Chatting and learning: TBYL Event No. 1

Yesterday I was pretty nervous. I prepped and preened, anxiously awaiting the very first TBYL Event, Making Tough Times Easier.

Late in the afternoon I took my lists, my notes and myself into the Wheeler Centre. Setting up, I waited with baited breath to see what others would make of TBYL’s grand plan to bring bookish people together, in real life.

I’m pleased to report that it was an amazing evening, complete with revealing insights, great conversations and new connections.

Making Tough Times Easier 1

Making Tough Times Easier was an opportunity to explore how picture books can be used to help parents, carers and educators coach kids through challenges, helping them to become resilent and happier kids.

Sometimes little people have to deal with big challenges.

I was thrilled to be joined by four talented and passionate storytellers; Nicky Johnston (Go Away Mr Worrythoughts), Leon James Wisewould and Paul Nash (Mitchell the Pixel) and Bambi Gordon (Oodlies Kids) all of whom shared a little bit about how their books came about, how they hoped to see them help kids and the positive impacts they’ve seen their work have on the readers around them.

Screen shot 2013-03-28 at 11.54.45 AM

A common theme across the panel was that of their books being ‘conversation starters’ and this really seemed to resonate with the audience. These important picture books don’t just offer a small lesson in and of themselves, but further encourage children and adults to talk about worries and troubles. They help kids work out ways in which they can overcome challenges, with help and encouragement.

Making Tough Times Easier 4I absolutely loved the questions from the audience, as they teased out more about the process of writing and illustrating, as well as giving rise to a little more information on the issues that kids might face in this day and age. We had some great conversations about recognising anxiety in kids and assisting kids to recognise their troubles and ‘find their own magic.’

Making Tough Times Easier 5I’d hoped to keep the session pretty informal, and at times I really felt that we were just having a good chat about picture books. After the sit-down session there was a chance for everyone to catch up, share their own experiences and ask questions of the authors themselves.

In short, today I’m on cloud nine, and I can’t wait to hold the next TBYL Event. I’ve got some big ideas, and I can’t wait to tell you all about them!

I’ve got to say  a great big thank-you to Nicky, Leon, Paul and Bambi. I would also like to thank Joan and Linda for their help on the night, it’s greatly appreciated, I couldn’t have done it without you.

Making Tough Times Easier 2

If you’d like to purchase any of these author’s books, they’re all available now in the TBYL Store, click below for individual titles…

Go Away Mr Worrythoughts, Nicky Johnston $16.95
Happythoughts are Everywhere, Nicky Johnston $16.95
Mitchell the Pixel, Leon James Wisewould and Paul Nash $16.95
If a Smile Should Lose Its Mouth, Bambi Gordon and Joi Murugavell $15.00
What You Do Is Not Your Who, Bambi Gordon and Joi Murugavell $15.00
I Think I’ve Lost The Magic, Bambi Gordon and Joi Murugavell $15.00

And for a short time only, you can get all 6 books for just $85.85 (saving of $10.00)

Thanks again to everyone who got involved in our first event, you made it a resounding success! Stay tuned for more TBYL Events: book it in… coming soon!

Join us: Facebook and Twitter
Sign up for TBYL Book Club here…

Subscribe to TBYL News: All Things Bookish… out monthly!

Secrets: Garden of Stones

Today’s review comes from my friend and new TBYL Reviewer, Anne Hoye. In January Anne read Catch of the Day, a fun, light-hearted romance. This time, Anne she’s gone for something a little darker.  Anne’s review this week is of Sophie Littlefield’s Garden of Stones (Harlequin)…


“In the dark days of war, a mother makes the ultimate sacrifice.”

garden of stonesGarden of Stones is a story of a mother’s love and a daughter’s courage, set in America during the second World War, with flashes forward to the year 1978. This is a wonderful story, well written, and it’s very interesting.

