toffee and hot buttered toast, all mixed up. She then shrinks down to only ten inches tall (approx 25cm) after drinking from this bottle.
Personally I did not like this part of Alice in Wonderland as a child and it has haunted me ever since. What writer puts that into a children’s story? Believing labels, swigging from bottles, shrinking in size. The stuff of horrors akin to storing cleaning fluid in soft drink bottles. Okay, I realise it is a fantasy story which has stood the test of time and been reproduced in many formats, still… I guess for me, reading this tale in childhood, there was the thought of ‘No, Alice, don’t drink it!’ without knowing she has to propel the story forward in the most unlikely way. Yes, it is a unique and radical plotline but I still see it as experimental drug-taking.
Apologies to staunch fans with no hang-ups, and those who embrace Lewis Carroll’s Todd’s syndrome or Dysmetropsia, a neuropsychological condition which causes strange hallucinations and affects the size of visual objects. It can make the sufferer feel bigger or smaller than they are – a theme of the book – write what you know. Then, and now, I have never seen Alice’s adventures in Wonderland as entertaining. I view this book as akin to a fitful, nightmarish fever dream. The characters are irredeemably scary, even Johnny Depp couldn’t save it for me.
First, some info on Juliet Nearly A Vet children’s series before I launch into my one and a half hour experience hosted by Book Links and Write Linksat their centre for children’s literature.
JULIET NEARLY A VET series by REBECCA JOHNSON
Juliet wants to be a vet when she grows up, but when she decides she needs to start practicing, her wonderful misadventures begin. With gorgeous illustrations by local illustrator Kyla May.
“Hi! I’m Juliet. I’m ten years old. And I’m nearly a vet! We’re off on a school camp to the rainforest. Chelsea, Maisy and I are excited about all the different animals we might spot on our nature walks and torchlight treks. Chelsea is NOT excited about the creepy crawlies we might find! I’ve brought my vet-kit along just in case we find any animals in need of help . . .”
A wonderful series about three smart, funny, animal-loving girls solving mysteries and causing chaos at their country boarding school.
“Abbey, Hannah and Talika are new recruits at Willowvale boarding school’s Vet Cadets program. Mrs Parry, their science teacher, has given each of the girls a chick to raise and train, but not everyone is happy about it! When a game of horseback hide-and-seek turns into a matter of life and death, rules are broken and the friends’ courage sorely tested. This time, a solution might be out of the Vet Cadets’ hands . . .”
Rebecca Johnson is an award-winning Australian author and primary-school science teacher who has written more than 100 children’s books. Her works include the Steve Parish Story Book collection, Juliet Nearly A Vet series, Vet Cadet series, Insect series, and Steve Parish Reptiles & Amphibians Story Book range.
Rebecca Johnson spoke about how she became a published author and what inspired her stories. Her two current series are based on her own childhood experiences, both as a young vet ‘assistant’ and then as a horse-riding teenage animal detective.
Her writing style has allowed her to find the balance between working part-time and writing. She talked about the importance of verbal pitching in the early part of a writer’s career; know your story and speak passionately about it.
Rebecca was open and honest in all she discussed, particularly the challenges of marketing your first book once it has been published. On the subject of payment, royalties and earning a decent income, Rebecca felt a book series worked better.
I jotted down a number of points; from having an agent, to evolving your books as your reading audience grows. Interestingly, in this age of the internet, Rebecca hasn’t physically met Kyla May, her book illustrator.
A fascinating aspect from Rebecca’s talk is her use of a book tie-in and children’s conventions based on her Juliet Nearly A Vet books. She ordered 1,000 vet kits child-size with working stethoscopes and white lab coats—spectacular to say the least. And children obviously have a wonderful time learning about animals and caring for their toy pets!
My main takeaway from this workshop was “Write what you know, do the hard yards, continually promote your books” as well as attending events, libraries, Book Week. I applaud Rebecca Johnson for the detail and length of her workshop, and the fact that she happily answered every question.
A friend of mine, children’s writer Artelle Lenthall, challenged me to nominate 7 of my favourite bookcovers and post one every day for 7 days on Facebook. I have chosen 7 of my favourite bookcovers from Juliet Nearly A Vet series and will post them at 7.00pm each evening.
Every reader has book backlog. If we didn’t, there would be no such thing as the TBR, or stacks of unread ARCs, neither shelves groaning with books nor e-readers crammed with downloads. My bedside table is piled high with enticing yet unread novels and, well, you get the idea. You have book backlog, too.
There areso many excellent books in the world that I know I will never catch up—so I’m being choosy and will read what I want, when I want. And taking the sinful route of skipping pages if it’s not up to scratch.
My readingmaterial may not be literary, it may not be controversial, it may not be popular, it may not be the latest or greatest, however, it will be a book I’m interested in from cover-to-cover. An occasional blog post is sure to come out of it, no matter how fluffy or deep the content.
‘Okay, okay, enough!’ I hear you cry. ‘When does time travel come into this?’
