A date with the Premier, Kristina Keneally

On a perfectly spring Monday morning on November 22, I had the pleasure of hanging out at The Maritime Museum in Sydney with not only the Premier of NSW, Kristina Keneally but a swag of passionate book loving folks.

That’s me sitting between the Premier, Andrew Daddo and Peter Fitzsimmons, who writes loads of books for adults. I also had fun meeting legendary comedian Ahn Do, who was born in Vietnam and came to Australia as a refugee and has written a book  telling that story. I can’t wait to read his book.

The museum was packed with kids who had completed the Premier’s Reading Challenge for 2010 and many of its devoted supporters. We all witnessed the launch of the Challenge for 2011,  which will be even bigger and better! The premier announced not only 600 new books on the lists to choose from but that she is setting up an online voting system so kids can vote for their favourite books to be added as well.

At the museum were loads of other great kids’ authors like Duncan Ball, Moya Simons, Boori Monty Pryor, James Roy and Tohby Riddle.

Below is a picture of me talking about books – something I love doing.

I was talking about my book, The Remarkable Secret of Aurelie Bonhoffen, which was inspired by my Nanna’s stories about seeing ghosts!

Thanks to Rosie Charles for the pics from the day.

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Ponies, Dalmatians and Teenage Sleuths

These books were reviewed on ABC Radio Canberra Drive Show with Louise Maher on Tuesday November 23 2010

Books reviewed by Deborah Abela, National Literacy Ambassador and

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

http://www.deborahabela.com

Noni The Poni written and Illustrated by Alison Lester

(Allen and Unwin)

Picture Book

This is the story of a pony called Noni who is friendly and funny and has a shimmering, honey-coloured tail. She lives on a farm overlooking the sea and likes trotting and prancing and kicking up her heels with the hens and the ducks. Her best friends are Dave the Dog and Coco the Cat who run and play and jump over the creek. And like a good friend, Noni is always careful that no one gets left behind, that if thunder frightens her friends, she cuddles them close and tells them stories to help them be brave, and when she gets spooked by the rustling leaves at night, all she has to do is snuggle in for a song with her best friends and soon she’ll be sleeping all night long. Alison’s drawings are created from clean strong lines, vibrant colours and a fierce love of animals and the Australian landscape. When times are happy there are golds and blues and when forests fill with Noni’s fears, there are murky greys and greens. With Alison’s books though, you can be sure to end on a warm and cuddly note.

Just a Dog written by Michael Gerard Bauer

(Omnibus Books)

Primary Aged kids

Mr Mosely is a gangly dog who was supposed to be a pure bred Dalmatian but because of a faulty lock on a kennel door, ended up being a bitser. Bitser or not he is adored by young Corey, whose mum and dad gave him the decision of choosing Mr Mosely from all the other dogs at the kennel. This is a seemingly random collection of tales about Mr Mosely, or Moe, until certain threads begin to poke through Corey’s retelling that let us know bigger things are going on. Like Dad losing his job and not telling as many jokes anymore, like mum finding out she was going to have another baby and that leading to serious words between Corey’s parents about money troubles and how Uncle Gavin, who used to come around a lot, stopped after a really bad fight. With the backdrop of economic tough times and strained relationships, Mr Mosely is always there, collecting the paper, wagging his tail to distraction when Corey comes home from school and as someone to talk to when each of the family members needs him. There are touching and tender moments that sneak up on you, proving that Mr Mosely is much more than ‘just a dog.’

Noah’s Law: Crime Punishment and Paper Jams written by Randa Abdel-Fattah

(Pan Macmillan Australia)

Young Adult

Sixteen-year-old Noah thinks he’s the king of wit and practical jokes. His dad, however, a successful QC, believes his son is a troublemaker who needs to be taught the value of responsibility, so sentences him to spending the summer holidays making up for his ‘crimes’ in his aunt’s law firm. Resentful of spending hot sunny days photocopying reams of case notes, Noah soon makes friends with cute, sassy legal assistant Jacinta, which makes being stuck in the office suddenly much more interesting. He also becomes intrigued by a case where a grieving husband is seeking compensation over of the death of his wife at her work. Noah soon has his suspicions that perhaps the husband’s grief is all an act and that the wife’s death wasn’t a robbery gone wrong as is being argued by his aunt’s firm. But how can he prove it when a lot of his theories are circumstantial and the evidence he does manage to gather has been obtained by not-so-legal ways? The more he searches, the more complicated the case seems and the more determined he is to have justice play out.

