Max Remy series voted in YABBA’s

The entire Max Remy Superspy series has been shortlisted of the Young Australian Best Book Awards!!! This is such an honour! The YABBA’s are an annual award where kids vote for their fav books! Max has always been special to me because the publication of the first book in the series, In Search of the Time and Space Machine, began my writing career. Max is based on me – feisty, adventurous (or so she’d like to think) and very, very clumsy – and my adventures I had when I was younger travelling around the world, getting thrown in jail (twice), harassed by monkeys and caught in a huge sandstorm in the Sahara Desert.

Excellent! The awards will be announced on the YABBA website soon. The link is:

The winners of the shortlist will be announced in November.

Happy spying!



ABC Book Reviews – A Funky Monkey, A Jaguar Warrior and Eric

These books were reviewed on ABC Radio Canberra Drive Show with Louise Maher on Tuesday April 13 2010

Books reviewed by Deborah Abela

Author of Max Remy Superspy series, Jasper Zammit (Soccer Legend) series and The Remarkable Secret of Aurelie Bonhoffen.

One Funky Monkey written by Stacey McCleary and Sue Degennaro

(Walker Books Australia)

Picture book early counting book

The very cheeky monkey of this story, has a great sense of rhythm and after beginning his own late night dance, leads a charming menagerie of animals who groove their way through the moonlight hours. There are 6 reggaeing rhinos, 7 moonwalking meerkats, 9 disco dancing dragons and 10 boogalooing elephants. My favourite are the four limber lions ‘booting and scooting’ and ‘lion-dancing.’ And the end, we’re left with a conga line of frolicking, jiving and hip hopping animals and from the 10 elegant elephants to the one funky monkey who started it all. There’s a lightness of touch to Sue’s illustrations that so beautifully match these light-footed creatures dancing, swaying and sashaying as young readers enjoy some ‘jive-talking’ as they learn to count.

Eric written and illustrated by Shaun Tan

(Allen and Unwin)

Picture book

‘Some years ago we had a foreign exchange student come to live with us. We found it very difficult to pronounce his name correctly, but he didn’t mind. He told us to just call him Eric.’ So begins Shaun Tan’s pocket sized version of one of the stories in Tales from Outer Suburbia. Eric’s host family made up the spare room but to their confusion, Eric chose to sleep in the pantry. Thinking perhaps it was a ‘cultural thing’, Mum declared it okay, ‘As long as he is happy.’ The young narrator is excited by the chance to be a fountain of information for their new lodger, who in turn is curious and always had lots of questions. However, despite wanting to impress with many great and big things, Eric always seemed ‘more interested in small things he found on the ground,’ which also confused the family, until one morning, with a polite wave, Eric left and never came back. The family worried that he hadn’t been happy after all, but when they discover a treasury of small colourful artworks left behind in the black and white pantry, they’re filled with delight and it’s always the first thing shown to new visitors who come to their home.

Jaguar Warrior written by Sandy Fussell

(Walker Books)

9-12 year olds

One of Sandy’s many talents as an author, is to write about a period of history young readers may not be familiar with and bring it to life. Jaguar Warrior opens with a thirteen-year-old boy called Atl, who has been imprisoned in a box waiting to be sacrificed to the Serpent-Sun god. But during an attack on the Aztec city of Tenochtitlan, the High Priest of the temple frees him, telling him to return to the city of his birth for help. Atl flees, happy at last to be free. He quickly comes across Lali, the short, wiry show-off who never stops talking and Zolan, a slaveboy owned by a cruel merchant whom they free. Together these three young kids have to cross rugged and dangerous terrain, as well as escape the captain of the Temple guard, who is determined that the sacrifice of Atl will go ahead. This is a fast moving, intriguing book, where not everything is at it seems and the true motives for some character’s actions aren’t immediately obvious. It is only when these kids begin to realise their own strengths and talents, as well as who to trust, that they also discover what is possible when they work together.

Aurelie is a CBC Notable!!!

I’m hoping my Nanna is very chuffed. When I was young all those stories she told me about ghosts she could see all over the house welded its way into the little mind and heart of  a very young Deb. I kept them there all those years, fascinated and slightly worried that my nanna was in fact a little mad. But she wasn’t mad, she was strong and feisty and so thin I often wondered if she ate anything at all. She could be gruff but had a cheeky smile when you least expected it…and her stories about ghosts were magic.

Last week, the final edit of my new novel, Grimsdon, was due. The cover is also close to being finalised and as soon as I am able to show you it’ll be here…it’s been created by wonderful UK based artist, Zdenko Basic and it looks brilliant!! Like an epic tale of heroism, flying machines and cities awash with flood. Oooohhh can’t wait to show you all.

I say this because when the Children’s Book Council Awards were announced last week I was nowhere near a computer or list or even phone, because I had to finish my edit with no distractions….when I handed in the edit to Brandon and Zoe at Random House it was only then that I found out….drum roll…




This book was a little tricky to write…sometimes books are like naughty kids that you know are gold inside but just refuse to behave…which of course is frustrating but actually makes you love their spirit even more than before. My old agent hated it when I handed in the first draft but with lots of work from the very clever Brandon and Zoe, Aurelie came good.

