My apologies for that delay between the fabulous interview with the lovely Tania and my promised review of the newest Plume title – released yesterday – but there was a rather inconvenient technical hitch.
Welcome back Plume! Our intrepid Antarctic traveller extraordinaire is taking readers on another worldwide adventure, this time exploring some of the world’s most colourful festivals, proving that life is not just black-and-white for all penguins!
Little Plume has many friends from many different countries – as one would expect for such a gregarious little fellow, and when he receives an invitation from his Scottish friend to join in a special event, he tries to tempt his penguin comrades to join him. Alas, they are still very set in their penguin ways but that doesn’t deter Plume. He and Ava, of the Albatross Express, spend a year travelling to various countries each month to celebrate with the locals and enjoy the colourful culture of each.
As with the previous Plume exploits there will be some names with which children connect. There will very likely be children who know of, or indeed celebrate, Diwali, Holi or even the Rio Carnival, but I daresay none (nor adults) who have heard of the Up Helly Aa festival from the Shetland Isles or the Boryeong Mud Festival in South Korea. The inclusion of Easter and Christmas helps even the youngest of readers to relate these lesser known celebrations to those they might encounter in their own lives as a matter of course.
Needless to say Plume’s penguin buddies remain quite obstinate in their reluctance to try anything new – well at least, until it comes to one particular festival that caters exactly to their tastes!
Once again, Tania’s exquisite rendering of sympathetic and engaging text matched with her superlative illustrations will not fail to engage your readers and, as with the earlier Plume books, this is one that sits perfectly not only on personal bookshelves but in classrooms to accompany curriculum units such as those which look at cultural events and festivals (Year 3 HASS) and diversity.
As always, Tania’s work really needs no recommendation, as its superiority speaks volumes for itself, but in any case, I give you my heartiest recommendation for children from Prep upwards (I recently shared Plume: Global Nibbler with a Year 6 and, rather as Plume would with lovely food, they gobbled it up with delight!).
Congratulations Tania on another beautiful creation, and I know I eagerly await Plume’s next outing.
Download Tania’s Plume Festival Seeker colouring page here
At the very first moment we met, around 11 years ago, the lovely Tan and I just hit it off and I, for one, have treasured this friendship and her astounding talent since.
Tania McCartney, welcome to Just So Stories- I have no idea why it’s taken this long to do a Q&A with you … not only one of my favourite author/illustrator people, but such a super human being! However, with your newest Plume adventure being released, it’s pretty perfect timing!
Let’s get into it!
Q. As someone once sang, “let’s start at the very beginning..”. Tell us about little Tania: growing up, family background, interests, good girl or naughty girl, studious or not? – you know what we want 😉.
Well, I was born on the small isle of Tasmania where I developed a loving relationship with raspberries. When I reached school age, it’s perhaps no surprise that art and English were my favourite subjects. My most treasured possession was a white exercise book crammed with stories and the whopping great glittery stickers Mrs Nicholas handed out for the tales she loved most. Oh, the glory to see a half- or even page-sized sticker in that book.
As a tween, we moved to Coffs Harbour where I morphed into a beach-loving surfer and wannabe fashion designer. At high-school, I was intermittently a rebel, enthusiast, swot or class clown, depending on the subject and the teacher (per: science, art, English, maths).
Q. I know you started your writing career in the world of magazines and publishing. Could you tell us a little about that and what made you pivot to writing books for children?
Magazines have been quite the addiction. My first article was for Dolly magazine (at age 20) and when we moved to Beijing, I penned more than 250 tidbits, feature articles and columns for expat magazines like Time Out Beijing, The Beijinger, City Weekend, Beijing Kids and Little Star magazines.
Back in Australia, I worked for Australian Women Online, founded Kids’ Book Review, and contributed to various magazines and websites, including Maeve, Tickle the Imagination, HerCanberra and Boomerang Books blog. Roles included writer, feature writer, columnist, photographer, designer, editor, associate editor, contributing editor, copy editor and proofreader.
Including my reviews and articles for Kids’ Book Review, I probably have over 4000 articles in print or online. I also started my own magazine, called ‘little’ (there are some snippets of it on my blog), but kids’ books quickly snagged and dragged me away from this magazine thread.