“A ripping English boarding-school story with a perceptive heroine and time-travel twist guaranteed to appeal to modern schoolgirls.”—Kirkus Reviews
BESWITCHED BY KATE SAUNDERS is the kind of story which I would have loved when I was a girl. Well paced and absorbing, it is eerily accurate of all those Famous Five and Girls Own Annual stories I read yonks ago. Saunders tight writing style easily pulled me into the dilemma which rather spoilt young schoolgirl Flora Fox finds herself, viz, she gets fobbed off to boarding school and never arrives.
Actually she does arrive, but she’s zapped back in time. Instead of luxurious Penrice Hall, she arrives at St Winifred’s in pre-war 1935 where all the ‘gels’ are ever-so-British-upper-class, the underwear is scratchy and the food is awful.
As you can imagine this is a personal growth tale, cut through with humorous chronological comparisons, nightmare teachers, ripping seaside hols, scary bonding adventures and a neat twist to the enlightening finale. Jolly. Good. Fun.
I won’t go into the logistics of time travel but suffice to say the elements meld together well. Recommended for 8 to 12 year olds, although anybody can read it for a look at life when steely friendships were forged by facing boarding school adversity together.
One of my favourite contemporary children’s writers is Jen Storer. Wise, warm and wonderful, Jen imparts her wealth of knowledge on Girl and Duck online with Scribbles courses, Questions and Quacks videos, Facebook live sessions and a yearly Masterclass.
Here is a letter from Jen Storer
Scribbles Masterclass 2019
Dear Children’s Literature Creators,
KidLit Vic is fast approaching and so is the annual Scribbles Masterclass!
4.1 Hayden Raysmith Room
247 Flinders Lane (That’s right. Across the street from Brunetti!) Melbourne Australia
Friday 24 May 2019
2pm – 5pm
Note: This year we have a SECRET special guest joining us!
If you would like to join me (and my special guest), please CLICK HERE to book your place by Wednesday, 15 May 2019 10pm (AEST). There are still a few spots left.
IMPORTANT: You do not have to be attending KidLit Vic Melbourne in order to join the Masterclass. We are not affiliated, we just time it that way because lots of Scribblers are in town!
*Girl and Duck is a flourishing online community of emerging and established children’s literature creators (authors, illustrators, publishers, editors, designers and enthusiasts) with members from all over Australia, New Zealand, the USA and Europe.
Squish dreams of many things including having a pet.
Squish makes a long list—a puppy would be perfect.
Squish’s best friend Twitch helps him along the way.
Squish thinks important thoughts about friendship and his future pet.
Squish waits and waits to meet his new pet—who is more wonderful than he ever dreamed.
REVIEW: There is an art to creating good children’s books and with her clear illustrations and succinct text, Katherine Battersby has shaped a beautiful story. ‘Squish Rabbit’s Pet’ is a picture book which combines thoughtfulness, fun and friendship with an eggciting ending.
COMMENT: I saw this third Squish Rabbit book at a UQP publishing event prior to its release and had to buy it. I am familiar with Katherine Battersby’s work and have met her professionally when she journeyed from Canada to Queensland. Happy reading! 🐨 🍁
Who’d have thought it? Margaret Eleanor Atwood (1939- ) author of The Handmaid’s Tale, Alias Grace, The Blind Assassin and more than forty other books of fiction, poetry, critical essays and a graphic novel has written children’s books.
Margaret Atwood also wears various hats, from activist through literary critic, inventor, environmentalist and award-winner with honours and degrees, yet for me this news was surprising. Not so surprising is the quirky nature of her children’s stories!
♦ With grateful thanks to online friend and blogger BookJotter Paula Bardell-Hedley for alerting me to these little gems within a comprehensive list of Margaret Atwood’s literary output—
Up in the Tree (1978) Anna’s Pet (with Joyce Barkhouse) (1980) For the Birds (1990) Princess Prunella and the Purple Peanut (1995) Rude Ramsay and the Roaring Radishes (2003) Bashful Bob and Doleful Dorinda (2004) Up in the Tree (facsimile reprint) (2006) Wandering Wenda and Widow Wallop’s Wunderground Washery (2011) A Trio of Tolerable Tales (illustrator Dušan Petričić) (2017)
Being a kidlit fan, I immediately wanted to read several of those earlier Atwood books but found they (like this non-fiction For The Birds) were no longer in print, or libraries, but may be available through state archives or second-hand book merchants. I will track down her first children’s book Up in the Tree (with her own illustrations and hand-lettering, quite possibly written for her young daughter) because the story intrigues me.
Along the way, Wandering Wenda and Widow Wallop’s Wunderground Washery was adapted into the children’s television series The Wide World of Wandering Wenda aimed at early readers with different adventures using words, sounds, and language.
Happily, in 2017, three of Atwood’s books were re-published, printed and bound in Canada into one compilation A Trio of Tolerable Tales. I was able to buy a new copy with Serbian Dušan Petričić gorgeous drawings. Atwood’s alliteration is absolutely awesome!
♦ Here are my reviews of these alliteration-filled, tongue-twisting tales…read on….