And possibly a little overseeing from Nanna….thanks Nanna!!!

Congratulations to all the other Notables and shortlisters!! It is a really strong list and proves how very brilliant Australian writers and illustrators are.

The list is at:

ABC Book reviews – An Australian Lullaby, Kokoda Angels and a Piper’s Son

These books were reviewed by children’s author, Deborah Abela on ABC Radio Canberra Drive Show with Louise Maher on Tuesday March 30 2010.

Deborah is the author of Max Remy Superspy series, Jasper Zammit (Soccer Legend) series and The Remarkable Secret of Aurelie Bonhoffen.

Snug As A Hug An Australian Lullaby written by Marcia Vaughan and Illustrated by Pamela Lofts (Scholastic Australia) Picture book

Snug as a Hug is a cuddle-in bedtime story that offers a sneak peek at Australian animals getting ready to sleep. From joey curled up in his mum’s pouch, to turtle dreaming far out in the sea and wombat snuggled in a burrow down deep. As the animals fall off to sleep, we visit coral reefs, the tops of gum trees and a collection of blue items that make up the bowerbird’s fancy bed. This is a gentle foray into the quiet nighttime of Australian fauna that will lull little readers to sleep too. The pencil drawings are alive with colour from the prickly, round echidna, to the snug as a hug bandicoot and the numbat nodding off in a secret den. And after all these creatures have settled into sleep, so has a small child, surrounded by stuffed wildlife toys and gentle words inviting her to ‘let wonderful dreams float through your head, as you drift off to sleep in your warm, comfy bed.’

Angel of Kokoda written and Illustrated by Mark Wilson (Hachette’s Children’s Books) Picture book for Older Readers

Kari grew up in a peaceful mission east of Kokoda in Papua New Guinea. His father taught him the ways of the mountain people and Sister Mary taught him English at the school. While he is on a hillside tending his vegetable garden, he hears Kokoda being bombed. He rushes down to see the mission abandoned. In Sister Mary’s home, he finds her angel music box and a note. Kari makes out the word, Kokoda and heads there, but there’s no sign of Sister Mary only Australian soldiers. One soldier befriends Kari. Then they’re hit. The soldiers fight bravely but are soon overrun and Kari helps carry his wounded friend through the mud and rain of the mosquito-infested Kokoda track. Mark Wilson’s paintings and sketches create scenes that draw the reader in, from muddy battlefields to dense, animal-filled jungles. Clippings of letters and cablegrams give a fuller scope of the situation. This is a poignant and thought-provoking book, richly designed and illustrated that offers a view of a battlefield very close to Australian hearts, through the eyes of a small boy.

The Piper’s Son written by Melina Marchetta (Penguin Viking) Teenage Readers

Thomas McKee is in trouble. Two years ago a tragedy tore into his family and broke them apart, emotionally and physically. He has spent the time drinking, smoking and trying to lose himself in oblivion. He also lost connection with a new love, his friends and his family, all of whom knew the best of who he could be and grounded him to the world. Thomas doesn’t realise but he needs these people if he’s going to stop messing up and they need him too; the old Thomas who is missing in too much sorrow and anger. Thomas first appeared in Melina’s novel, Saving Francesca, only now it’s five years on, but the writing is so instantly engaging, that even if you’ve never met Tom, you feel you know him and his world within a few paragraphs. This is raw, strong storytelling of life at its most complicated and vulnerable, but Melina’s sense of hope in her characters, even when life feels its most hopeless, never leaves.  

ABC book reviews – Memory Jars, Shadows and Time Travel

These books were reviewed by children’s author, Deborah Abela on ABC Radio Canberra Drive Show with Louise Maher on Tuesday March 16 2010.

Deborah is the author of Max Remy Superspy series, Jasper Zammit (Soccer Legend) series and The Remarkable Secret of Aurelie Bonhoffen.

Molly’s Memory Jar written by Norma Spaulding and Illustrated by Jacqui Grantford (New Frontier Publishing) Picture Book for younger readers

Molly is a small girl whose beloved golden retriever, Lucy, has died. Seeing his little girl sad and lonely, Molly’s dad comes up with an idea to make her feel better. He asks Molly to remember one good thing about Lucy. That’s easy, Molly said, and she thought of how every time she came home, Lucy would bring her one of her toys as a welcoming gift. Her father then brought out a bag of coloured glass balls. He asks her to choose a bright yellow ball and drop it into a memory jar. This would always be there to remind Molly of this memory. She then remembers more about Lucy, from the time she ate a plate of pink cupcakes to lolloping in waves at the beach and with each one, Molly chooses another coloured ball. Eventually she begins to feel better, as she realises that with the jar, she will always have Lucy nearby. This beautifully illustrated book gently looks at a child’s grief and one way to help ease it, as well as being a delightful look at the dizzying love between kids and their pets.