Q. What other jobs have you done, if any?
Oh goodness, I’m the Jill-of-all-trades. My first job was in the milk bar at the Big Banana in Coffs Harbour, around age 13. During high school, I worked part time at a newsagent, then at 18, I moved to Sydney where I spent 8 years in various roles – receptionist, executive secretary, marketing assistant, catwalk model, photographer’s model, promo girl in department stores.
Then it was various roles in Paris and London—mostly temp office work in London and secretarial/computer software training for the Australian Embassy in Paris. When I moved back to Melbourne, I spent four years as a flight attendant, pottered with magazine work and toyed with adult fiction.
It wasn’t until I met my husband that I was finally able to take on my dream role—a maker of books, mostly children’s books (sad that it so oft takes marriage for women to realise their dreams). When we lived in Beijing with our young family, I complemented my magazine work by producing my first picture book (Riley and the Sleeping Dragon). Then back in Canberra four years later, I founded Kids’ Book Review and immersed—with gusto—in our kids’ book community. That’s when things really took flight.
Q. When we first met, I think you had just published the second Riley book and I remember you talking about the illustrator for those. Now you illustrate your own books – and beautifully I might add! – how did that transition come about?
Ah, yes! The gorgeous Keiron Pratt illustrated those Riley books. Feels like a lifetime ago.
My own illustration journey began when ‘midlife crisis’ kicked in. I used to paint and draw prolifically as a child and young adult, but—like so many—lost the connection as adult life grew bigger. I’ve always loved art and illustration and was desperate to take it up again, so in early 2013, I founded the 52-Week Illustration Challenge as a way to challenge myself to regain non-existent drawing skills.
The Challenge Facebook group was a huge success—it grew to over 7000 members over three years and is absolutely responsible for my illustration journey. We had a weekly theme to inspire artists to create and post to the group, and no one was more surprised than me to see latent skills recover and blossom.
From my first woeful offering of a pair of eggs to a circus troupe and the first piece I was actually proud of, I went on to rapidly improve, eventually securing my first self-illustrated picture book contract for Australia Illustrated.
[I’m still so proud to have been noted in the credits for Australia Illustrated! 😊]
I’ve since gone on to illustrate a series of maps, puzzles, greeting cards—and 18 books. Most of these books were as author/illustrator but a small handful in cahoots with an author, including Australia’s Wild Weird Wonderful Weather with friend Stephanie Owen Reeder.
One thing I didn’t count on was how much time it takes to illustrate books, and how hard it is on a middle-aged body. So, half-way through my Evie and Pog chapter book series, I switched to digital illustration, using Procreate on the iPad. I do all my books digitally now and I absolutely love it.
It’s hard to believe I illustrate books now. I still pinch myself.
Q. You published work for adults before you turned to writing for kids. I particularly enjoyed Beijing Tai Tai with the insights into ex-pat life in China and loads of humour. Which is tougher – writing for adults or writing for children?
For children, without question. I think people have little idea how hard it is to get children’s books right, particularly picture books, where every word must earn its place, and where visual narrative is even more important that the text. It’s an intricate, delicate and nuanced dance.
Similarly, books for olderkids have such firm parameters in terms of themes, language, vocabulary and construct. They are totally dependent on the readership age yet simultaneously the need to cover many literacy variables.
In truth, it takes deep skill, craftsmanship, experience and time to do children’s books well.
Q. You’ve now published many books and your picture books are just so glorious. Tell us about the process e.g. How long does the process of writing and illustrating one of your PBs take on average? Which has been the most difficult to create and why?
It really depends. Smile Cry took 20 minutes to write (and was illustrated by Jess Racklyeft). Australia Illustrated took a year to write and illustrate. Mamie took over 3 years from concept to publication.
I don’t think any of my books have been ‘difficult’ to make but if I think in terms of hefty workload, it was likely Fauna: Australia’s Most Curious Creatures . It was a crushing amount of work because I crafted it in Adobe Illustrator—sitting at my Mac, using a mouse (I know!) and the result was not one but two frozen shoulders. I also did all of the research, writing, photography (for textures to use in the illos), scientific editor liaison, layout, design, typesetting, cover. It was HUGE.
And testament to effort = reward, Fauna is by far my most award-winning book. I’m so proud of that book … and my shoulders were worth it.
Q. I especially love your ‘travelogue’ type books as well as the biography-based ones, and there have been quite a few. These are obviously genres close to your heart. What lies behind that?
It’s not till these past few years I’ve realised just how many of my books feature the Earth, nature, animals, travel, culture, diversity.