♦ Rude Ramsay and the Roaring Radishes
The reader follows the adventures of Ramsay and Ralph the red-nosed rat as they traverse various repulsive obstacles to find a round, Roman-vaulted rat hole leading to food nirvana – round red radishes ready to be devoured. The radishes revolt and start to attack but thankfully owner Rillah comes on the scene. She forgives their trespass and shows them around her romantic rectory, rotunda, rococo artworks and rumpus room. There’s a bit of a ruckus with Rillah’s relatives Ron, Rollo and Ruby, so Ramsay & Co beat a hasty retreat back outside and romp rapturously under a radiant rainbow. There is a very clever twist regarding the radishes and how they repel intruders! A fun story which needs patience on the part of the reader, especially reading it out aloud for small children. Laughs are guaranteed and you will marvel at how many ‘R’ words exist in the English language. GBW.
♦ Bashful Bob and Doleful Dorinda
Bashful Bob was abandoned in a basket outside a beauty parlour and nobody claimed him. There is a neglected dog park across the street and the resident dogs are Bob’s best buddies. There is a beagle, a boxer and a borzoi who believe “We must be benevolent” and they look after young Bob. On the next block lives Doleful Dorinda. She’d been dumped with despicable relatives who say “Dorinda is a dope” and make her sleep beside biohazard material. Her food is awful and she is treated like a slave. Finally Doleful Dorinda runs away and meets Bashful Bob on the vacant block. You will have to read this story to find out how their names were turned into Brave Bob and Daring Dorinda but it makes a jolly rollicking tale especially if you like dogs! The plot and resolution are more conventional, even with the proliferation of ‘B’ words. A flowing, tangible fairytale and I found it easy to absorb. GBW.
♦ Wandering Wenda and Widow Wallop’s Wunderground Washery
Wenda is a willowy child with wispy hair and wistful eyes. Her parents are whisked away by a weird whirlwind and thereafter Wenda wanders aimlessly. She makes friends with Wesley woodchuck and they share food scraps and wodges of wieners until one day they are kidnapped by Widow Wallop. She takes them to her Wunderground Washery to “wash whites whiter than white” every day. Between the drudgery, they feel sorry for Widow Wallop’s white Welsh ponies and three other waifs, Wilkinson, Wu and Wanapitai. Together they plot their daring escape, only to encounter wolves along the way. How will they evade Widow Wallop’s clutches now? There is an unexpected reveal at the end! I think some of the scenes may disturb younger children, particularly those with separation anxiety. Older readers will chortle at the profuse ‘W’ words and idiosyncratic wordplay. GBW.
QUOTATION: “Comfort with reading begins in childhood, when parents or other loving adults read to children. It creates a ‘safe’ place where — nevertheless — dangers can be explored (and, in children’s books, hopefully, overcome)…. I think my children’s books function as protected spaces for me. I look at darker things quite a lot, but the kind of children’s books I write are light, and have happy endings…. That’s a relief, when I can manage it.”
—Margaret Atwood, author.
♦ The interior of this book is printed on paper that contains 100% post-consumer recycled fibres, is acid-free and is processed chlorine-free so there’s nothing to worry about, Wenda.
“Stella Montgomery is in disgrace. The awful aunts, Aunt Condolence, Aunt Temperance and Aunt Deliverance,have sent her to Wakestone Hall, a grim boarding school where the disobedient are tamed and the wilful are made meek. But when a friend disappears, Stella is determined to find her – no matter what danger she encounters. Soon Stella is thrown headlong into the mysteries surrounding Wakestone Hall. Will Stella save her friend in time? And will she discover – at long last – where she truly belongs?”
Stella Montgomery and Wakestone Hall – the intrigue draws to an exciting close!
Wakestone Hall is Book 3 in the Stella Montgomery Intrigues and this series has captured my imagination. My inner child responded to the mysterious and creepy goings-on in the first two books, beautifully complemented by author Judith Rossell’s own illustrations of the Victorian era. The third book is out now with a book launch due in a couple of days. I can’t wait to read it! GBW.
Information: HarperCollins Publisher Published: 22 October 2018 ISBN: 9780733338205 Imprint: ABC Books – AU Number Of Pages: 280 For Ages: 8+ years old
Children’s, Teenage & educational / Fantasy & magical realism (Children’s – Teenage)
Did you know that? In the spirit of The Duck Pond, here’s a heads up from author Jen Storer of Girl & Duck.
Exciting times! Jen’s SCRIBBLES CREATIVE GROUP (writing and illustration) is having a FLASH SALE on 30th September 2018. Join now!
Yay! That’s 30% off their signature online course – 30% off on the 30th. Ink it in, okay?
Then the SCRIBBLES CREATIVE WRITING AWARDS open on 1st October 2018.
Have you got an awesome picture book manuscript or a junior fiction story you think might fly in the competition? Middle grade? An exciting storyboard? There are FOUR categories and I bet you’ve got something creative worth entering!
To read all about the inaugural SCRIBBLES CREATIVE AWARDS plus prizes and how you can win a manuscript assessment and one-hour Skype coaching call with published author Jen Storer of Girl & Duck CLICK HERE.
Jen, creator of Truly Tan series and other children’s books, says “I hope this post flips your lid. But only in a good way!”
