Forthcoming children’s/YA book reviews: January to March 2015

» Picture books

A is for Australia (Frané Lessac, Walker Books, January), 4 stars, reviewed by Thuy On
Emily Eases Her Wheezes (Katrina Roe, illus by Leigh Hedstrom, Wombat Books, January), 3.5 stars, reviewed by Thuy On
The Underwater Fancy Dress Parade (Davina Bell, illus by Allison Colpoys, Scribe, March), 4 stars, reviewed by Thuy On
Yak and Gnu (Juliette MacIver, illus by Cat Chapman, Walker Books, March), 4 stars, reviewed by Thuy On

» Young readers 

And All that Jazz: Silver Shoes Book One (Samantha-Ellen Bound, Random House, January), 3 stars, reviewed by Louise Pfanner
Birrung: The Secret Friend (Jackie French, HarperCollins, February), 4 stars, reviewed by Meg Whelan
Dexter the Courageous Koala (Jesse Blackadder, HarperCollins, January), 3.5 stars, reviewed by Bec Kavanagh
The Girl from the Great Sandy Desert (Jukuna Mona Chuguna & Pat Lowe, illus by Mervyn Street, Magabala, February), 4 stars, reviewed by Hannah Cartmel
Lennie the Legend: Solo to Sydney by Pony (Stephanie Owen Reeder, NLA, February), 3 stars, reviewed by Bec Kavanagh

» Young adult

Akarnae: The Medoran Chronicles Book One (Lynette Noni, Pantera, February), 3 stars, reviewed by Stefen Brazulaitis
A Small Madness (Dianne Touchell, A&U, February), 5 stars, reviewed by Meg Whelan

Forthcoming children’s/YA book reviews: October to November 2014

» Picture books

Tim and Ed (Ursula Dubosarsky, illus by Andrew Joyner, Viking, October), 4 stars, reviewed by Louise Pfanner
Whale in the Bath (Kylie Westaway, illus by Tom Jellett, A&U, October), 4 stars, reviewed by Margaret Hamilton

» Young readers

Race to the End of the World: The Mapmaker Chronicles (A L Tait, Hachette, October), 3.5 stars, reviewed by Louise Fay
Withering-by-Sea: A Stella Montgomery Intrigue (Judith Rossell, ABC Books, November), 4 stars, reviewed by Fay Helfenbaum

» Young adult

Speed of Light (Joy Cowley, Gecko Press, October), 4 stars, reviewed by Dani Solomon

Forthcoming adult book reviews: October and November 2014

» Fiction

Nightingale (Fiona McIntosh, Michael Joseph, November), 3 stars, reviewed by Joanne Shiells


Australia on Horseback (Cameron Forbes, Macmillan, November), 3 stars, reviewed by Dave Martus
Bibliodiversity (Susan Hawthorne, Spinifex Press, November), 3 stars, reviewed by Nathan Hollier
Kerry Stokes (Andrew Rule, HarperCollins, November), 3.5 stars, reviewed by Chris Saliba
Peacemongers (Barry Hill, UQP, November), 5 stars, reviewed by Chris Harrington
Something Quite Peculiar (Steve Kilbey, Hardie Grant, November), 3.5 stars, reviewed by Gerard Elson

Forthcoming children’s/YA book reviews: October 2014

» Picture books

On a Small Island (Kyle Hughes-Odgers, Fremantle Press, October), 4.5 stars, reviewed by Sarah Coull
The Wild One (Sonya Hartnett, Viking, October), 4 stars, reviewed by Natalie Crawford

» Young readers

The Cleo Stories: The Necklace and the Present (Libby Gleeson, illus by Freya Blackwood, A&U, October), 4 stars, reviewed by Natalie Crawford

» Young adult

Clariel (Garth Nix, A&U, October), 5 stars, reviewed by Holly Harper
Cooper Bartholomew is Dead (Rebecca James, A&U, October), 4 stars, reviewed by Bec Kavanagh
Nona & Me (Clare Atkins, Black Inc., October), 4 stars, reviewed by Meg Whelan
State of Grace (Hilary Badger, Hardie Grant Egmont, October), 4 stars, reviewed by Heath Graham