Lilly and Her Shadow by Pat Dudgeon and Laura Dudgeon (Fremantle Press) First Chapter Book – Younger readers

This is part of the Waarda series of books from WA. Waarda is Nyungar for talking and sharing stories. Pat and Laura Dudgeon are aunt and niece and together they’ve come up with the story of Lilli. The book opens with Lilli and her grandma covered in mango juice from fruit they’ve eaten from Grandma’s tree, something Lilli has done since she was a child, but Lilli and her family are about to move to the city, leaving grandma and all her other relatives behind. Lilli is frightened and sad at the move, but Grandma and Uncle Bernie make sure she will be looked after by sending a secret guardian angel with her in the form of a shadow that is part cat, part dingo. The shadow stays with Lilli so that she feels safe. He even comes with her to school in her backpack and she quickly makes her first friend. Lilli begins to enjoy her new life but when she hears Grandma isn’t well, she sends the shadow back to her in a fire ceremony with her parents and Grandma soon becomes better.

It is so easy to relate to the spirited Lilli and her fears in a story that is instantly engaging, but a real pleasure is in delving, just a little, in Aboriginal beliefs and storytelling.

When You Reach Me written by Rebecca Stead (Text Publishing) 8+

Miranda lives with her mum in New York City. It’s the 1970’s and strange things begin to disrupt her world. Her best friend Sal, who lives in the apartment below, has recently shunned her after he was punched by a kid for no reason. Enemies become friends, some adults begin to act weirdly and her mother, even though she desperately loves her boyfriend, won’t give him a key to their home. Miranda then begins receiving strange notes. The first one claims: ‘I have come to save your friend’s life, and my own.’ None of this makes sense to her and she desperately tries to work out what it all means. The second note says, ‘You must tell a story – a true story,’ even about things that have not happened yet. So Miranda begins writing, even though the notes she’s received fills her with a sense that something bad is about to happen. This is an intriguing book that draws you into the unravelling of its mystery and along the way, Miranda learns a little about her place in the world, that sometimes she needs to drop preconceptions about people to truly know them and that life, when you least expect it can be full of mystery and surprise.

Sea Dogs, Extreme Adventurers and Ned Kelly

These books were reviewed by children’s author Deborah Abela on ABC Radio Canberra Drive Show with Louise Maher on Tuesday March 2nd 2010.  You can also find the reviews on the ABC’s blog at:

Herbert The Brave Sea Dog written and Illustrated by Robyn Belton (Walker Books) Picture Book

Based on a true story, Herbert lived with his owner, Tim and his family in Nelson, on the coast of New Zealand. One morning in 1986, Tim’s father and two friends were sailing their boat to a cottage in the Marlborough Sounds, but because the waters in the French Pass were too treacherous, Tim was travelling by road with his mum. During the voyage, a storm whipped up and in their struggle to sail the boat, none of the sailors noticed Herbert was tipped overboard. When they reached the jetty, the family heard the sad news. Tim wanted to search for Herbert, but it was late and Tim’s dad promised they would the next day. As the adults increasingly lost hope, Tim insisted they keep searching and finally, they found him, tired and cold but unscathed having survived over 30 hours in the water. The story caused its own storm in New Zealand, and Tim and his dog became minor celebrities. The book includes photos of Herbert and Tim, a painting of the treacherous French Pass and some of the letters that were sent to Tim’s family.

Extreme Adventures: Monkey Mountain written by Justin D’Ath (Puffin Books) Younger readers

Monkey Mountain sees fourteen-year-old Sam Fox in the 11th Extreme Adventure in a series where he is thrown into action-packed situations and has to use his wits, and often very little else, to survive. From the opening sentences of this book you know you are in for a wild ride, one that doesn’t slow down until the very last page. In Monkey Mountain, Sam and his class are on a class trip in Borneo to see a live volcano. The volcano hasn’t erupted in over 400 years, but as they stand on the lip of the crater, she decides to blow. Sam and his ailing teacher Mr Griffin become separated from the rest of the class and have to make their own way down to the sea. They not only have to escape the boiling lava, but also a pack of monkies, snakes, sharks and even, just when you finally thought he was safe, a boatload of pirates. This book is great fun. Each twist and turn is exciting and each dilemma fraught with danger, testing brave and valiant Sam’s resourcefulness to the extreme.

My Australian Story: The Hunt for Ned Kelly written by Sophie Masson (Scholastic Books) Age 9+

Orphans Jamie and Ellen Ross are sent to live with their uncle and his not very welcoming wife in Melbourne. Determined to make their fortune, Ellen finds work for them both in the town of Beechworth but it is only when they arrive, Jamie discovers the offer of employment was fake. Having trained with her father in the art of photography, Ellen has come to Beechworth to snap a picture of the dreaded outlaw, Ned Kelly. The Kelly gang have created a fascination amongst the population of Victoria, including Jamie. He reads all he can about them and wonders whether Ned is a good man or bad. It is through the eyes of these young two we witness the last two years of Ned Kelly’s life. The swaying of public opinion initially against him, then for him, that even on sentencing, saw a petition of 60000 signatures opposing his death and great crowds of people protesting in his defence. Sophie is such a skilful writer and storyteller that every ounce of this book is intriguing. While it is a work of fiction, it is sprinkled with facts about a time in Australian history that not only compelled audiences at the time but still does one hundred and thirty years after Ned Kelly’s death.