To keep up with all the news (and all the pretty pictures) follow Jen on Instagram.
Visit the website Girl & Duck and ask to join Jen, Zoe, Dulcie, Geek Duck (and me, and the other Duckies from around the world, talking children’s literature and stuff) in The Duck Pond, the most unique and supportive online kidlit group around – then join SCRIBBLES for even more fun! I will definitely be entering the Awards competition!
All the links you’ll ever need to write and illustrate brilliant kids books:
This post will bore anyone without children in their lives.
Dads Read recognises that fathers reading to their children strengthens literacy, models positive reading behaviour and builds children’s self-esteem around reading, especially for boys.
Dads Read is an early childhood literacy initiative, developed by State Library of Queensland in 2010 and launched statewide in 2012 as part of the National Year of Reading, to promote family literacy. The program continues to expand and is now being delivered throughout Queensland and South Australia and plans are underway in Tasmania.
You can host your own event with their resources. I’ve seen this program in action with a dedicated group. Children choose a book, a slice of pizza and sit with their fathers to read.
Discrimination doesn’t apply, the Dads Read message is based on the simple but true premise that reading 10 minutes a day to your children is not only quick but also essential.
Dads Read aims to:
Raise awareness of the important role fathers play in their children’s development.
Inform fathers of the importance and benefits of reading to children from their early years, even before they start school.
Promote reading as a family.
Encourage fathers to read to their children and promote the value of reading.
Provide fathers with the tools to give them the confidence to read with their children.
My father was my reading mentor, instilling interest in books, and Dads Read program follows research which highlights the importance of dads reading to their children during their early developmental years. As little as 10 minutes a day improves children’s literacy levels and stimulates creative and critical thinking.
‘Investment in early childhood is the most powerful investment a country can make’. World Health Organization, 2007.
The Dads Read program has helped:
Address a real and significant issue which is at the core of our wellbeing as individuals, families, employers and communities: the need to be literate.
Support literacy development and help to develop the skills of Australia’s future workforce by building everyday skills for sustainable communities.
Build literacy levels among our younger generation while promoting family literacy and boosting the ability of reading in adults.
Connect families and communities in a cost effective and invaluable way.
Fabulous stage and screen actors reading gloriously fun books. I listened to eight beautifully narrated sound clips by Kate Winslet, Hugh Laurie, Richard Ayoade, Miriam Margolyes, Stephen Fry, Andrew Scott, Chris O’Dowd––and I’ve just drooled over Dan Stevens short reading of Roald Dahl’s famous ‘Boy’. What a selection!
Reviewed by Rachel Smalter Hall for Book Riot way back in 2013 who gushed:
“Rioters, I’m so excited. I just can’t hide it. I’ve been holding my breath to share this with you for weeks! The new upswing in audiobook publishing has sent lots of publishers to their backlist to record beloved classics, and one of my favorite projects in this vein is from Penguin Audio, who just released several Roald Dahl audiobooks in July and will release several more this September. The series features some of the UK’s best known screen and stage actors. Here are sound clips from eight of the narrations that have got me squealing like a thirteen-year-old at a slumber party.”
I SAY IT’LL MAKE YOUR EARS HAPPY––SMILES GUARANTEED
TAP ON EACH INDIVIDUAL TEASER WHICH I HAVE CAREFULLY SELECTED FOR YOU FROM A LOVINGLY CURATED ROALD DAHL SOUNDCLOUD PLAYLIST
My picture book review
My bonus picture book lesson
My link to Just Awesome Picture Books
Henry is a boy who likes eating books. He absorbs knowledge as he happily munches his way to becoming the smartest boy on earth. Everything goes well until there’s an internal rebellion. Share Henry’s journey as he discovers something better than eating books.
Award-winning Oliver Jeffers’ concept is clever and I found his plot madly appealing. The illustrations are unique and show creative grunge like an old diary or well-used notebook. For me, although the story has the potential to be scary, it is handled in an adventurous way with Henry supported by believable characters which adds intertextuality to an otherwise imprudent tale.
I think The Incredible Book Eating Boy is best suited for small group readings or child-and-parent because there’s a lot happening and the visual literacy may need some explanation for younger children.
All in all, a praiseworthy picture book with a good message for 4 – 8 years range to which I give a 5-Star rating. GBW.
In my opinion, less is more! Wordy picture books tire the reader and the listener. The illustrations should highlight the uncluttered wording. The words push the narrative forward and the child uses their imagination from the visual cues.
It’s a common fallacy that picture books are easy to write. This is far from the truth because the very minimalist nature of picture books means that every single word has to be perfectly rendered. Learn more about writing for children from author Jen Storer of Girl & Duck.
As a general guide, here are some basics:
A children’s picture book is 32-pages but 8 pages are used for endpapers and book information. The story is over 24 pages or 12 spreads of text and illustrations which span two opened pages at a time. These pages can be half-page spreads, single-page spreads, double-page spreads or vignettes. A number of vignettes are used in The Incredible Book Eating Boy.
There is symmetrical, complementary and contradictory illustration approaches and I think The Incredible Book Eating Boy is approached in a complementary manner. Oliver Jeffers plays around with the location of text to good effect.
Board books, pop-ups and novelty may have no words, just illustrations. Young picture books are aimed at 2 to 5-year-olds with 200 to 400 wordcount. Trade (general readership) picture books are suitable for 3 to 8-year-old children with 500 to 600 wordcount. Picture story books for older children 6 to 10-year-olds with 1000 to 3000 words are often non-fiction. Chapter book fiction over 3500 words are suitable for competent readers, with a sliding age range due to small sketches and quirky touches often added between the pages to enhance the reading experience. YA (young adult) are the more tailored books suitable for older teenagers.
Something different. A theatre performance video of the book at The Joan, Penrith’s premier performing arts centre The Incredible Book Eating Boy production. The cast use song, movement and puppetry to bring Oliver Jeffers’ much loved story to life on stage.
Enjoy eating, er, reading this picture book with that special little someone.
”…under the stone, two dragons are curled up, fast asleep. All day, they sleep, but at night they wake, and then they fight. Their battle destroys your tower each night.”
Wales, lovely, mysterious, mythical Wales… A land of heroes and gods, a place where myth and history walk hand-in-hand only to be lost in times unrecorded, misty and shadowy. This beautiful little book is dedicated to the Northern part of Cymru, home to the legendary area of Snowdonia and Ynys Môn and to three World Heritage sites.
(Porth Dafarch Cove, Anglesey)
Known once as the Kingdom of Gwynedd, North Wales has an endless wealth of traditions and folklore. We will meet a giant and a giantess who fight over a hammer. A clever boy named Gareth (…Wales…
As I left the local gym, a rat scampered towards me waving a crumpled envelope.
“You’re Bertha East, right?” he squeaked. I started to explain I was Bertha West but he let the envelope flutter to the footpath and raced off. I scooped it up and saw on the back that it was from Duck No. 4938, a nodding acquaintance at the gym. The letter had been scribbled with a quill and Duck No. 4938 explained that she was currently behind bars at Critters Incarcerated. According to her letter, she was blameless of the charges levelled against her, while remaining tight-billed about her true intentions.
I was puzzled until next day the story became public knowledge. This had prompted her lawyer Henny McCluck to state that her client Duck No. 4938 was nowhere near The Duck Pond on the afternoon in question.
Apprehended with a plastic bag of crumbs under her wing, proceedings are currently underway to determine if Duck No. 4938 gobbled all the dry bread crusts before other ducks had a chance to exit the water. The Duck Pond is a popular picnic spot, a prominent sign warns Do Not Feed The Birds, and investigators are urging the child who dropped the bread crusts to come forward.
“My client pleads not guilty and hopes for early release,” said McCluck. She added that the Duckolympic champion held the coveted title of Paddling Fury and should be respected for her sporting prowess. I realised that this would not help her cause. In a photograph released today, Duck No. 4938 appeared rather haunted, her feathers askew. Lawyer McCluck can be seen loitering in the background.
Meanwhile, the letter I received from Duck No. 4938 hinted that she believes lawyer McCluck is pecking through what little grain savings she has left and asks for my support. I decided against sending a 2kg bag of cracked corn to the address she nominated and considered the letter to be some sort of scam.
The arrest had caused a flurry in the catering industry and representatives were standing in readiness to take stomach content samples.
By now social media tweets were going viral, ruffling large flocks of the feathered fraternity with #stuffedduck #duckdiving and #whatsitallaboutduckie. Television news coverage focused on the issue of slim pickings for underprivileged water birds. Dramatic press headlines read “Feathered Fraudster” and “Dead in the Water” with an inflammatory byline from an angry drake.
“She snatched it right out from under my webbed feet!”
A shiver ran up my spine. The drake has engaged the services of Paulo Dingo, known in legal circles as ‘Hungry’.
Undisclosed sources close to The Duck Pond were striving to gain access to security camera videos which could prove Duck No. 4938 was not in the vicinity of the water’s edge at the time of the incident.
“Video footage won’t prove a thing,” said ‘Hungry’ Dingo in his scathing report on the inadequacy of the wildlife penal system. “Judge Cassowary wouldn’t know one duck from another,” he howled.
My after-lunch doze was unsettled by thoughts that blackmail and swamp weed may be at the root of the allegations. At the very least Duck No. 4938 may have been duped and become ensnared in a network of fowl crime. But why come to me? Why doesn’t she tell the truth?
The phone rang and I discovered that local Constable Steve Brolga was conducting enquiries. He said he would be undertaking a nest-to-nest search and interviewing anyone who may have seen or heard Duck No. 4938 acting suspiciously in the surrounding area.
“Keep your ears tuned for me, Bertha,” he said.
My ears twitched and I pondered the fact that Duck No. 4938 may have a secret hiding place. Unexpectedly I had the answer. A clutch of ducklings, safely hidden from the likes of ‘Hungry’ Dingo.
A guilty verdict would certainly hinder her parental responsibilities. She had to plan, she needed someone on the outside, someone who lived nearby and could go to the address in the letter. Someone she could trust to protect her family.
I confided my swirling thoughts to young Joey.
