28 April 2011

A Royal Slice*

With the upcoming wedding of Wills and Kate - ahem, sorry, William and Catherine - taking up most of the tv and radio waves (and the entire market in tatty souvenirs) for the forseeable future, we thought that we'd take this oportunity to celebrate some unconventional royals.

E Nesbit did a great line in surprising monarchs. She imagined kings who were property developers, princesses who married lift men, and Fairy Godmothers who gave the oddest advice to their royal charges. One of the best is Billy the King. Eager to make his way in the world, Billy King answers a job ad at his local employment office. 'Hard-working king wanted; no objection to one who has not been out before.' Sounds ideal, but things - of course - don't go as planned for Billy. There is an ineffective prime minister, a monarch-eating monster and all sorts of trouble. But luckily there is also Eliza, the brand new queen from the neighbouring kingdom.

Margaret Mahy must be sprinkled with some of the same magic dust as Nesbit. Strange and interesting royalty abound in her short stories, too. Like the melancholy king who is cheered up by music made by Selina and her grandmother who live in the dump-diddledump-diddledump (much to the distress of the royal physicians who feel sure the king's ears will be polluted by untold germs). But perhaps most lovely of all is the beautiful princess who marries a clown. 'Princesses don't marry clowns! They marry princes, simpletons, and seventh sons; they marry the youngest of three brothers - but NEVER clowns!' And like all good clowns (and all good princesses!), this clown is made of equal parts humour and melancholy - so lovely - sigh.

The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munch, Illustrated by Michael Martchenko
Elizabeth begins as a princess princess - all pretty clothes and marrying perfect princes. But enter the dragon, who burns Elizabeth's clothes and generally forces her to look at life differently. Elizabeth outsmarts the dragon, rescues the prince, discovers he's not so perfect afterall and dumps him to pursue her own interests. WIN!

The Princess and the Dragon
by Audrey Wood
Rather similar in flavour to The Paperbag Princess - but this one goes a step further. The roaring princess and the ballet-dancing dragon just aren't cut out for the roles society wants them to play. Never fear - I can feel a swap coming on! Aren't the courtiers delighted when the abrasive princess is replaced by the polite-as-pie dragon! And isn't the princess delighted when she can live in a cave and terrorise villagers to her heart's content! Play to your strengths seems as good a moral as any.

Mimus by Lilli Thal translated by John Brownjohn
This is a strange and wonderful book. When Prince Florin and his father, King Phillip, attend a banquet in the neighbouring kingdom, they are greeted with devastating betrayal. After the ambush, Prince Florin is forced to live in the stable with Mimus, the wily court jester. Mimus is by turns cruel and generous, proud and lowly, brave and cowardly. In order to save his own life, Florin must learn the ways of the jester and unravel a secret plot. But can he trust Mimus? An epic mystery: funny, chilling and gripping. No monarch can remain unchanged after living the life of the jester.

The Princess and her Panther by Wendy Orr and Lauren Stringer
'One afternoon... a princess and her panther crossed the desert sand. The princess was brave and the panther tried to be.'

We're all for brave princesses who inspire courage in their little sisters. All for it!

The Princess Bride by William Goldman
Just like Kate, Buttercup is a beautiful commoner, plucked from obscurity by the prince of the land. But Prince Humperdinck is about as far from Prince Charming as a prince can possibly get. And poor Buttercup is kidnapped by a swordmaster Spaniard (who is not left-handed), a Turkish giant (who has a sportsman's heart) and a clever Sicilian (who is not as smart as he thinks he is) - who are then outwitted, outplayed, outlasted by the Dread Pirate Roberts whose intentions are...well... more seemly than any Survivor contestant's intentions ever are. So if all the hoo-ha about Wills & Kate's wedding has put you in the mood for a fairytale royal romance - with a happy ending? As you wish.

* We have to give an honourable mention to AA Milne, who gave us King John (who was not a good man, but did kindly put up a notice concerning James James Morrison Morrison's mislaid mother), and of course 'The King's Breakfast'.

18 April 2011

Monday Stuff and Items

1) Interesting to see so many kids and YA characters representing on the Forbes magazines Fictional 15 rich list. Carlisle Cullen invested wisely in the 1700s, Artemis Fowl has sketchy interests, and Chuck Bass is... well, he's Chuck Bass.

The breakdown of how Forbes calculated the wealth of Smaug the dragon is particularly worth reading.

2) Patrick Ness's Top 10 "unsuitable books for teenagers" is hilarious and spot on - particularly number 10!

3) Heads-up, authors. The bar has been raised. What will you put in your next acknowledgements?

4) In honour of the fact that the Cake-maker Virtuoso has, until very recently, been in Japan, here is an amazing Japanese house called the Shelf Pod, designed to store the owners' vast collection of books.

5) This chaotic modern life. Always ringing the changes. And their unexpected consequences. I mean, who would have thought that updating the public transport ticketing system would have such a profound impact? What's a reader supposed to use as a bookmark now she no longer has those perfectly sized expired train tickets? Well one clever designer may well have the answer... build 'em in to the book!