Lucy and her parents  are Japanese, living in Los Angeles. They lead a comfortable life, filled with luxuries. However, after the sudden death of her father, and the bombing of Pearl Harbour, Lucy and her mother’s lives are turned upside down. Their non-Japanese friends and neighbours turn against them, “because you’re a Jap”.  All Japanese people, including Lucy and her mother, Miyako, are rounded up and sent off to Manzanar, a prison camp. The conditions are harsh, with gaps in the floors and walls, allowing the cold, and the sand, and the heat to constantly enter their sparse rooms.

Miyako and Lucy are beautiful. Miyako catches the eye of the prison guards, and suffers abuse over many months. When Lucy begins to be targeted by the same prison guards, Miyako is horrified, and tries to protect Lucy. Unfortunately, the manner in which Miyako protects her daughter is shocking, horrifying. As a mother, I can only imagine the horror that Miyako must have gone through at the hands of the prison guards for her to think that her actions toward Lucy were better than the thought of Lucy having to suffer the same such abuse.

Sadly, unable to bare any more, Miyako commits suicide leaving Lucy alone in the world. We follow her story as she tries to find her way through life, a path made more difficult by her looks. Lucy eventually finds love and comfort, however, after an unplanned pregnancy, this is also taken away from her.

Throughout the book, the story moves between the past, and the present (which is set in 1978.) Despite the changes in time and place, the narrative is easy to follow, as the chapters are clearly marked with the year in which that part of the story is occurring. In the year 1978, we are introduced to Lucy’s adult daughter, Patty. Patty is planning her wedding, when her mother Lucy is implicated in a murder investigation. Patty has grown up with no father, and no knowledge of who he is. She knows little of her mother’s past and it is through Patty’s determination to clear Lucy’s name, that she uncovers the real story of her mother’s upbringing.

Garden of Stones is a story of tragedy and revenge, but it is also a story about love, kindness, and forgiveness. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and couldn’t put it down. I was intrigued to find out what happened to Lucy, and through Patty’s discoveries, I kept finding out more and more surprising details which ensured I kept reading. The surprises kept coming right up until the very end. This is a real page turner – part suspense, part drama.

A highly recommended read!


You can find out more about Sophie Littlefield’s Garden of Stones here…

Join us: Facebook and Twitter
Sign up for TBYL Book Club here…

Subscribe to TBYL News: All Things Bookish… out monthly!

Pink Popular Penguins out now!

Today my book collection got a little bit pinker, with the release of the Pink Popular Penguins!

I was happier than a pig in mud, with the chance to buy more of my favourite Popular Penguins all the while raising funds for a cause very close to my heart…

Pink Popular PenguinsOn March 19, 2013 Penguin Books Australia will launch a new series, Pink Popular Penguins, to help the McGrath Foundation expand their Breast Care Nurse network and increase breast awareness throughout Australia. The orange Popular Penguins design adopts pink covers and includes a range of classics. Penguin Books will donate $1 from the sale of every Pink Popular Penguin to the McGrath Foundation.

The McGrath Foundation does amazing work to increase the number of Breast Care Nurses in Australia. I would have been absolutely lost without the amazing help of the Breast Care Nurses at Monash, and I strongly encourage you to get behind this worthy endeavour!

And of course, then there’s the gorgeous pink books just waiting to be added to the bookshelf. There are 12 titles in all:

Alphabet Sisters by Monica McInerney

Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

Perfume: The Story of a Murderer by Patrick Suskind

The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald

A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf

Love in a Cold Climate by Nancy Mitford

Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

A Spy in the House of Love by Anais Nin.

My pink popular penguinsI’ve been lucky enough to get my hands on A Room of One’s OwnAlice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Madame Bovary already and I can’t wait to get hold of the rest. I’ve enjoyed revisiting these classics, tumbling down the rabbit hole; reassessing my need for my own space; and of course being wrapped up in a provincial romance with Emma Bovary.

You can find out more about the Pink Popular Penguins here…

All titles are available in the TBYL Store now, and as a special offer, you can also pick up the full set of twelve books for just $100 (normally $120) – why mess about, you know you want them all?!  You can shop online here…

I’d love to know – which books would you choose first?

Join us:   Facebook  and  Twitter
Sign up for TBYL Book Club here…

Subscribe to TBYL News: All Things Bookish… out monthly!