Mirrors, Divas and Photographers

These books were reviewed on ABC Radio Canberra Drive Show with Louise Maher on Tuesday November 9 2010

Books reviewed by Deborah Abela, National Literacy Ambassador and

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

http://www.deborahabela.com

Mirror written and created by Jeannie Baker

(Walker Books)

Picture Book for all ages

Jeannie Baker took over 5 years to finish this book and the wait was definitely worth it. Clever in every way, the book opens out so that there are two stories told side-by-side. The left side follows the day in the life of a boy from Australia, the right, introduced in Arabic, about a day in the life of a Moroccan boy. The story was inspired by Jeannie’s travels through Morocco and the way she felt welcomed as a stranger at a time when she believed Australia was becoming a nation less friendly to the idea of foreigners. On the surface these two boys have very different lives, but beyond the details, they are both very similar, knowing the importance of being loved by their family and their wider community. Apart from the different ways of dress and ways of being, the two boys could be each other when they look in a mirror. Jeannie first drew images and used them as a guide for collages that she made with a combination of materials such as sand, paper, wool and fabric. Read it again and again and pour over the delicious detail, the sentiment and the reflection of yourself back in this delightful work of art and ideas.

Dame Nellie Melba written by Gabiann Marin and Illustrated by Rae Dale

(New Frontier Publishing)

Primary aged children

This is the first in a new series of books called Aussie Heroes. This one explores the life of Australia’s first diva, Helen Porter, who from the age of six, knew she wanted to be a famous opera singer. We follow the life of the precocious child who has inherited her father’s stubborn personality leading her to not only follow her passion but also make the odd careless decision, such as her marriage at the age of 21 to a jackaroo and plantation manager. Soon tiring of station life, Helen longs for Melbourne, her lessons with her Italian opera teacher and for the stage. Enticed back to Melbourne with a chance to perform, Helen leaves the farm with her young son and once again is caught by the excitement of performing. Audiences love her and she is soon singing in the best opera houses in the country, but it’s not until a chance to travel to England and audition for the big houses of Europe that Helen Porter, now Nellie Melba, becomes one of the finest opera singers of her time.

 

Always Jack written by Susanne Gervay

(Harper Collins)

Primary Aged children

This is the third book in a series about a joke-telling, inventive and irrepressibly cute boy called Jack. Jack lives with his sister, mum, soon-to-be stepdad, Rob and purple underpant wearing Nanna. Jack’s life is very busy with his photography, his science experiments, schoolwork, best friends Christopher and Anna and, to Jack’s absolute boredom, constant talk about the upcoming wedding between his mum and Rob. But when Jack’s mum is diagnosed with breast cancer, his whole world threatens to crash around him. His head pounds and his sleeps fill with nightmares of losing his mum. Even though the doctors have caught it early, his mum is preoccupied and after the operation and during her radiotherapy, she is tired and can’t do star jumps like she used to. A three-time breast cancer survivor, Susanne Gervay’s story is all the more poignant because it is from Jack’s point of view: delving into his fears, confusion and his love for his family. This book is a clear, informative look at what takes place from cancer diagnosis to recovery, never shirking the need to inform but doing so with a gentle, deft hand.

 

Marriages, Rescues and Just Because You’re You

These books were reviewed on ABC Radio Canberra Drive Show with Louise Maher on Tuesday September 14 2010

Books reviewed by Deborah Abela, National Literacy Ambassador and

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

http://www.deborahabela.com

Because You Are With Me written and illustrated by Kylie Dunstan

(Hachette Children’s Books)

Picture Book

Even as adults there are times when we feel we can conquer the world as long as there is someone nearby who loves us. This beautiful collection of brave words is about a young girl who declares, ‘I can do anything!’ from walking down the hall in the dark, to eating all her vegetables and riding her bike down an enormous hill, but she can only do it because her dad is close by ready to hold her hand, cuddle her and be there in case she needs him. This is a simple declaration of love from a small girl to her dad, beside whom anything can be achieved. Each page is a maze of colour and text, with the pictures being formed by carefully torn paper creating a young girl full of life and optimism and a bespectacled dad who lifts her above the surface of the deep end of the pool, holds her close when she is scared and stands by ready to catch her in case she falls. Cute, colourful and simply lovely.

Girl Saves Boy written by Steph Bowe

(Text Publishing)

Young Adults

It’s not only the fact that Steph Bowe is 16 that makes this book so arresting. From the heart-aching words of the prologue to the quiet musings of two teenagers on a beach at the end facing an impossibly unfair future, this book is a rare treat of gentle quiet, big-hearted sweetness and great slabs of uncomfortable truths. Ten years ago something happened to Jewel Valentine’s family that tore them apart. She was sent to live with her grandparents while her parents’ lives crumbled. Now that her grandparents are dead, Jewel has moved back to her childhood town to live with her estranged and slightly-more-together mother. But the hurts still run deep. Jewel meets Sasha, a boy she saves from drowning in a lake. An instant connection is made, leading to a tenuous friendship. But their families keep behaving strangely, making relating to them almost impossible and Sasha has a terrible secret he needs to tell Jewel, but is afraid how she’ll react. Even though this world keeps dealing unfair hands, the warmth of the characters and the musings about life lift this novel above the bleak to something fresh and unique.