12 April 2011

CBCA Shortlist 2011

This morning in the House of Onion:

11.58 AM - click through to the CBCA home page in anticipation of a shortlist.
11.58.30 - refresh screen
11.59 - refresh screen
11.59.1 - refresh screen
11.59.2 - refresh screen
11.59.3 - refresh screen
12.00 - view shortlist, SQUEAL, gallop around, congregate, SQUEAL, disperse to call authors, SQUEAL, take a few calming breaths, blog...

Older Readers

About A Girl by Joanne Horniman

Early Childhood

The Tall Man and the Twelve Babies by Tom Champion Niland and Kilmeny Niland,
illustrated by Deborah Niland

Noni the Pony by Alison Lester

Look See, Look at Me! by Leonie Norrington and Dee Huxley

Picture Book of the Year

Hamlet by Nicki Greenberg

Two Peas in a Pod by Chris McKimmie

Eve Pownall Award

Drawn from the Heart: A Memoir by Ron Brooks

You can see the full list in all its glory here.
And there are many more exciting things on the Notable Books List.

Big congratulations to all the wonderful authors and illustrators on both lists!

11 April 2011

Trailer trove

Our first introduction to the Filthies and their struggle against the elites of the Upper Decks was in Worldshaker by Richard Harland.

D. M. Cornish said:
'I loved Worldshaker! A claustrophobic setting of rivets, iron and steam, rustling silks and stiff collars and even stiffer manners; dark, twisting, bustling, brilliant. I was very, very glum when it came to an end.'
Well, be glum no more, D. M. Help is almost at hand!

Hitting the shelves in May is the fantastic fast-paced sequel - Liberator in which Col's and Riff's world has been well and truly turned upside down. This compelling steampunk story is positively crackling with political intrigue and class tension all served up with a sprinkling of good old-fashioned URST.

Herewith a trailer:

Move over Trixie Belden, Nancy Drew, Veronica Mars and Hercule Poirot, there's a new detective in town. Introducing Beatrice May Ross - and her excellent powers of observation and deduction. A Pocketful of Eyes by Lili Wilkinson is teen rom-crime, featuring a dead body in the Red Rotunda, a mysterious benefactor, a handsome young man with an unusual interest in the mating habits of animals and - wait for it - a hot kissing scene on the back of a stuffed tiger. *editor fans self*

Herewith a trailer:

And an interview with the lovely Lili:

And what ho! - a website for The Golden Day, the hauntingly beautiful new novel by Ursula Dubosarsky. We've shown you this trailer before - but it's so short and so enticing and so beautiful we thought we'd give you another helping...

08 April 2011

Agent Report: Bologna Children's Book Fair

Fly to Italy and present yourself at the Bologna Children's Book Fair. Soak up atmosphere. For about two seconds. Then attend eleventy-million appointments* each day for 3.5 days discussing books, books, books with lovely agents, publishers and rights managers, who all begin to blur into one unless they have a particular distinguishing feature such as:
(a) a cute accent
(b) stylish boots
(c) they are male
(d) all of the above.
Followed by evening functions which consist of much eating and drinking and lead to crawling into bed, exhausted, at midnight.

SECONDARY MISSION: After the winner of the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award is announced: engage in the sport of Shaun Tan spotting.

STATUS: Accepted.


FINAL MISSION: Locate some kind of motor vehicle that will convey you and your guests to end-of-day activities...

* When we say eleventy million here - we might mean closer to twelve, but we're sure you get the idea.

07 April 2011

The scent of childhood

It's curiously entertaining that the enduring image of Australia held by folk from other places is usually of a land of odd or deadly animals, a fireworks-friendly bridge, an iconic opera house, a rather large reef and a big red rock in the middle of a desert.

Of course, those of us who live here know it is much more than that. We also know that most of the population lives in sprawling urban landscapes clustered around the coastline, and that it would actually be a very unusual event if we looked out the window and saw kangaroos hopping down the street. The lights of the MCG - yes. Kangaroos - not so much.

Despite the fact we are drawn to large cities, a goodly number of us did grow up in small country or coastal towns,* and only later migrated to the big smoke - in pursuit of education, and employment, and eating emporiums that are open after eight o'clock. So while we are enamoured of the bright lights, big city and its hole-in-the-wall bars and fine dining establishments, for many of us there is a little part of our heart that pings when we read a book set in the rural landscape of our childhood.

And, as we've mentioned before, we're looking at you: Snake, by Kate Jennings. How delighted are we to discover that the good folk at Black Inc. have re-released this brilliant novella. Extremely. Delighted.

So here's to books that ring true with the colours and sights and sounds of the country, its calm and its cacophony, its far horizons and casual claustrophobia, its dusty paddocks and high haystacks, its flood-prone plains and tracts of eucalypts, and the full moon, bright and blazing orange as it edges up over the horizon.

Here's to books that ring true with the scent of childhood.

* Where kangaroos were not necessarily an unusual sight, but a koala-sighting - now that was something to write home about.