I’m a bit of a travel obsessive. I mean, who isn’t? But it started young with me—I’d read the atlas. Like, sit and read it, as a child. And I’ve always been obsessed with maps—again, I would sit and read street directories (back in the pre-GPS Dark Ages). A world globe has always been my idea of heaven.
Our planet and travel have always fascinated me and they still do, so you can only imagine how excited I was when Hardie Grant Explore contracted me to create my first —Australia, Illustrated Map and then the Plume series of travel picture books. Some of the biggest highlights of my career.
Q. Now would be timely to share Plume and his latest adventure with us! 😊
Ah, yes! Festival Seeker! Book three in the Plume series—what fun it was to create. In this episode, Plume gads about the planet experiencing some of the world’s most colourful and dynamic festivals. He flies, of course, on Ava of the Albatross Express, visiting kids in countries like India, Spain, Fiji, Scotland and Brazil.
From spectacular fireworks to puffs of rainbow powder and carpets made of blossoms to burning Viking galleys, Plume has an absolute blast experiencing these remarkable festivals. Each time he travels, he meets new children, and he brings their culture and traditions home to his black and white friends—i.e. the other Antarctic penguins.
This book, like the others, is all about diversity, kindness, colour, adventure, friendship, sharing. It’s a feel-good way for kids to voyage the world from their own home (so timely, with Covid!)—and to be enriched and uplifted in ways that only travel can muster.
Q. What does your writing space look (pictures always welcomed!)
It’s a light, bright studio at the front of our house—with a lovely nook for my Mac, lots of cupboards and space for books … and, of course, there are lots of books! There’s also artworks and toys and photos and knickknacks from our travels that inspire and uplift me.
I have a large trestle table right under the window for when I one day return to hand-rendered illustrations (and I will). Even though digital art is my thing now, I really miss watercolour and ink and printing. There’s something less convenient but much more magical about it.
Q. What does downtime for Tania look like? What else do you enjoy doing? (and I know you work long and hard, so hope there IS some downtime!)
Not much downtime these past ten years! But I’ve recently rectified that and I’m finally, FINALLY reading more. And not just kids’ books. Adult books, too. I’m also getting more walks and yoga in, and my hubby recently brought a spin bike into our lives – so that’s giving me quite the [much-needed] workout.
I also love playing dress-ups (quite the clothing obsession) which is a great excuse to meet friends for coffee. I enjoy gardening, interior design, crochet, visiting galleries and a little nature photography. In the coming years, we’ll be travelling a lot more, so planning trips will be back on the agenda. Bliss!
Q. Who are your personal favourites – authors, illustrators, books? (as a child/as an adult)
As a child, it was Blinky Bill and Dr Seuss and Enid Blyton and Archie comics, the latter much to my mother’s disdain (I now read Austen, so she needn’t have worried).
As an adult, I’m pulling the good old ‘how can I possibly choose’ thing, which is generally true, but what I can categorically say is that my favourite picture books of all time are the Miroslav Sasek This is… series
I’m also a huge fan of non-fiction picture books, and faves include Animalium by Katie Scott and Jenny Broom, The Book of Bees and The Book of Trees by Piotr Socha and Wojciech Grajkowski, Mad About Monkeys (and ensuing series) by Owen Davey, and Suffragette by David Roberts.
Favourite children’s book creators include Anna Walker, Owen Davey, Chris Turnham, Isabelle Arsenault, Suzy Lee, David Roberts, Amy Krouse Rosenthal, Gus Gordon, Jenni Desmond, Marc Martin and Jackie French.
[ditto to many of these favourites as well – don’t you just adore Owen Davey’s non-fiction? I truly relish each one I see.]
Q. What has been your greatest professional achievement or highlight to this point?
Touching the lives of children, uplifting and inspiring them, in any way I can.
Q. What is next up for the talented Tania? Is there a special project in the offing?
I’m actually scaling back my work from 2023. I have some life to live, you know? And I’m not 30 anymore (alas). So, there’ll be a much greater life balance and perhaps some deep gaps in between my books from now on. That both terrifies and thrills me.
I nevertheless have three books out in 2023 – the first in February – my beloved Dorrie (HarperCollins) on the life of Blinky Bill creator Dorothy Wall. Mid-year will be my Wildlife book with Hardie Grant Explore – which was a huge amount of much work – akin to I Heart the World. Really excited about it. Then in October, I have the fourth Plume book. Can’t tell you what it’s about yet, but it’s going to be soooo cute!