Best laid plans: Grace Grows

Today’s review comes from the lovely Monique from Write Notes Reviews. Monique recently reviewed Grace Grows by Shelle Sumners (Allen and Unwin) and here’s what she thought of it. I particularly like the recommended accompaniment of chocolate when reading this novel…


Grace GrowsAs we all know, best-laid plans sometimes fall by the wayside when life gets in the way. Grace Grows is a fun and engaging novel based on the premise that, to paraphrase John Lennon, “life is what happens when you’re busy making plans”. While the concept is nothing new, the book delivers an old idea with a fresh approach that makes it highly readable…

You can read the full review here…


If you’d like to find out more about Grace Grows by Shelle Sumners, you can visit the Allen and Unwin website here.

Join us:   Facebook  and  Twitter
Sign up for TBYL Book Club here…

Subscribe to TBYL News: All Things Bookish… out monthly!

Bridie’s Choice

Earlier in the week we got a little bit country, and so I thought maybe we’d stay on theme and take a look at what TBYL Reviewer, Tam J thought of her recent read of Bridie’s Choice, by Karly Lane (Allen and Unwin)


Bridie's ChoiceFaced with a choice, Bridie must decide whether to turn her back on her heart or her dreams in order to make the biggest decision of her life…

Bridie Farrell desperately wants to escape her small home town, Tooncanny. She’s also longing to distance herself from her family name, a name whose reputation brings nothing but trouble and struggle. And God knows she has tried, many times, but each time her responsibilities hold her in place making escape seem impossible.

Bridie has lost her mother, her father is in jail and she is now legal guardian to her younger brother – all meaning that they’ll be no escaping Tooncanny, in the short term at least.

Shaun Broderick on the other hand couldn’t be more different to Bridie. From a different world, he comes from a wealthy farming family and in Lane’s story, we see him trying to realise his dream of taking over the management of their prestigious property, Jinjulu. Despite his lofty ambitions, he will first have to struggle against his dictatorial father. It’s going to be a tough fight.

In the tradition of star-crossed lovers, when Bridie and Shaun give in to their attraction to each other it, not surprisingly, it causes a lot of turmoil for them both. Shaun’s family are very unimpressed with their son’s choice of partner – a simple town girl with a bad family name – and they make no secret of their disapproval. Perhaps a predictable reaction, but would they really make him choose between his family property and his new love?

Bridie is facing her own challenges, waiting for her younger brother to finish school and join the army so she can finally be free to leave town and start her own adventure. As such, she cannot afford to get too serious with Shaun, she can’t give up her lifelong dreams in the pursuit of her new love for Shaun. Surely experiencing her dreams need to come first, before she slips in love with someone? Surely she should avoid becoming responsible for someone else when she finally has a chance to put herself first?

Bridie’s Choice is a well researched story set in the outback of Australia with scenes easy to picture and characters easy to relate to. It is full of turmoil, dramatic family drama, well-hidden secrets and of course, romance. It did take me a little while to get into this story, but I found it well worth sticking with. I became really invested in the characters and didn’t want to put the book down – the story and secrets were starting to reveal themselves and I just had to discover them! Karly Lane’s novel is an enjoyable country romance and an easy read. Worth a look…


If you’d like to find out more about Bridie’s Choice, by Karly Lane you can visit the A&U website here.

Join us:   Facebook  and  Twitter
Sign up for TBYL Book Club here…

Subscribe to TBYL News: All Things Bookish… out monthly!

Protection: The Treasure Box

I recently received a copy of The Treasure Box, the latest picture book from Margaret Wild and Freya Blackwood (Penguin).

As soon as I unwrapped the book, I was spellbound. Drawn in by Freya’s gorgeous illustrations, by the boy sitting quietly, an untold treasure sitting on his knees, I sighed and promised myself I’d saviour every page of this beautiful book.