Forthcoming nonfiction reviews: September to October 2014

Acute Misfortune: The Life and Death of Adam Cullen (Erik Jensen, Black Inc., October), 4.5 stars, reviewed by Gerard Elson
A Bone of Fact (David Walsh, Pan Macmillan, October), 4 stars, reviewed by Veronica Sullivan
Dress, Memory: A Memoir of my Twenties in Dresses (Lorelei Vashti, A&U, September), 3.5 stars, reviewed by Portia Lindsay
Talking Smack: Honest Conversations about Drugs (Andrew McMillen, UQP, September), 3.5 stars, reviewed by Paula Grunseit
This House of Grief (Helen Garner, Text, September), 4.5 stars, reviewed by Matthia Dempsey


Forthcoming fiction reviews: September to October 2014

The Brewer’s Tale (Karen Brooks, Harlequin, October), 4 stars, reviewed by Kat Mayo
Dreamer’s Pool: Blackthorn and Grim 1 (Juliet Marillier, Pan Macmillan, October), 4.5 stars, reviewed by Jarrah Moore
Heat and Light (Ellen Van Neerven, UQP, September), 3.5 stars, reviewed by David Gaunt
Killing Adonis (J M Donellan, Pantera Press, October), 4 stars, reviewed by Deb Crabtree
The Rosie Effect (Graeme Simsion, Text, October), 4 stars, reviewed by Louise Fay
The Snow Kimono (Mark Henshaw, Text, September), 3.5 stars, reviewed by Brad Jefferies
Window Gods (Sally Morrison, Hardie Grant, October), 3 stars, reviewed by Sonia Nair


Poll position: a preview of political books in the lead-up to the federal election

Australia’s longest-ever political campaign will reach its climax this year, although the 14 September poll date is no longer certain. It has led to a publishing bonanza in Australian political books. There are new titles that focus on the woes of the Labor Party and books by Labor MPs about how to fix it, a couple of interesting books look at the failures of modern political life generally, and lastly, there’s Clive. Dave Martus, manager of Dymocks Neutral Bay in Sydney, takes a look at what’s on offer in the coming months.

Aaron Patrick’s (melo)dramatically titled Downfall: How the Labor Party Ripped Itself Apart (ABC Books), which was fast-tracked to publication in June, lays bare the self-destructive path of the ALP that led from the huge victory in 2007 to potential electoral devastation in 2013. The Stalking of Julia Gillard: How the Media and Team Rudd Contrived to Bring Down the Prime Minister by Kerry-Anne Walsh (A&U) has also been fast-tracked and will be released in July. Walsh, herself a journalist, details a central event in Labor’s implosion, pointing the finger at the press and a faction of faceless men.

The Stalking of Julia Gillard Downfall- How the Labor Party Ripped Itself Apart

David Marr’s Rudd v. Abbott (Black Inc., July) combines Marr’s ‘Quarterly Essays’ on Rudd and Abbott, Power Trip and Political Animal.


Former minister Chris Bowen used his time on the back bench to write Hearts and Minds: A Blueprint for Modern Labor (MUP, July) in which he outlines how the ALP might reform itself and win back its traditional support. Fellow former minister and Rudd supporter Kim Carr offers his ideas for revitalizing the ALP in A Letter to Generation Next: Why Labor (MUP, August), although presumably he doesn’t think it will take a generation.

Hearts and Minds - A Blueprint for Modern Labor A Letter to Generation Next - Why Labor

Geoff Aigner and Liz Skelton ponder why Australians have such a problem with leadership in The Australian Leadership Paradox (A&U, August); Jim Chalmers examines why Australians have so little faith in politics and government in Glory Daze: How a World-Beating Nation got so Down on Itself (MUP, July); and Richard King’s On Offence: the Politics of Indignation (Scribe, September) is sure to spark debate as he takes aim at political correctness.

Glory Daze - How a World-Beating Nation got so Down on Itself The Australian Leadership Paradox

For some light relief Scribe is publishing Dirt Files: A Decade of Best Australian Political Cartoons (Scribe, July). And love him or hate him, it’s impossible to ignore Clive Palmer. Now that Clive has a national political party, Sean Parnell’s Clive: The Story of Clive Palmer (HarperCollins, September) won’t just sell in Queensland.

Dirt Files - A Decade of Best Australian Political Cartoons

Not to be left out, there are revised editions of Tony Abbott’s Battlelines (MUP), James Button’s Speechless (MUP, August), Laura Tingle’s Great Expectations (Black Inc., August) and David Marr’s Panic (Black Inc., August).

Battlelines Speechless

There is also likely to be renewed interests in previously published titles about the election’s key players. The Rise of the Ruddbot by Annabel Crabb (Black Inc.), about Kevin Rudd’s initial rise to power, was published in 2010 before Julia Gillard took over as PM. Also likely to be revisited is Political Animal: The Making of Tony Abbott by David Marr (Black Inc., October 2012), which explores Tony Abbott’s formative years.

Rise of the Ruddbot_cover political-animal

Top picks from our first mag of 2011

Bookseller+Publisher HQ is filled with the scent of fresh magazine once again, with the first issue of 2011 back from the printers and in the hands of subscribers around our fair land and beyond.

The March issue features books due for publication in March, April and May. Here are some of the books that found favour with our reviewers this time around:

The Sparrows of Edward Street (Elizabeth Stead, UQP, March)
‘Elizabeth Stead takes readers into the grinding world of a NSW housing commission camp for the homeless in the mid-20th century,’ writes reviewer Chris Harrington of Books in Print in Melbourne. The story follows the Sparrow family, fallen on hard times, and the efforts of the eldest daughter Aria, a ‘”bottom-of-the-ladder’ photographic model’, to pull them through. ‘The Sparrows of Edward Street is a wonderful novel about family relationships, about overcoming hardship and the strengths that people can gain by pulling together to beat the odds,’ Harrington writes.

The Book of Rachael (Leslie Cannold, Text, April)
The Book of Rachael tells the story of Jesus’ younger sister, who is ‘ambitious, passionate and unconstrained by her upbringing’, and who ‘falls in love with Judah of Iscariot, Joseph’s best friend and the man who will change their lives forever’. ‘Public commentator and nonfiction author Leslie Cannold had chosen an ambitious topic for her first foray into the world of fiction,’ writes reviewer Eloise Keating. She ‘extends this story in an expert manner, showing the reader the reality of the women in Jesus’ life through engaging and fast-paced prose’.

Little People (Jane Sullivan, Scribe, April)
This ‘quirky novel’ by literary journalist Jane Sullivan is ‘inspired by the real-life tour of a troupe of “little people” to Australia in1870,’ writes reviewer Paul Landymore. When Mary Ann rescues’charismatic entertainer’ General Tom Thumb from drowning in the Yarrariver, she is invited to join his troupe of travelling entertainersincluding ‘the beautiful and perfectly formed Lavinia; her restless and wilful sister Minnie; and rival for lead Commodore George WashingtonNutt’, who ‘inhabit a world of barely restrained, savage curiosity’.’This is a most enjoyable read,’ writes Landymore.

Ashes in the Air (Ali Alizadeh, UQP, March)
‘What do we want from a book of poetry?’ asks reviewer Angela Meyer. ‘We want each poem to paint a picture, to shake us up a little, and to ultimately reach down inside us and peel something back. Ali Alizadeh’s poems doall of these things.’ She continues: ‘Alizadeh explores his own internal conflict of straddling two worlds and never completely feeling hebelongs—in Iran or Australia, or in the places he has visited.’The collection is ‘personal (deeply so) but political, social,philosophical and definitely meaningful’ and ‘makes a perfect companionto Alizadeh’s wonderful biography/history Iran: My Grandfather (Transit Lounge).’