 

Marrying Ameera written by Rosanne Hawke

(Angus and Robertson)

Young Adults

Ameera is the seventeen-year-old daughter of a father from Pakistan and a mother from Australia. Having agreed to raise their daughter as a Muslim, there have been few clashes in the raising of Ameera and her brother, until now. Forbidden to associate with men outside her family, Ameera becomes attracted to her friend’s brother, Tariq, but when her father hears she’s been seen at the same party as him, he sends her to Pakistan to help with the wedding of her cousin. It is only after she arrives that Ameera slowly realises the marriage is for her and has been arranged by her father. Ameera manages to sneak a message to her brother and Tariq and is contacted by a man called Frank from the Forced Marriage Unit who agrees to try and help her escape. But will he be in time to save her before the wedding? And what happens if he arrives too late? This book is written with an insightful eye and warm respect for both sides of the cultural line Ameera straddles, but as the race to save her from a forced marriage quickens, the tension is white-knuckled. Rosanne has visited Pakistan several times, once for seven years, but it was during a trip in 2006 that she met a man from the Forced Marriage Unit in the British Consulate and the idea for this novel began.

 

 

Getting a Grip, Halo and Feeling Zizzy

Sorry for the very late post of this review. I’ve been away wandering around the world a bit and have now found my feet again after trying for days to shake jetlag and remember which night is bin night.

So…..These are the books that I reviewed on ABC Radio Canberra Drive Show with Louise Maher on Tuesday August 17 2010

Books reviewed by Deborah Abela, National Literacy Ambassador and

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

http://www.deborahabela.com

Zizzy written by Penny Matthews and illustrated by Danny Snell

(Omnibus Books)

Picture book ages 4+

‘Zizzy was a sloth. A slow, sleepy, dreamy sloth’ whose main activities in life are to sleep and eat and dream deep in the rainforest. But one day, as he peered through a tangle of creepers, he saw a tiny patch of blue. When he wonders what it could be, a wise macaw tells him, ‘It’s the beginning of the rest of the world.’ She invites him to come and see it, but Zizzy, being a sloth, hardly ever comes down from his tree and thinks he’ll never be able to make it. But it’s too dazzingly an idea and he agrees to come down. Uneasy on his feet, he stumbles and falls and even has to take naps, but the macaw encourages him not to give up until finally they reach the sea and together they watch the beginning of the rest of the world. When he returns to his tree, Zizzy’s dreams are filled with being able to do anything at all. Penny’s words and David’s pictures are a perfect mix of colour and imagination, plotting Zizzy’s first efforts at bravery and stepping out. I especially love the picture of Zizzy sitting on an evening beach with macaw asleep on his head.

 

Halo written by Alexandra Adornetto

(Harper Collins)

Young Adults

The sleepy town of Venus Cove has had a few unfortunate incidents of late. Fires, accidents and the death of a few of its inhabitants. Three dazzlingly beautiful siblings enter the picture and take up residence. The youngest, Bethany, begins at the local high school and the elder brother, Gabriel, takes up a post as a teacher. But this isn’t any ordinary family. The three have been sent on a mission from heaven to stop the gathering of forces of darkness that have been causing all the mischief. At school however, Bethany meets dashingly perfect school captain, Xavier Woods and falls for him, even revealing her true nature and her family’s mission. Gabriel is furious and the council of heaven only just allows them to continue with their mission after such a breach of the rules. Enter Jake Thorn, another dashingly handsome boy who immediately sets his sights on Bethany. Having manoeuvred Xavier temporarily out of the picture, he makes his move, but Bethany rejects him and earns his wrath, unleashing a storm of chaos. This book tears along at a great pace. With its ultimate battle of good versus evil, all played out amongst teenagers it will earn the reputation of another Twilight but that’s probably a good thing for teenagers desperate for a replacement.

 

Get a Grip Cooper Jones written by Sue Whiting

(Walker Books)

Young Adults

Cooper Jones lives with his mum in Wangaroo Bay. Life is fairly simple during the heatwave days of summer until the new swimming coach mistakes someone at the pool for Cooper’s dad, insisting he left him a message. Cooper steers her off the conversation and eventually gets her to drop any mention of his dad, like he’s done with everyone for the past 13 years. But it gets him thinking. What does his dad look like? What kind of person is he? Does he live nearby? As summer fires close in on the town, his questions don’t seem to be able to make it out of his tangled thoughts. For the first time in his life he needs answers but Mum wont talk about it and lately she’s been acting strange and a little on edge with him and everything he touches he seems to wreck. What if she’s furious with him because he’s turning out to be a giant loser like his dad? Cooper then meets Abeba, a girl from the city who has moved in with her uncle next door because of trouble back at home and after a bumbling, imperfect beginning, the two find friendship and a way to say what their families don’t seem to want to hear. Told in an honest, uncomplicated way straight from Cooper’s head, it’s full of the confusion and fears that can come with being a teenager trying to work out who they are and where they fit in.