The Treasure Box 1

The Treasure Box has been described as ‘haunting and beautiful’, and while it is sad (it’s probably most suitable for 7+ years and you might like to coach the kids through it a bit), it is a incredibly moving lesson about the strength of the human spirit and the importance of a person’s story, it’s importance to who they were, who they are now and who they will be…

When the enemy bombed the library, everything burned.

As war rages, Peter and his father flee their home, taking with them a treasure box that holds something more precious than jewels. They journey through mud and rain and long cold nights, and soon their survival becomes more important than any possession they carry.

But as years go by, Peter never forgets the treasure box, and one day he returns to find it.

The story, and more particularly, the ‘book as treasure’ theme, will sit well with book lovers. The solace and consolation that Peter’s precious treasure brings is touching, to say the least…

Charred paper, frail as butterflies, flutter in the wind. People caught the words and cupped them in their hands.

Only one book survived. A book that Peter’s father had taken home to study. A book he loved more than any other.

When the enemy ordered everyone out of their houses, Peter’s father brought out a small iron box. ‘This will keep our treasure safe,’ he said.

Freya’s skilful illustration is essential to the story being told. The subtle three-dimensional nature of the collaged pictures ‘includes’ the reader, drawing them into the page and bringing to life the scene in a very special way.

The Treasure Box 2

The story begins in muted tones, greys and browns and dusty blues, and brightens as the story progresses. By the close, as Peter’s treasure is rediscovered and shared, the illustrations become brighter, reds and blues and yellows communicate a new hope, brought to be in part by the protection of Peter’s book.

In short, this is a moving, inspiring book. Read it with your kids, they might need help understanding some of the sadder themes, and do so understanding that this is an important story of what it is to triumph and protect.

The Treasure Box is available in the TBYL Store now for $24.99 (plus p&h)

Join us:   Facebook  and  Twitter
Sign up for TBYL Book Club here…

Subscribe to TBYL News: All Things Bookish… out monthly!

Get truckin’: Queen of the Road

Have I introduced you to Jade? No? Well that’s quite remiss of me…

I’d like to welcome our newest TBYL Reviewer, Jade Blann. Jade’s a friend of a friend of TBYL at she’s been wonderfully generous with her time, agreeing to take a look at the recently released Queen of the Road by Tricia Stringer (Harlequin).

Here’s what Jade thought of this outback, truckin’ tale…


queen-of-the-roadIn an attempt to sort out her mounting debt and escape the problems she has created during a drunken wedding, Angela agrees to help out her Dad’s trucking business by temporarily re-locating to Munirilla, a remote farming community between Adelaide and Perthwhich. Munirilla is relying on Angela to transport their essential supplies in Big Red, her double B truck. Problem is, not everyone is pleased to see a female driving the truck, much less one with an inquisitive four-year-old Claudia in tow.

From the outset I was attracted to this story by the idea of a female truckie. I take great satisfaction in any female pushing her way into an environment that is generally male dominated, and Queen of the Road was packed full of strong women forging ahead in this arena. Angela is welcomed into the community by many locals, after all, they have been desperate for someone to provide a regular, and reasonably priced service of goods back and forth to the city. But it turns out not everyone is happy that the new service is being provided by a woman. Suddenly orders are being changed or cancelled, information is mis-communicated and Angela’s attempts to bring some stability to the community seem to be in jeopardy.

Adding to Angela’s problems, Claudia’s father turns up, wanting contact with his daughter, just when Angela thought she had finally come to terms with the fact he was no longer a part of her life. Then appears Coop, a farm-hand from out of town, in the area to keep things going while his boss Alice, another admirable character, spends time under going treatment in an Adelaide hospital. Coop is a loner, itching to move on but he made Alice a promise, and Coop is a man of his word. When he meets Angela, Coop discovers feelings he hasn’t encountered in a long time. the trouble is, does Angela feel the same? Coop has his own problems to deal with, the fields need planting and the seeder needs fixing, it looks like Alice’s predicted rain is finally arriving and now sheep have gone missing. Thus ensues a lovely dance of emotions, as both characters work on dealing with their own problems.