Mezza Italiana (Zoe Boccabella, ABC Books, April)
Brisbane-born Anglo-Italian Zoe Boccabella grew up in ‘Joh’s’ Queensland in the 1970s and 1980s’ where ‘Italian food and culture were openly derided’, soit wasn’t until Boccabella was in her 20s and travelling around Europethat she made an effort to connect with her Italian heritage, visitingher family’s home village of Fossa in the Abruzzo region. ‘What followsare wonderful descriptions of relatives and other villagers, thecountryside and the food—the Abruzzo produces more superb cooks than any other part of Italy,’ writes reviewer Chris Harrington. ‘This is abeautifully written memoir full of characters and places, which willappeal to the literary traveller, to people who already love Italy and to all those intending to visit.’

The March issue has our first Junior supplement for the year too.

If you want to know more about forthcoming titles, sign up for our fortnightly Bookseller+Publisher Newsletter here.

Reviewers’ top picks from the current issue

In the November issue of Bookseller+Publisher magazine Avid Reader’s Paul Landymore was mightily impressed with Brendan Cowell’s How It Feels (Picador, November), a debut novel that opens in Cronulla in the early ’90s and follows central character Neil as he decides to study theatre in Bathurst. ‘Given that Cowell is a well-known actor (who also grew up in Cronulla and studied theatre in Bathurst), it would be natural to look for the autobiography in this story, but the characters are strong enough to tell their own stories,’ writes Landymore. ‘The characters are well defined and the connections between them true, difficult and sometimes inexplicable—so like life itself.’

Also in fiction, Kimberley Allsopp predicts Kate Morton’s fans will not be disappointed by The Distant Hours (A&U, November)—’an engrossing tale full of secrets waiting to be told’. Likewise, those who enjoyed Death Most Definite, the first in Trent Jamieson’s ‘Deathworks’ series will enjoy his follow-up Managing Death (Orbit, December), with Coaldrakes’ Chris McDonough writing that it ‘really picks up the pace’ from its predecessor.

In nonfiction, Max Oliver admires Street Fight in Naples (A&U, October), Peter Robb’s history of a ‘great and terrible city’ with a focus on the 16th and 17th centuries. ‘Don’t expect an easy read: do expect to be informed, entertained and transported to a particularly resilient people and place,’ says Oliver.

Landymore also reviewed Chris Bray’s The 1000 Hour Day for us (Pier 9, November). One-time ‘Young Adventurer of the Year’ Bray and a friend embarked on a 1000km walk across Victoria Island in the Canadian Arctic—’a feat the locals cheerfully tell them on arrival will result in their deaths,’ Landymore explains. ‘If you like tales of derring-do in the company of charming, enthusiastic companions, then this book is for you,’ he writes. Continue reading

BOOK REVIEW: Maudie and Bear (Jan Omerod & Freya Blackwood, Little Hare, October)

Maudie and Bear is one of the most exciting collaborations for 2010 between two beloved Australian author/illustrators. Freya Blackwood has gone from strength to strength over the past few years, and her whimsical illustrations are the perfect complement for this beautiful picture book, which will sit alongside great works by Shaun Tan and Alison Lester as examples of great picture books for older readers. Readers young and old will love Maudie, whose demanding but endearing voice will ring true to anyone who has known a young child. Bear is the ideal stand-in for the older parent, sibling or friend, who is there for every demand, will cater to every whim, and most importantly, will always be there for Maudie. The unusual chapter format of this book will give readers who are making the transition from picture to chapter books the opportunity to progress with their reading, while still enjoying the comfort of illustrations, and the safe picture book format. Maudie and Bear has the look and feel of a classic. I have no doubt that this will be gracing our bookshelves for years to come.

Bec Kavanagh is a freelance reviewer and accounts manager for The Little Bookroom in Melbourne. This review first appeared in the Term 3 issue of Junior Bookseller+Publisher.