“I guess I can help,” I mused, “What’s 2kg of cracked corn anyway?”
He was dubious and thought it may have been a trap. “Or we might be followed.”
But the more we talked, the more I thought about food relief. “Maybe we could scrounge some stale bread rolls from the back of the supermarket?”
This proved to be a difficult task and I scrambled over enough plastic bags and wasted food to last me a lifetime. A couple of crows helped by flicking slices of bread out of a half-opened skip but maintained their image by cawing loudly every time one hit me on the head. Joey laughed until a mouldy slice hit him.
Next day I alerted Constable Brolga and planned to meet him at the location specified by Duck No. 4938. Joey and I set off mid-morning and arrived earlier than intended. I stopped at a rusty wire gate to confirm the address.
“This is it.” The only noise was the rustling of eucalyptus leaves.
Before I could stop him, Joey bounced out with the bulky package and pushed through the gate.
“Let’s blow this case wide open!”
I sighed and shoved the letter back in my pouch.
We hopped up a set of shallow steps to the wooden door of an old shed. Heat radiated from the corrugated iron cladding and we strained to hear any sound of ducklings from within. Flies buzzed around us, the smell was overpowering and Joey wrinkled his nose. I knocked forcefully, rattling the door.
There was scuffling and very slowly and carefully the door slid open. Suddenly we were engulfed in a tide of fluffy yellow pinfeathers and eagerly quacking bills. Joey moved forward as bright little eyes scanned our food parcel.
He held up his paw. “Who wants to be first in line?”
I felt comfortable with our decision. Whatever truths the trial may reveal, the innocent must not suffer.
The yellow rabbit picked his front teeth with a twig and contemplated what it would be like baked in a rabbit pie. He remembered a tune the tone-deaf gardener used to sing “Run rabbit, run rabbit, run, run, run, something, something, he’ll get by without his rabbit pie…” Stupid song but with a happy ending for the bunny. The yellow rabbit didn’t have to worry about ending up in a pie because he crept among the marrows and hid in the sunflower patch or in buttery dandelion clumps and the gardener couldn’t see him. There were so many things to hide in, or on, or against when you were yellow. He remembered the nerve-wracking time he stopped on a double yellow line so a council truck wouldn’t run over him. The driver wasn’t going fast but that’s beside the point. The yellow rabbit nearly hopped out in front of the vehicle. Of course, stopping still on the yellow line made him invisible. His paws were a bit shaky once the truck had driven passed and he’d vowed then and there never to cross a road again. He looked up at the back verandah of the old homestead and continued his contemplation. There was a big yellow tablecloth fluttering on the railing which meant plans were afoot to eat outside. He had already spied the plump yellow cushions on the cane chairs. The big glass jug was frosting over, filled with ice and lemon nectar. The yellow rabbit always thought it strange how the humans ate with tools. They doled out piles of food and delicious salads with forks and scoops and ladles. Then they sliced succulent pineapples with large knives and chopped it into chunks. The strangest thing he’d ever seen was when they would cut the sides off mangoes and grid the luscious inner flesh before turning the skin inside out. At least the young human consumed large portions of her meals with her fingers. This meant that the female of the warren would continually wipe the fingers and face of the little fluffle. The yellow rabbit was now watching for this small fluffle, a young girl who always wore a yellow and white striped dress. She strolled outside holding a glass bowl, spooning egg custard into her mouth without watching the spillage. Her bright eyes were scanning for him. It didn’t take long for her to see him crouched down in a tray full of marigold seedlings. He twitched his long ears. She brushed a curl out of her eyes. He wiggled his nose. She gave a wiggle of her fingers then turned away, disappearing back inside. Out came the male and hung a wire cage on a fancy hook. The canary inside the cage started singing. The male started to set the table with yellow spotted plates and serviettes with sunbeams on them but seemed more interested in taking long swigs from a bottle of amber liquid he had left on the open window sill. The little girl reappeared and behind her trailed several yellow balloons on long shiny strings. She was wearing a cardboard hat decorated with sprigs of wattle which tangled in her blonde hair. The female emerged from the kitchen door with a bunch of daffodils in one hand and an empty honey jar in the other. She put the flowers in the jar and placed it in the middle of the table while talking to the male. The yellow rabbit shuddered and averted his eyes from the hot metal plate where the male had just thrown raw meat. Even the smell of fresh lettuce couldn’t stop him feeling slightly nauseated. After a few minutes, the little girl looped the balloon strings around the handrail and skipped down the verandah steps. She was coming straight towards him. Instinctively he shrunk low into the cool earth and tensed his muscles. She was swinging her arms casually and appeared to be looking over his head at a light catcher made from shimmering pieces of tinfoil clipped to a branch. The yellow rabbit blinked in surprise. She walked right by. However, quick as a wink, she flipped something out of her pocket and into the seedling tray. It was a carrot! Joy swelled in the yellow rabbit’s heart. He snatched up the fresh carrot in his big front teeth and leapt out of the seedling tray. He landed on the grass and bounded for the back fence. He knew it was ungracious of him, but he didn’t turn around to acknowledge the young girl. Biting hard on the carrot, and with a bit of pulling and tugging, he managed to crawl under the fence without getting stuck. He hopped off across the paddock with his tasty prize. The young girl trailed slowly back to her parents. They had soft smiles on their faces. With a happy nod, the young girl sat down at the table where a chunk of pineapple was waiting. As the sticky juice ran down her hands, she listened to her parents tell the familiar story of how they had been shown the nearby rabbit colony when they were her age. The yellow rabbits were a family tradition but nobody knew why they were yellow. Strangely, most of the bits and pieces in the homestead were the same colour, a shade her grandmother called sunshine. Legend says the yellow rabbit always appears on bright sunny days.
The above story was written as a free-write, a freefall stream of consciousness, and I had no idea where it was going or how it would end. It’s a fun technique! To find out more, click Jen Storer Girl and Duck Scribbles
The Ten Penners, a children’s author collective, launched their blog tour to coincide with the release of their exciting new anthology Mystery, Mayhem & Magic. Follow the tour, read about Julie Baythorpe, book giveaway and more—
Mystery, Mayhem & Magic is an anthology of amazing adventures for young readers!
Take a path through the forest of imagination into mysterious journeys filled with mayhem and a kaleidoscope of magical creatures.
From the authors of Shock! Horror! Gasp! and Fan-Tas-Tic-Al Tales emerges Mystery, Mayhem & Magic, a new anthology written by The Ten Penners, a paperback novel-size book which is jam-packed with thirty-six stories, poems and novellas suitable for children aged 8 to 12 and early readers. Stories can be read to younger children too …
… So come and explore!
Follow the fascinating Mystery, Mayhem & Magic
Blog Tour any time—
SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT – BOOK GIVEAWAY COMPETITION CLOSED!
There will be a giveaway of a copy of Mystery, Mayhem & Magic! At the end of the blog tour, those who have left a comment on this page, or on any of the other hosts’ pages during the blog tour, will be in the running to receive a free copy! The announcement of the winner will be at our book launch at Broadbeach Library on Saturday 4 November 2017. So, please make a comment below to be in the running.
Q & A
Today I am delighted to welcome one of the authors, Julie Baythorpe, who has kindly put her literary thoughts into words:
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Julie Baythorpe was born in Sydney and moved to Brisbane where she attended Brisbane Central State School. She loved every minute of school life so much so she never left the education system. In 1985 she moved to the Gold Coast. Julie has written all her life. For many years, she taught creative writing, both as a Teacher and Principal in classrooms across Queensland. When she retired from teaching she started writing full-time. She has written and published numerous short stories, poems, journal articles and has developed many Curriculum documents for Education Queensland. She is currently organising and presenting writing workshops for the Gold Coast Writers’ Association. Her books include the Reid Devron murder mystery series and several short story anthologies. Julie also enjoys creating watercolour paintings … when she’s not writing!
Q1.When did you start writing?
A. I started when I was very young … five or six years old. I loved it. I had a vivid imagination (still have) which transported me to mystical and magical places. As I grew older I began writing poems and stories for the children I taught in primary school. I also wrote strategic documents … curriculum documents, behaviour management programs and planning outlines for Education Queensland. I started writing fiction full-time when I retired from teaching.
Q2.Which genres do you enjoy writing?
A. I enjoy writing in most genres, however, I feel most comfortable writing novels in the murder mystery category. As a member of The Ten Penners writing group, I’ve dabbled in short story writing for children again. It’s been a while since I did this, however, I enjoyed creating the character ‘Plinko’ and I loved the adventures of Jock, Davo and Birch in ‘Birch the Dinosaur and the Bogan Penguins’. A lot of fun!
Q3.Have you published any books? A. Yes, I’ve published three books in the Reid Devron murder mystery series. ‘The Lavender Principal’, ‘Silo Deadfall’, and ‘Under the Fig Tree’, all set in schools where I’ve worked. In collaboration with the Southern Short Story Group (another sub-group of Gold Coast Writers’ Association) I wrote a number of fictional short stories. The title of that book is ‘Love, Lies, Laughter and a Few Little Tears’.
Q4.Have you won any writing competitions?
A. Only one … when I was about nine years old. They asked me to read it to the whole school. I’ve been traumatised ever since! But it didn’t stop my love of writing!
Q5.Do you have a plan/schedule for your writing?
A. Early in the morning is a great time for my writing sessions. I fade by the afternoon. I usually collect ideas in my head and jot down notes … Firstly, in a scribbled, illegible mess. To tidy my ramblings, I develop a timeline for two or three pages then add chapters and scenes. For example, Chapter One … a body is found, police arrive, description of setting and some characters. In a rough outline, I write down scenes in each chapter. I use a scrapbook for pictures and details of my characters. Lastly, I organise a folder for research, the book cover ideas, similes/metaphors, poems, and editing notes and pages. Then it gets cracking!
Many thanks, Julie, for your time and inspiration.
Don’t forget! Post a comment below (or on any one of the blog tour sites) to be in the running for a giveaway copy of The Ten Penners new anthology Mystery, Mayhem & Magic! IMPORTANT: THE BOOK GIVEAWAY COMPETITION HAS CLOSED.