While being a fairly predictable romance story, Queen of the Road incorporates a variety of mystery elements, making for an interesting read. This kept me engaged and wanting to know more. I had great respect for several of the characters and Claudia’s antics amused me, maybe because I have my own four-year-old daughter! On the whole, I found this to be a very enjoyable read, and I read it faster than I’ve read a book in a long time – I think that that fact itself speaks volumes!


Sounds like a fantastic blend – strong women, hard work, outback romance.

If you’d like to find out more about Queen of the Road by Tricia Stringer, you’ll find details here…

Join us:   Facebook  and  Twitter
Sign up for TBYL Book Club here…

Subscribe to TBYL News: All Things Bookish… out monthly!

Two tickets up for grabs!

As you may already know, TBYL is running is first real-life event this month where we’ll get to hear from a group of talented and passionate authors and illustrators who work to help kids deal with the challenges life has thrown at them…

What's he Reading


It’s an intimate event, only 30 seats… and it’s at the Wheeler Centre in Melbourne and promises to be pretty incredible. If you’d like to find out more about “Making Tough Times Easier” you can read about it here…

Tonight though, I’ve got two tickets for up for grabs for one lucky winner. All you need to do is…

1. Email TBYL at, subject line “Easier”
2. Tell me why you’d like to attend the event.
3. Be available to attend “Making Tough Times Easier” at Little Lonsdale Street, Melbourne on 27 March 2013 (7pm – 8pm)

Entries will close 5pm, Wednesday 13 March 2013 and at the close of the competition I’ll use an online random generator to pick one winner. Please note, tickets can’t be exchanged for cash or another event, but you can pass it on to a friend or family member if you’d prefer.

Can’t wait to read your entries!

Join us:   Facebook  and  Twitter
Sign up for TBYL Book Club here…

Subscribe to TBYL News: All Things Bookish… out monthly!

Keep smiling: Oodlies Kids

Sometimes life can get pretty serious. Tough times can hit at anyone, and sadly, kids are not immune to the challenges that these times can present. Sometimes little ones need a bit of guidance, a bit of a pep talk, to get them smiling again.

Cue whimsy, cue delight, cue Oodlies Kids. Perfect little picture books designed to reassure, empower and entertain kids of all ages.

The Oodlies Kids books, written by Bambi Gordon and illustrated by Joi Murugavell include three great titles…

Smile should lose its mouthIf A Smile Should Lose Its Mouth, A love story for children of all ages. This beautifully rhyme-y and colourful story will help kids remember just how much you love them!

Even if a smile should lose its mouth, if a petal lost its flower or a bowl the spoon misplaced, everything will be “…right and fine as long as you are always mine.”

What You Do Is Not Your Who, A career guide for children of all ages. Perfect for that point in time when kids start to question who does what, and what that means. If you ask me, we could all probably do to have a little flick through this book from time to time, when the day-job starts to grind, and our perspective starts to shift… “even after all we do I’ll still be me and you’ll still be you…”

I think i've lost the magic

I Think I’ve Lost The Magic, A self-help book for children of all ages. I’m sure we all know this feeling, and in my experience, kids feel it too… those days when you wake up in a funk, when the day seems bleak and dreary and your magic is no where to be found. This poetic game of hide and seek, in a house populated with bright, crazy, seussical-like characters will do wonders to helps kids clamber their way back to the sunny side of the street.

All three books include fun rhymes and positive messages and their sing-song pace makes them a joy to read. The illustrations are good enough to frame (like this…) and bring the quirky stories to life and off the page.

Both Bambi and Joi do amazing work, and you might like to to check out their websites here, and here.

In the meantime, you can pick up copies of their books at the TBYL Store now for just $15 each.


Bambi Gordon and Joi Murugavell will be speaking at the upcoming TBYL Event, “Making Tough Times Easier” exploring how picture books can be used to help parents, carers and educators coach kids through challenges, helping them to become resilient and happier kids.

You can find out more about “Making Tough Times Easier” here…


The session will be held at the Wheeler Centre, CBD on Wednesday 27 March 2013 (7pm – 8pm) and you can book tickets now!




Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 113 other followers

%d bloggers like this: