21 December 2009

Here is a cornucopia

Cornucopias are a symbol of plenty and are used in celebrations for the giving of thanks.*

This year we have plenty of people, things and items for which to be thankful.

So here we go...

  • Thank you to the Macquarie Dictionary online. Seriously, you help more than you will ever know.
  • Thank you also to the Urban Dictionary. You provide excellent advice about yoofspeak, and also LOLs
  • Thank you to the photocopier. No wait, scratch that. Photocopier - you have serious room for improvement in 2010.
  • Thank you to the downstairs couches, for being cushioned and comfy and a quiet place to read.
  • Thank you to the floor, for letting us lie on you when we need to.
  • Thank you to Degani on Albert Street, for caffeination, sandwiches, caffeination, hedgehog, caffeination, and pie.
  • Thank you to the Fitzroy Gardens, for offering a lovely green escape when we need to step outside to see the trees.
  • Thank you to the Melbourne weather, for dramatic and varied content opportunities.

  • Thank you to all our designers and typesetters - for making us look so good.
  • Thank you to all our proofreaders - for your ever-eagle eyes and excellent error-catching.
  • Thank you to our couriers of all denominations - for delivering our very important packages.
  • Thank you to our prepress and printers - for taking all the hard work and, by dint of more hard work, turning it into actual, real live beautiful books.
  • Thank you to the booksellers and librarians - for putting our books into the hands of the people for whom they were made.
  • Thank you to the readers of all our books. Yes, thank you, readers, read on.

  • Endless thanks to everyone in the Mothership and in the House - for your support, your help, your humour, your wisdom and your general excellence.
  • Thank you to the Cake-maker in Chief, and everyone else who baked up a storm of goodness this year. SO MUCH CAKE!

  • Thank you to everyone who has commented here, or just read Alien Onion in the last year. We've had great fun rambling on about stuff and items. And it has given us such a thrill to catch a glimpse of the wider community of kids-book-minded people.

  • But the biggest thanks of all is reserved for our wonderful authors and illustrators - you are the reason we are all here. We are so proud to publish each and every one of you. Your words and your art inspire us, challenge us, make us laugh, weep, stomp, curse and sing.


Alien Onion is taking a little break. We'll be back after January 5th - full of fresh ideas (and too much food, no doubt).

Have a safe and happy holiday, everyone!

* Yes, we know it's not harvest time in the Southern Hemisphere. It's a symbol, people. We are being symbolic.

15 December 2009

The Christmas Story (New Allen & Unwin edition*)

And it came to pass in those days that the blog mistresses issued a decree that the blog should have a banner.

And the proclamation went out in the land.

And so it was that the editors, tending their books by night, were disturbed by a commotion on the stairs. And they were sore afraid.

But an artist appeared before them and said, 'Fear not, for glad tidings of great news I bring (and also some awesome artwork).'

And the artist removed the artwork from its swaddling paper and laid it on a scanner.**

And suddenly, a great company of editors and publishers were singing, 'Glory to Terry Denton in the highest. And in East Melbourne peace among women (and Bruno).'

And SC and JW treasured up all these things and pondered them in their hearts and were grateful.

(Click image to enlarge.)

Look! Look! It's the cathedral! It's the lights of the MCG! It's the Fitzroy gardens! And it's all manner of other wonderful items: tucked away in trees, hoisted by a crane, emblazoned across trucks and dirigibles. There is even punctuation in there, people!

It is truly a wonder.

Thank you very very much, Mr Denton.

Much love,

*You can read the proper New International edition here. Or the proper proper King James edition here.
** Actually the good gentlemens at Splitting Image laid the artwork on the scanner, and brought unto life a fine digital image. Glad tidings unto them.

11 December 2009

Friday Stuff and Items

They're Making a List
Here is the Guardian's take on the books that have defined the decade. How many have you read?

Get a Grip
This is far and away the best/most hilarious thing to come out of the Tiger Woods scandal*. (Promise.) Now, how best for our marketing department to replicate this for one of our books, I wonder...

Launched in very fine style last night by the incredibly dashing Bernard Caleo, was Tango squared. The Tango Collection and Tango 9 Love & War. We don't have any launch photos (yet) so you'll have to content yourselves with some sightings of The Tango Collection in the wild...

Free range
Speaking of 'in the wild'. Look, look who has escaped the printed page! At this time of year, Mr Chicken must be very glad he's not Mr Turkey.