(Rewriting metaphor) The paddocks of writing are strewn with rough drafts. You kick, trip, fall, get up and struggle your way across rugged terrain until you see a smooth pebble ahead. The closer you get, the more polished it becomes. Eventually you walk over golden sand and reach out; that pebble has become a jewel. The following children’s picture book story is still a pebble.
(Living room) Everyone in Neil’s family wants to sit on the soft cosy comfy couch.
Because the soft cosy comfy couch is the best place to sit.
But sometimes it’s just not big enough.
(Takeover) Sometimes Neil can’t sit down to read his book because his two brothers and Tiny the dog sit down first. And they spread out.
(Solid cushion) So Neil tries to sit on a hard red cushion but slides off – bump!
Just when Neil goes to sit down on the front doorstep with his book, it is time for lunch.
The cushion on the kitchen chair is very thin. Neil wriggles to get comfortable.
The thin cushion slips down and lands in the cat’s food.
(Various seats) Neil’s mother watches a movie with Tiny the dog and Rat the cat snoozing on either side.
No room to squeeze in there.
So Neil drags in
a cardboard box – squash! a wooden stool – crack! a blue highchair – topple! Everyone ends up grumpy so Neil goes outside to find a relaxing place to read.
(Outdoors) In the garden the washing flaps across the wooden seat like a ghost – wooooo! When the hammock swings back and forth too much it makes Neil feel dizzy.
He falls out – plop!
(Tree) His leafy perch on a branch in the tree is swooped by noisy magpies – ouch!
Neil tucks his book inside his t-shirt and scrambles down.
(Various places) The chicken roost, the guinea pig hutch and the vegetable patch are no good.
(Swimming pool) Neil likes the idea of floating and reading.
It’s difficult to balance and read a book on the floating pool mat – splash! Tiny the dog jumps into the swimming pool and rescues the book.
(Rainy day) Next day a headcold makes Neil sneeze and sneeze and sneeze.
But he has a new book to read.
And he snuggles up, warm and happy on the soft cosy comfy couch.
(Family) Then everyone decides to keep him company.
On the SQUASHY soft cosy comfy couch.
Walking in a park, I saw this wall of trompe l’oeil on the side of a public convenience block and just had to photograph it. The illusion, the trick of the eye was something special which I appreciated more after I saw my photograph. It was painted by local Sherwood (Brisbane) artists with the name Half Dozen Group of Artists Inc.
One of my favourite pastimes is to change my screensaver image. I do it on my PC and iPad regularly. Silly obsession, I know, but it gives me a smile when I log on each day. I take my own photographs wherever I might be, and have a supply of snapshots and artwork amassed from family and friends over the years. Some work well, some don’t. “Framing and focus” was the old adage.
There is a children’s picture book entitled “The Stripey Street Cat” by Peter Warrington and Rachel Williams which is a photographic series of stencilled street art images of a stray cat. They tell the story of Stripey who is looking for a lost friend, meeting various other Newtown (Sydney) cats along the way.
An illustration I use regularly which attracts attention for all the wrong reasons is this one of Snoopy typing away in the middle of the night with a cigarette in his mouth. I’m anti-smoking but there’s something naughty about making an icon like Snoopy do such a thing. The artist is unknown but I think he’d have a good sense of humour.
This is my first children’s picture-book book review. Legions of preschool storytime fans are hanging out for this one! Of course, you will have to read it to them. I could have bored you with reams (remember reams?) of lucid, erudite adult book reviews but I’ve decided to revisit an all-time rollicking favourite “I Went Walking”.
In my no-holds-barred, honest-to-goodness style, I will explore the deeper meaning of taking a walk through a farmyard. Or maybe it’s all just good fun.
“I Went Walking” written by Sue Machin and illustrated by Julie Vivas An Omnibus Book from Scholastic Australia First published 1989, reprinted approx 23 times, sometimes twice in one year.
My softcover copy of this slim 32-page volume celebrates 25 years of publication so that means at the time of writing it’s now 28 years old. I am sure the book’s huge following of under 5s will be planning a suitable 30th shindig, perhaps everyone invited to come as their favourite barnyard animal. There could be hay bales to sit on while devouring plate-loads of themed food. The country and western band would…sorry, got a bit off-topic there…
The front cover artwork displays a young boy talking to a quacking duck. Open to the second page and this young boy is putting on his coat. Pay attention to this coat, and other parts of his apparel. Naturally the page reads “I went walking” with the response on the next page “What did you see?” and thereafter. Without going into too much detail, he sees a black cat, a brown horse, an apple tree, a red cow who offers him a ride, a green duck and the boy sheds his first piece of clothing.
“I went walking” and “What did you see?” other sidelines like a sack of potatoes but in this instance it’s a muddy pink pig which is hosed down, necessitating the removal of wet shoes, then socks and t-shirt. The gang of farm animals is following the boy when he bumps into a friendly yellow dog. He marches off with all six animals following. They do a wild dance together and that’s the end of the story.
You really have to see the pictures in this picture book to appreciate it. The clear, colourful drawings and uncluttered storyline combine to make a five-star bedtime reading experience.