Q. Aside from your family and the memories they will carry in their hearts, how would you want to be remembered by the world at large?
Such a hard and confronting question. Okay, leaving out all the crappy parts, I’d like to be remembered as…
A good person. Warm. Generous. Helpful. Thoughtful. Thorough. Responsive.
Someone who heart-and-souled her career, even though her perfectionism and self-expectations were oft debilitating, sometimes even damaging.
A founder, creator, artist, instigator, enthusiast, listener, adventurer, outsider. This last one is particularly important to me.
And, lastly, as someone who in any way uplifted and inspired and comforted even one child.
Tania, I can attest to all of the qualities above – you truly are an inspiration, and not just to children either. It is such a privilege to be your friend. Thank you so much for sharing this beautiful insight into your life. I am looking forward to reviewing Plume: Festival Seeker – and more next year.
My friends are all very aware of my penchant for penguins. Surely, they are one of the cutest creatures in the world? Although, if you have ever participated in the penguin spotting research via live stream, you will appreciate that the little darlings are very hard to distinguish one from another…but now there’s Plume. And there can be absolutely no doubt at all that Plume is most charming and delightful penguin ever to waddle the pages of a book.
Tania McCartney has a genius for creating picture books that not only engage young readers with their narrative and exquisite illustrations but which also teach, whether about geography or history, people, or places. To my mind she has an absolute gift for her unique style of ‘travelogue’ books and children of my acquaintance return to these over and over, and with Plume she takes this virtual travelling experience to a whole new fun and entertaining level.
Plume made his first appearance as a global traveller in the first book World Explorerand readers fell in love with this quirky little citizen of Antarctica, who is just a bit different to all the other penguins with his love of very non-PC (Penguin Culture) activities such as sky-diving, knitting and cooking. It is Plume’s great interest in cooking that sparks his newest adventure.
The little gourmet with the distinctive yellow feather has tried in vain to interest his fellow penguins in trying out new taste sensations as he savours his latest online purchases gathered from around the globe. Seemingly, his mates are far too set in their plain fishy ways so Plume conceives of an idea to tempt them.
Enlisting the assistance of the lovely Ava, from Albatross Express, after her super suggestion that he should host cooking lessons, Plume takes off for a round-the-world gastronomic experience that is bound to set your tastebuds tingling. From Japan to Italy, Iran to Mexico, Morocco to Sweden, Plume and Ava sample and savour tastes and treats. Some of these your little readers will know such as tacos or kebabs but others will be new words and dishes to roll around their tongues: torshi, kanelbulle, fika, meskouta or flautas are just a few.
As always, Tania’s illustrations are simply divine, and her characters completely charming, especially their facial expressions. Throughout her fun with wordplay, onomatopoeia and descriptive language will provide much rich and fruitful discussion. And – oh my goodness! – the gorgeous endpapers, frontispiece and the scrumptious textured cover elevate this to a work of real art.
I cannot wait to share this with some hungry little readers and would love to follow it up with a virtual trip around the world, concluding with a feast – of course!
This will easily be incorporated into a teaching program focused on geography or cultural awareness but makes for such a superb personal reading time share as well. I would highly recommend anyone to add Plume to their collection for readers as young as Prep right up to later primary, and I am definitely looking forward to Plume’s next adventure.
I first met Tania when she came to my Canberra school as our author guest around ten years ago, and she and I just clicked from the first moment we spoke to each other. Since then it has been my honour and pleasure to be her friend. I have reviewed her books, been in awe of her talent (and her effortless elegance!), commiserated with her over slights and unjust decisions, laughed at silliness, virtually hugged each other many times and continue to be mad friends. When she offered up her book, of which she had some surplus copies, I jumped at the chance to read it.
It’s not exactly a travel book nor is it exactly a memoir but it combines both of these elements into a fabulous mash-up of anecdotes and vignettes that describe the experience of a very Aussie wife and mother living an ex-pat life in one of the strangest, most foreign (to us!) and downright quirky countries possible. I delighted in reading this over a few nights as I relaxed back into ‘school’ nights and loved, for one thing, that I could read one or two or more accounts depending on my level of tiredness.
I laughed out loud, I sympathised with Tania’s plight when bewildered or baffled, I snickered at her, often, caustic commentary on aspects of the Sino-experience and found her recurring mention of shopping totally hilarious – especially knowing her for such a total style-icon!
Aside from my political leanings, I couldn’t do it, I admit. I considered teaching in international schools and China and Hong Kong were among ones for which I interviewed years ago – and it was a close thing I admit, but I just couldn’t go through with it. So I takes me hat off to anyone who does take such a leap of faith – particularly with small children in tow.
I found this a lovely and insightful read. Not only has it given me a close-up look at one of the world’s busiest cities but has also provided me with some extra connection into my friend’s spirit.
Thanks Tania for the chance to vicariously live abroad with you – I’ll pass on the spitting, street toilet habits, your aya and even the shopping!!
Highly recommended for anyone with a pulse and a sense of humour – also with an interest in daily life from a Westerner’s perspective in an Asian setting particularly. Thanks for sharing Tan!
Publisher: National Library of Australia ISBN: 978064229637
What an amazing partnership these two creators make! Together they have made what is already an interesting topic for many children into one that is completely fascinating. The Kid’s home school unit on extreme weather and natural disasters last term was just as enjoyable for her as it is for younger children for whom this particular book is intended.
The combination of information snippets in easily-digested chunks, alongside the (as always) simply splendid illustrations in Tania’s inimitable style and the absorbing bizarre facts presented is outstanding and kids from Prep to Year 6 will thoroughly enjoy perusing it. Stephanie’s ability to search out little-known Australian history has become the stuff of legends and likewise her ability to translate them into wonderfully accessible texts for children.
As well as the strange weather events shared there is a tremendously vital message around climate change and the imperative for young people to take on the challenge of preparing for the world’s future.
Readers of this blog already know how much I admire and adore Tania’s illustrative style with stylised graphics and knock-out colour combinations and this gorgeous volume is completely phenomenal in this respect. To my mind this is a stand-out for award nomination in the coming year and if not, there’s something seriously amiss with judging criteria.
My heartiest congratulations to Stephanie and Tania on the creation of such an engaging and attractive volume! Obviously, I give it my highest recommendation as a necessary addition to your non-fiction collection for younger readers.
Read Stephanie’s account of the book’s creation here.
Continuing today’s theme of virtual travel around Australia, here are the next two instalments in one of my favourite series of the past year. These delightful little books have been a huge hit with our newly independent readers who not only enjoy the adventures of the featured kids but are able to learn so much about our big beautiful country and how their counterparts live in so many various places.
Meet Matilda at the Festival – Jacqueline de Rose-Ahern & Tania McCartney
This is my favourite so far not only because it’s illustrated by my beautiful and talented friend Tania McCartney but also because it made me seriously reminiscent about my time living in Canberra – particularly a special visit to the Japanese embassy!
Matilda is sad because her friend Hansuke and his family are returning to Tokyo after their appointment and she knows she will miss him very much. As their last adventure together Matilda and her family are once again invited to the embassy celebrations for the Emperor of Japan’s birthday. It is always such a wonderful occasion with delicious food, drumming, origami, tea ceremony and more. Matilda has made her friend a wonderful scrapbook detailing their many shared experiences from hot air ballooning to spotting kangaroos and they have fun remembering all the good times they’ve had together.
Not long after Hansuke has left Matilda has a special surprise when Irish girl Cara appears. Her family has now been posted to Canberra from Tokyo and Hansuke had been her friend there at school. Matilda is thrilled to have a new friend but still misses Hansuke as the months go by. When her birthday arrives there is an even bigger surprise in store for the little girl.
This is such a great addition to this series as it truly captures the wonderful diversity and personality of Canberra as well as the warmth of friendship.
Meet Dooley at the Farm
From Canberra to Tassie and a city mouse/country mouse story when cousin Sienna visits Dooley on his family farm. Sienna is a real city girl who really doesn’t like all the ‘pongs’ or the prickles from raspberry bushes or the noises of the milking shed. In fact, it seems like she’s not going to enjoy the farm visit much at all.
But Dooley remains undaunted – he’s always wanted to sleep in the barn one night and hasn’t been allowed to do alone but now with an older cousin in tow, he will finally be able to do so. Dooley might be the farm kid used to all kinds of different things to Sienna but it’s both children who find that hay is really not that comfortable as a bed, that possums at night can really disturb your sleep as can your dog chasing mice in the haystacks and when a really bad ‘pong’ wakes them up and turns out to be a billy goat, the pair are totally taken aback. Luckily some quick thinking by Dooley sees the stray goat safely put in the calf shed and the children eventually get a little sleep.
