Month: February 2018

Stars, Romancing & Author talk.

Who would have thought that soft cuddly toys like a cute lion, turtle and white bears would feature at Romancing the Stars at Immanuel Lutheran College? While the animal toys sat still ready for photos, the real writers and illustrators moved about sharing their wisdom and stories with a groups of people, including me.

The system of 20 authors rotating to different groups to talk for a limited time is wonderful. In pairs, they spilled out their plots, ideas, favourite pages, inspiration and techniques to communicate in such a warm and intimate way. It worked. It was speed dating at its best.

My first author encounter began with Peter Carnavas and Samantha Wheeler, both enthusiastic, committed and entertaining speakers. Naturally titles like, My Brother is a Beast and Turtle Trackers allow our circle of listeners to find out more about their style of writing and themes.

What a great pair, passionate and well published, Peter and Samantha were oozing enthusiasm. Coming up on the next round was Aleesah Darlison who showed us Emerald and Yah! It’s Library Day with amazing illustrations by many school children. As she thumbed through the pages, Aleesah pointed to the magical children’s drawings and the way the picture book can be used with librarians on special occasions. Aleesah has published widely and is a gifted speaker.

Next Taryn Bashford brought her book The Harper Effect which is a coming of age novel about “letting go”, embracing the future, and inspiring kids to follow their dreams. Many young people make bad choices, so Harper needs to learn how to win. A worthy read that reflects the colour “purple” for wisdom.


Soon we are introduced to Emma Middleton’s lovely lion picture book called There’s a Lion in the Living Room. For the younger reader, this book will appeal with its rhyme, hidden images, delightful Tom and Tilly and the storytelling appeal as children can become active participants in the clever plot. Fatherhood is praised. I sense this book is designed for ages 3-7 years. Emma’s next picture book is due later this year, called The Bear in the Backyard.

Look out for it and any performances by Emma Middleton.


With Emma was Sue McPherson who in 2012 published Grace Beside Me. Essentially this is a book about growing up. Sue was thrilled with the television series that is based on the book starring Fuzzy Mac a thirteen year old girl. Teachers will be interested in the study guide that suits the series.


Now in between listening to the authors, a delicious dessert was served with tea and coffee. Also thanks goes to the amazing hospitality students who served us yummy canapés and hot foods at the beginning of the evening with a glass of wine. Kelly Dunham certainly works hard at providing a great venue and rounding up the right speakers and dedicated helpers. Jenny Stubbs assisted too with her fine appreciation and love of children’s literature. Both women have patience, passion and pull.

I really enjoyed all the next round authors – Robyn Osborne My Dog Socks, a heart warming story using alliteration, rhyme and the outdoorsy adventures of a boy and his beautiful dog. The final sentence, ” he is my best friend” sums it up.


Every now and then you meet a new author, University student whose creative writing course took her to publication. Tash Tursgoose is one such person. Creating an illustrated book for older readers, Tash showed us the space on pages being symbolic. Starting as an assignment, the book transcends time periods.

Be prepared to read and explore Makeshift Galaxy by Tash and know that this young woman insisted on designing the cover with its silver appeal. I was privileged to meet Tash at the Mapleton Booklovers Valentines evening recently, so knew what to expect.

The Big Hug Books by Shona Innes are ones to keep a watch for. As a clinical and forensic psychologist, this woman has used her experiences with her patient’s anger, anxiety, depression etc to offer hope to others. These books have been published in China, Hungary, Japan, France, US and the Netherlands. Anger is Like Armour is suitable for both children and adults, and deals with protecting themselves from getting hurt. Your Mind is like a Garden is about mindfulness.


I like a full time teacher who keeps up with his writing. David Rudkin published his Quirky Miller in verse. He is a down to earth Maths, Science teacher who genuinely likes writing in his spare time.

Up on the Blackall Range where I live, is Maryanne O’Flynn whose 2 picture books deal with zebras and echidnas. Maryanne loves illustrating and thinking about themes of acceptance and self esteem. I know my grand children would enjoy Too Many Stripes and Polka Dot Float.


Who can resist a writer of depth and maturity, and at only 31 years old, Lynette Noni has topped some of the YA best sellers. Akarnae is a book mostly for years 7-10 about healthy friendships. Whisper intrigues me with “one word could change the world.” Check out this talented author who travels and writes constantly.


I did purchase a copy of Whirlpool by Emily Larkin, another young author who spent her school years at Immanuel Lutheran College. Her white bears graced the stool next to her and involved a simple message that life can present dark times and happy times, colours changing from warm pinks to lonely greens and blues. These emotions are what little ones understand. I recommend this picture book for ages 5+.

Prue Mason and Kerry her husband were somewhat jet lagged after their holiday, however, conversations with them were engaging and so interesting. If you are keen to read about 10 Australian aviators, then their book is a must. It’s written in the first person narrative with excellent illustrations, facts and details. Ross Smith, Dr William Bland, Bert Hinkler and Kingsford Smith feature in this non-fiction book.


Jenny Woosley shared her story with us and the independent journey of publication. A passionate teacher, Jenny is probing into themes of diversity and difference. I liked her title Brockwell the Brave. 

A moving story called The Boy who Grew into a Tree by Ross Watkins captivated me. Written by Gary Crew and illustrated by Ross, this is a gem of a read. But it’s his popular book One Photo that has been well received with teacher notes about loss, love and legacy. Shortlisted for the 2017 Picture Books of the Year, it’s a book worth buying. As I love photo opportunities and capturing memories, I see this book as a rewarding one to share with others. Early Alzheimers can be traumatic for families and so in his honest prose, Ross creates an unforgettable story. Dementia and its impact is attached to personal objects and memory. I challenge you to use this book and think about hope and comfort in the face of hardship.

All in all, this years’s Romancing the Stars was full of fun, fervour and friendships. Books of Buderim, owned by Fiona Blond stock many of these titles and offer a superb love of the written word in a a friendly community.

So did I take home a soft cuddly toy? NO but I did buy a lovely Peter Carnavas print that I will frame on my wall. YAH!!







Once upon a Time

“One of the magical aspects of writing stories is how you form intimate relationships with groups of characters… then when the book is published and goes out into the world, you hope that your characters will enter the hearts and minds of people you have never met.” These are not my words but the words from children’s author Morris Gleitzman.

Morris has had so much success with his sales of Once series, topping 1.5 million copies.

While recently in Brisbane I visited the Kenmore library for some quiet reading and reflection. There are so many wonderful events on where bookings are essential. Even though I could not attend the “Meet Kate Young” session, I was intrigued with her blog, which has taken readers all over the world and is regularly featured in the Guardian. Kate has written a book called The Little Library Cookbook.

Browsing her website I discovered Book Indexes where she has used popular children’s books and matched them with food. Any food inspired literature fascinates me. There are countless books out there to entice adults into reading with the bonus of food, recipes and the aromas/ flavours of cuisine.

I would like to focus on my love of children’s books, and some picture books that use food in interesting ways. GULP! GOBBLE! GRAB something to eat, or drink while you read on.

The following books are a taste of delightful humour, quirky characters, a good plot and with a spoonful of food added to the mix.

Hard Boiled Legs – Breakfast Book by Michael Rosen and Quentin Blake shows the young readers what fun stories are all about. While writing this brilliant study of breakfast, Michael Rosen lived entirely on a diet of burnt toast, socks and eggshells!

Next we have favourites like Matilda where chocolate cake features. Oh what a mess this makes in the film with Bruce Bogtrotter gorging himself on cake to prove a point. Hazel Edwards, author of the popular series, There’s a Hippopotamus on our Roof eating Cake, shows her readers that having a great imagination is a necessary ingredient for a good picture story.


Published by Scholastic, Koala Eat Gum Leaves by Laura and Philip bunting uses a beloved marsupial as the main character. He’s had enough of eating monotonous gum leaves for his diet so when he spies an ice cream van, he’s immediately won over by its delicious sweet taste. It links nicely to Eric Carle’s Hungry Caterpillar where food is the message – perhaps too much excessive sugary food is to be guarded; a book that works well with toddlers through to the prep years.

I can imagine that Kate Young has whipped up some amazing recipes using cheese, ice cream and fruits. Kate lists other books like The Secret Garden, Winnie the Pooh, Green Eggs and Ham and Possum Magic, to name a few.

One of my favourite rhyming stories that I read to my grand daughter is Chocolate Mousse for Greedy Goose by Julia Donaldson. There’s the predictability of the rhyme in harmony with the illustrations. It’s a fun book to read aloud and uses animals and food to entertain. I think I have read this one dozens of times!



With New Zealand author Pamela Allen’s brilliant picture books, many children and parents find the stories enchanting and clever with their careful use of alliteration, onomatopoeia and rhythm. Her titles exceed five million copies. Pamela’s favourite food is stewed tamarillos ( tree tomatoes when she was little). And her favourite children’s author is one of mine too – Margaret Mahy who also features food in her stories.

Can you guess the words that come from the next image?


The Owl and the Pussycat by Edward Lear has captivated generations of children with its beautiful pea-green boat.

“They took some honey and plenty of money, wrapped up in a five pound note.

This nonsense poem published during 1871 can be read at bed time or outdoors, suitable for all ages.

And finally with Easter around the corner, who can resist a bunny story?

Happy reading.

And check out Kate Young who is an Australian born, London based food writer and cook.