Simultaneous Love**
A very special event is taking place in the House of Onion and the Mothership this afternoon. At the end of the working day, we are downing tools for a simultaneous screening of Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist. Our film-tie in edition is out in the world (with the cute-as-Christmas Michael Cera gracing the cover), but most of us have never seen the movie. A situation that will be remedied in both Houses of Onion at 5pm today. CANNOT WAIT! (Just kicking myself that I didn't wear my Where's Fluffy t-shirt to work today. )

* Or, as Babel Fish translation would call it, le scandale de tigre bois
**But not the same kind that Chef from South Park sings about.

09 December 2009

And now for something completely different

'So... what do editors actually, you know, do?'

This is a question we get asked all the time. Editing is a behind-the-scenes sort of job, so it's not surprising that it's a little impenetrable.

To make it even more difficult, the role of in-house editor can differ quite a lot from publisher to publisher. And it's totally different again at newspapers and journals. All we can do is report how it is at the House of Onion.*

Here are some answers to frequently asked questions:
  • Do you do the big picture story stuff? Yes. Yes, we do. That's structural editing.
  • Do you do the sentence structure and wordy stuff? Yes. That's copy-editing. Our old friend.
  • Do you edit on hard copy or on-screen? A little from column A; a little from column B.
  • Do you check facts? Yes, Ma'am! That's part of copy-editing. (Or sometimes its own special stage - or was, back BI [before internet] when people, you know, published non-fiction.)
  • Do you proofread? Not the books we're working on, if we can help it. We're too close to the to text to have the fresh eyes needed to spot mistakes. [What do you mean there is an extra 'to' in that sentence?]
  • Do you use a red pen? Only when we proofread.
  • Do you meet with authors? Yes. (Except when they live in Spain, and for some unfathomable reason the company won't fly us over there. Sigh.)
  • Do you sign up books? Commissioning editors do - but that's mostly the role of the publisher.
  • Do you read manuscripts before they are signed up? Often, but not always. It can be useful for the publisher or commissioning editor to have several opinions on a manuscript.
  • Do you have anything to do with the cover? Yep, we brief the designer (and sometimes do photo research, and more photo research, and more...) and work with them until we get a cover that pleases us, the author, the publisher and the marketing department. (Hoo boy.)
  • Do you typeset the book? Not usually - that's what the designer or typesetter does. (But sometimes...)
  • Do you eat cake? OSC.**
  • Ok, sure, but... what do editors actually, you know, DO all day? Well, the answer is nuanced, complex, and involved... so the obvious thing to do is explain it in lolcats.

Herewith, the first in an occasional series: What Do Editors Do All Day?


With thanks and apologies to the original authors of these lolcats.

* One Onion recently watched The Proposal (for professional development purposes only) to find out what book editors do in other Houses. However, it became clear that book editing is indeed a mysterious business, as when the protagonist book editor is asked the question - 'What does a book editor do?" - she never actually gets the opportunity to reply.
**[Out See Copy] Perhaps we don't need to spell this out? Let's trust the reader. Answer has been previously foreshadowed.

07 December 2009

A Very Onion Christmas, part the fourth - Graphic Novels and Non-fiction

Here we are at our last Very Onion Christmas list. So we've decided to throw in two categories for the price of one*

Graphic Novels

Hero of Little Street by Gregory Rogers
An art gallery, a furry friend, a portal painting, seventeenth-century Delft, a chase scene and smallgoods! Everything a good story needs! When an art-gallery-hiding-place offers a more intriguing escape than any boy expects, high adventure ensues. A hilarious graphic novel for younger readers that is the perfect way to introduce 6-10 years olds to the grand art of visual storytelling.

Scarygirl by Nathan Jurevicius
We've talked about Scarygirl until we are PMS 806 in the face. That is because she is awesome.
This book could easily have gone in the younger readers or YA sections. I'm reliably informed by my favourite primary school teacher that, despite the pink, even tough football boys love Scarygirl. She's also perfect for the 20-something hipster in your life.**

The Great Gatsby by Nicki Greenberg (pb edition)
Gatsby as a (mysterious) seahorse. Daisy as a (flighty) dandelion-bird creature. And watching over them, Nick with his sensitive antenna attuned to all the excesses, the lies, the desperation and the dangerous infatuations around him. Compelling and tragic, F. Scott Fitzgerald's unforgettable novel is re-imagined in a superb graphic novel format. A sepia-toned triumph for Gatsby fans of all ages. Companion-gifting idea: Louis Armstrong or Duke Ellington1920s jazz recordings. Sure to be a hit.

The Silence by Bruce Mutard
Art, life, truth. Three little words. So much to talk about. So many questions to consider. Will Choosy track down her mystery artist? Will Dmetri overcome his artistic demons? And what is going on with the amazingly alluring artworks at the prayer house? The Silence: not as quiet as it sounds; not as black & white as it looks. Wrap it with creative flair for the artist or art-lover in your life.

The Tango Collection edited by Bernard Caleo
This is like 50 presents in one, because over 50 of Australia's best comic creators contributed to this collection. It is a smorgasboard, a spree, a nosh-up for the senses. The recipient will be feasting on it for days and days - just like Christmas lunch.


Maralinga - the Anangu Story by Yalata and Oak Valley communities, with Christobel Mattingley
'Maralinga - the Anangu Story is our story. We have told it for our children, our grandchildren and their children. We have told it for you.' This is the story of the Anangu people of South Australia; it's the story of British Nuclear testing on Anangu lands; it's a story of sadness, grief, survival and hope. It's a story that all Australians should know. And it's a beautiful book. Age range: 10-14, and grown-ups.

Hana's Suitcase by Karen Levine
If you haven't read this already, you might have heard the radio documentary, or seen the film, because the story Fuimko Ishioka, the head of the Holocaust Education Resource Centre in Tokyo, and her search for the owner of the small battered suitcase emblazoned with the words Hana Brady, Waisenkind, and the story of Hana and her brother George continues to inspire people all over the world to retell it again and again. It's incredibly sad and moving - but also full of hope. Ages range: 10-14

Riding the Black Cockatoo by John Danalis
Ok, so we don't usually quote from the back cover copy, but in this case, the blurb is so bang-on that we could write for a hundred years and not distill this remarkable book any better: 'All through his growing-up years, John Danalis's family had an Aboriginal skull on the mantelpiece; yet only as an adult did he ask where it came from and whether it should be restored to its rightful owners. This is the compelling story of how the skull of an Aboriginal man, found on the banks of the Murray River over 40 years ago, came to be returned to his Wamba Wamba descendants. It is a story of awakening, atonement, forgiveness and friendship. Part history, part detective story, part cultural discovery and emotional journey, this is a book for young and old, showing the transformative and healing power of true reconciliation.' Enough said. Read it. Age range: 14+ and definitely adults.

*And given that one category comes at the grand cost of $0.00, this is a huge bargain. I mean, that's just good maths.
** If you have one of these, please tell them to wear a bike helmet when they ride around North Fitzroy. Thanks.

A fantasy come true

An early Christmas present.
A very lovely way to start the week.

We have seven books that are finalists for the 2009 Aurealis Awards. Hooray!

Best children's (8-12 years) long fiction:
Cicada Summer by Kate Constable

Best children's (8-12 years) short fiction/illustrated work/picture book:
Tashi and the Golem by Anna Fienberg, Barbara Fienberg Kim Gamble
The Hero of Little Street by Gregory Rogers

Best young adult long fiction:

Best illustrated book/graphic novel:
Scarygirl by Nathan Jurevicius
The Silence by Bruce Mutard

Best science fiction novel:
Wonders of a Godless World by Andrew McGahan

Congratulations to Nathan, Bruce, Kate, Glenda, Greg, Andrew, Anna, Barbara & Kim!

And stay tuned for the final in our Very Onion Christmas series later in the day.

03 December 2009

A Very Onion Christmas, part the third - Teen and YA fiction

We all know what teenage fiction is (don't we?). But, what is YA? What is YA? What is YA? (Indeed, Google has over 2,000,000,000 results for this question.)

As ever, we are here to help.

Teen & YA Fiction

Bloodflower by Christine Hinwood
This book grabs you by the heart and then, ever-so-gently, starts to squeeze. There is war and its aftermath, there is intensely real world building, but more than that there are characters that stay with you long after you've put the book down. Oh, Cam Attling - I think I'm in love.

Liar by Justine Larbalestier
Micah Wilkins is a liar. Micah Wilkins is not just an unreliable narrator, she is the monarch of unreliable narrators. She with tell you the truth. Then she will tell you the true truth. Then she will tell you the real actual truth. And she will ask you to trust her. And you will. But she's a liar. If you haven't read it, don't dip into it as you prepare to wrap it. Micah will wrap her lies around you until your head spins and your gifts will remain unwrapped until you finish. Don't say we didn't warn you.

Pink by Lili Wilkinson
Ava Simpson, on the other hand, is trying to be true to herself. She's just not sure what being true to herself means. But she's determined to find out. And, as Simmone Howell says, her efforts to do so are 'ouch-sharp' and 'cringe-in-corners funny'. Even the proofreader of this book was often derailed by laughter. Perfect for the teenage girl in your life - or the one who never quite left your heart.

The Poison Throne by Celine Kiernan
There is so much Moorehawke love in the House of Onion. Really, it has everything you could want: intrigue, suspense, romance, family drama, royalty court shenanigans, fighting, honour, cats. It's for boys and girls. The only shame is that at some point you reach the end. But then you realise there are two more books to go (Book II Crowded Shadows is out in Jan!) and you can breathe again.

The Devil You Know by Leonie Norrington
88 is angry. 88 is Damien's father. 88 is coming home.
'Run! You idiot! Run!
Leonie Norrington's writing is exceptionally vivid. Michael Camilleri's illustrations are incredibly compelling. Together they tell the funny, moving and sometimes terrifying story of a boy's fight to live with the violence at home and at school; a story of how he and his peers survive against all odds. This book will break your heart, and also fill you with hope and optimism. (A bit like Christmas really.)

The Winds of Heaven by Judith Clarke
This book is absolutely beautiful, and absolutely heartbreaking. It's the sort of book you could give to your teenager or your mother. I mean... Clementine thought her cousin Fan's house in the country had a special smell: of sun and dust and kerosene and the wild honey they ate for breakfast on their toast. But then there were the feelings: the anger that smelled like iron and the disappointment that smelled like mud.

Imma just list some of the authors who write for Girlfriend Fiction:
Penni Russon, Scot Gardner, Barry Jonsberg, Lili Wilkinson, Kate Constable, Thalia Kalkipsakis, Melaina Faranda. And that's just for starters.
You could choose any book in this series for your favourite 13-17 year-old girl who loves stories about real girls, stories with heart and brain and guts. (And she doesn't even have to go all the way to the Emerald City!) Ruly truly good reads.

And the quick list of always-favourites that are worth revisting:

Rose by Any Other Name by Maureen McCarthy
Secret Scribbled Notebooks (and its companion, My Candlelight Novel) by Joanne Horniman
The Red Shoe by Ursula Dubosarsky
Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan
Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan (Have you SEEN the stunning Shaun Tan cover for the YA edition that's coming out next year??)

02 December 2009

A Very Onion Christmas, part the second - Younger Readers

Here are a few excellent things:

Here are several more:


Tashi and the Golem by Anna Fienberg Barbara Fienberg and Kim Gamble
The irrepressible, the indefatigable, the ingenious Tashi is back!
And you can watch Kim Gamble draw a Tashi scene here. Is there anything more fascinating than watching an artist create a rich world on an empty page?
Age guide: 5-8
Four Bonnie & Sam books in one. So much horsey goodness. So much love.
Age guide: 7-9

A Croc Called Capone by Barry Jonsberg
We've been on the incredible cover journey; we've had the honour of the author dropping in for a chat. Now, for your Christmas delight, here is A Croc Called Capone wherein you'll meet the charmingest, most mobster-accented croc ever - and even better, he's accompanied by Blacky, the famously foul farting dog, and his long-suffering human friend Marcus!
Age guide: 8-12

Cicada Summer by Kate Constable
This is such a lovely book. It's a bit sad and wistful, a bit wry and funny, a whole lot heartwarming - and there's even a Christmas in it. Perfect holiday reading, particularly for those who like some time-slip adventure in the mix. And just look at that gorgeous cover!
Age guide: 8-12
One of the nicest things among the many many nice things about this book is how very Melbourne it is. Sunny and her loveable, messy, odd-bod family have left Elwood for a mansion on the Yarra river - but that hasn't reined in the mayhem. On the contrary. Hooray!
Age guide: 8-12

The Loblolly Boy by James Norcliffe
In America they're calling this, The Boy Who Could Fly. For those children of the 80s - need we say more?! Well Margaret Mahy (Margaret Mahy!!!) did say more: 'This is a rich fantasy - alive with original twists, surprises and mysteries which I dare not reveal. Children's literature is about to be enriched with a new classic.'
Age guide: 10-13
Is she dreaming, or has Chinese Cinderella lived a previous life? Historical fiction inspired by a famous Chinese painting? Starring Chinese Cinderella? Oh yes. Yes, please!
Age Guide: 10-14

The 10 PM Question by Kate De Goldi
If you are one of those families that has lots of kids of different ages and you read aloud to all of them at once, then this is the perfect book for you. (Also, can I come and live with you?) It's thoughtful and funny and raises big questions. As Agnes Nieuwenhuizen said, it's 'A truly special book. Kate de Goldi's dazzling writing will break your heart and make you wonder, marvel and laugh all at once.'
Age guide: 12-14 (but really anyone, older or younger)

Vulture's Gate by Kirsty Murray
One girl - could she be the last girl alive? One boy, pursued by reckless men who have kidnapped him. OMG read it; read it right now. (How could you not, with a hook like that?) Very clever Kirsty has managed to write a book that is thought-provoking and intellectually stimulating but also a read-til-you-drop adventure. If you don't want to see your child (or your sibling) for the whole of Christmas day, give them this and wave them goodbye until they've turned the last page.
Age guide: 12-14

And the quick list of always-favourites that are worth revisting:

The Wombat and Fox series by Terry Denton Ages: 7-11
The Keys to the Kingdom series by Garth Nix. (Lord Sunday - the final book - is out in February. Squeeeeal! If you haven't read this series, you've got all of the summer holidays to read Mister Monday through Superior Saturday. Get on it!) Ages: 10+
Pip: the Story of Olive by Kim Kane Ages: 10-13
Evil Genius by Catherine Jinks (and its two sequels) Ages: 13+

We interrupt the scheduled programming for HOLIDAY CHEER

Our Christmas senses are starting to tingle. It's not up to full strength yet, but it's out there: the Cheer is out there.

Penni over at Eglantine's Cake has some excellent gift recommendations. (For once you've bought all our books, obvs.)

Lili Wilkinson is celebrating her NANOWRIMO victory with what looks to be a rawther beautiful advent candelabra arrangement.

Yes - you read that correctly. Go and sign up by December 7 and she will email you a story on December 25. Hark! Great tidings! Joy to the world!

The Cheer is out there, people. Go forth and embrace it.

Stay tuned for gift recommendations for young readers later in the day.

01 December 2009

A Very Onion Christmas, part the first - Picture Books

Happy Month, everybody. White rabbits. White rabbits.

It's 1 December - time to start opening your advent calenders, putting up your Christmas decorations*, and thinking about what to buy for your nearest and dearest.

And the good news is, we're here to help with that last item.**

Every day for the rest of this week we're going to be posting a list of our recommendations for Christmas book-buying. The lists will be organised primarily by age-group. We're very proud of the books we've published this year - and we want to send them all to good homes underneath the right Christmas trees, where they will be loved and petted and exercised regularly.***

And so we begin with...


The Amazing Tashi Activity Book by Anna Fienberg, Barbara Fienberg & Kim Gamble
Did you know that editors actually have to DO the games and puzzles in books to make sure they work? That's right, we were paid to make sure Tashi can make it through the mazes (He can - if you help!), that you really can make the dragon yourself (You can - he's beautiful!), that the Baron really did hide his gold (He did, but can you find it?). The Amazing Tashi Activity book is full of things like new Tashi stories, recipes, word-finds and a board game. A board game! People, this is like 17 Christmas presents in one.

To The Top End by Roland Harvey
They've been to the beach, the bush and the city and now Henry, Penny, Frankie, Mum and Dad are taking the big trip from Tassie to the Top End.
Roland Harvey books were Christmas favourites with many of the Onions when they were little.**** So it's very exciting to have a brand new adventure to stuff stockings with this year. While you're at it, check out Roland Harvey's Big Book of Christmas for lots of making and doing and singing and eating ideas.

Mr Chicken Goes to Paris by Leigh Hobbs
Vive le poulet! Vive le beau poulet! Magnifique!
We have already waxed lyrical about our love for Mr Chicken. So suffice it to say: Allez! Achetez le beau poulet!

10 Little Hermit Crabs by Lee Fox and Shane McG
Hush, says the seashore. Shh, says the sea. How many hermit crabs can you see?
If you know a small person who is just the right age for a counting book, then this is perfect. It's beachy and summery and bright and rhyming. No snowy fields and deciduous trees over here, thank you very much.

Mannie and the Long Brave Day by Martine Murray and Sally Rippin
Mannie, her doll, Strawberry Luca, and her favourite elephant, Lilliput, are going on an adventure. It's a sparkling adventure, and you'll want to go too. This is a lovely, gentle book - especially good for thoughtful girls.
Yes it is; it's very useful. Useful for small people's stockings and larger people's bookshelves.
It's hard to do this one justice on screen. You really need to handle it yourself, because it has A TWIST. It's funny and warm and quirky and did we mention it HAS A TWIST.

And here is a quick list of always-favourites that are worth revisting:

Magic Beach by Alison Lester
Old Pig by Margaret Wild and Ron Brooks (Ooo look, an anniversary edition.)
Brian Banana Duck Sunshine Yellow by Chris McKimmie (He's got a new one out next year - can't wait!)
Fox by Margaret Wild & Ron Brooks
Gordon's Got a Snookie by Lisa Shanahan & Wayne Harris

*What's that? You've already put your decorations up? Who are you, David Jones?
** Selfless of us, I know.
*** OK, it's possible we have separation issues.
**** Roland, if you're reading this, we're not suggesting you're old, more perennial.