Sienna is pretty impressed with Dooley’s skill and brave enough to sleep in the barn again – but Dooley decides that Jess the dog is ‘too tired’ so the next barn sleepover had best wait a night or so.
Lots of fun as these two contrasting cousins learn more about each other and readers learn more about life on a dairy farm.
As with the previous books in the series there are some fun facts at the end of each book and don’t forget the activity pack!
Highly recommended for your young ‘uns from around five years upwards.
The absolutely cute-as-buttons Evie and Pog are back in their third set of adventures ready to delight all those newly independent readers who are already in love with them.
Once again your little readers will love the familiar pattern which starts off each new adventure and in this book there are another three fun stories: Book Parade, Art Show Muddle and Party Time!
As we already know from their previous escapades Evie, Pog, Granny along with Noah, Mr Pooch and Miss Footlights often have extravagant plans which usually go somewhat awry but are always salvaged by the quick resourcefulness of the team, knitting and creative thinking.
First of all there’s the annual Book Parade, always such an exciting event, but Pog is not at all happy. He ALWAYS wins the Best Dressed Dog for his costumes but how can he possibly compete with all the new competitors from the Puppy School? Luckily Evie, Noah & co come up with the perfect costume and though, to Granny’s distress, it involves lots of messy making including GLITTER the competition is a triumph for Pog.
Next up is the Art Show and Evie is creating a huge artwork that represents their daisy-spot grass while Pog busies himself making a plan of the art show. It’s all going to be a huge success – well, that is until seven tiny kittens turn up unexpectedly and mayhem results with a tangle of wool, colour, fluffiness and little beady eyes. When Mr Arty Farty (don’t you just love it?!) arrives to judge the entries, Evie is so upset because her grand design looks completely and utterly ruined after a kitten-attack. You can imagine her surprise then when the snooty judge decides on a winner – and yes! Daisy-Spot Grass is the best of the show!
Finally the Puppy School is one year old and has been such a huge success for all that a party is definitely in order. But it’s not just a celebration for the puppies, it’s also Granny’s birthday so there is much excited preparation to be done. Pink lamingtons, gift baskets, a special trophy for the star doggy pupil and the return visit of Mr Arty Farty accompanied by the seven little kittens all make for a hilarious and rather chaotic village party.
Your little readers will laugh so much at the antics of this quirky crew of characters but there is also much to be gained in other ways such as thinking about solving problems, getting along with others, self-confidence and diverse friendships.
We just love Evie and Pog in our junior library and can’t wait to have the children back at school to see the great display that’s in the making. Tania McCartney’s talents as both writer and illustrator are always such a joy in any of her works and this new series is no exception.
Highly recommended for little humans from around six years upwards.
I’ve said before that Tania McCartney is uber-talented (as well as being one of the very nicest humans I know) and I for one am tremendously excited about this new series pitched at newly independent readers. It’s just fabulous to see a few new series to add to these collections!
High in a tree house live two very best friends. One is a girl and one is a dog. And everyone knows them as Evie and Pog.
So starts each book and just like ‘Once upon a time..’ the pattern will signal to children that the fun and adventures are about to begin. These stories absolutely ooze exuberance with their characters and antics. Evie is six years old and lives with Pog in a slightly eccentric tree house alongside Granny Gladys who lives in a rather large, though no less eccentric, house. Evie loves crashing her cymbals, rolling in the daisy spot lawn, reading, cakes and knitting. Pog loves reading too but he prefers to sit at the table with a large cup of tea and his newspaper. He also loves vegetables – in any shape or form. Granny is a tidier and a rampant cleaner who is almost permanently attached to her dust buster. She also loves knitting and baking cakes (though not the mess that always seems to arise from cooking!).
They have some good friends like Noah and Mr Pooch and Miss Footlights and the adventures often include these characters.
Each book contains three separate stories and the uniform format with the double page spread of the tree house plan as the frontispiece and the cast of characters and the map of the village on the final pages gives readers that sense of continuity and familiarity they love.
Each is chockers with Tania’s humorous and always endearing illustrations and loaded with onomatopoeia and a wonderful variety of fonts giving each an even more lively feel.
Evie and Pog: Take Off! [Evie and Pog #1]
ISBN 10: 1460757939
Imprint: HarperCollins – AU
List Price: 12.99 AUD
Puppy School Mess
School Play Drama
Cake Stall Chaos
I’m pretty sure you can surmise from the story titles that there is a continuing theme of incidents filled with rambunctiousness and hilarity which generally involve lots of knitting yarn (usually in tangles), cakes and unexpected happenings.
For example, when Granny decides Pog must go to Puppy School with Mr Pooch it is not the dogs who win the Puppy Challenge – and certainly not Pog who is completely and utterly against such demeaning activities – but Evie who aces the challenge course and becomes the first ‘girl’ winner.
Evie and Pog: Puppy Playtime! [Evie and Pog #2]
ISBN 10: 1460757947
Imprint: HarperCollins – AU
List Price: 12.99 AUD
The tree house is freezing and Evie, Pog and Granny decide it’s time to renovate and what better way to do so than with knitting. They could really use some help though and when Noah comes to visit they know he will be the perfect person to assist – even only they can work out how to get him up into the tree house, Noah being too heavy for the basket which is the general method of entry.
Of course throughout each of these is again the signature knitting, cakes, often surprising accidental events which are always resolved happily (and with the aid of the aforementioned knitting and cakes).
These are truly hilarious and quirky almost to a point of outlandishly silly which little readers will absolutely love. The belly laughs will be plentiful I predict!
Highly recommended for younger readers from around six years upwards. What a joy they are!
Where to begin with this absolutely glorious book? Once again Tania has created a jewel of colour and style with her distinctive stylised illustrations and combined with information both fascinating and amazing this is a treasure for readers of all ages.
The wealth of facts about a wide variety of our unique animals is presented in bite-sized segments perfect for easy digestion by avid little naturalists from as young as seven. Each beautiful double spread is crammed with such detail yet easy to absorb with life-sized art of such things as teeth or eggs , annotated portrayals of the animal, scientific names, habitats, diet, appearance, distribution and much, much more all of which will delight and intrigue the reader.
The important issue of conservation is not neglected. Several pages conclude the book with vital information about endangered or extinct animals encouraging children to take action to prevent the loss of more of our natural wonders.
The lineage of animal life is included as is a beautiful spread describing the astonishment of European arrivals with reproductions of early representations of these curious creatures.
An extensive glossary and index complete the volume making this the complete package for young investigators and researchers.
Tania knows well that her books normally do not leave my own personal shelves. However I am going to make a supreme sacrifice with this particular title. This year I have had the pleasure of a little American girl who has been one of my keenest participants in library activities of all kinds. Sadly for us, her university lecturer dad has completed his exchange and she and her equally delightful family will be returning to the States. I can think of no better gift to give her as a keepsake of our shared year and know that she will truly love it.
My prediction is that this should definitely be a given for any award short-list and in my opinion a winner. I highly recommend it to you as a valuable addition to your shelves or a special gift for a child of your acquaintance. With Christmas fast approaching it would make a truly prized present in someone’s stocking!
Why yes, some readers of this blog will already know that not only am I non-fiction nerd since childhood but also a poetry nerd. I openly admit this to the children at school who are sometimes a little (?!) resistant to poetry. Of course, I follow this up by totally blowing them away with the magic, humour and depth of poetry.
As it happens, this new anthology, selected by the amazing Jackie French (all hail!) and illustrated by the gorgeous and multi-skilled Tania McCartney will be EASY to sell to poetry-resistant kids. The contributors included roll out like a ‘Who’s Who’ of Australian children’s literature, both past and present.
From such historic luminaries as Norman Lindsay, Judith Wright and Dorothea MacKellar to contemporary stars such as Meredith Costain, Suzanne Gervay, Meg McKinlay, Andy Griffiths, Shaun Tan – *gasp* and pause for breath, this is one of the most comprehensive and quality poetry collections I’ve ever encountered for children.
Page after glorious page of amazing verse accompanied by Tania’s iconic illustrations, it is pure joy to hold, read and savour. There have been many anthologies of Australian poetry published for children but I would have to think hard about one that presents both old and new offerings to children with such a contemporary and fresh format. I know that poetry is, of course, still embedded in the curriculum but children so often seem to be disengaged with the way it is presented to them. I fully believe that this new collection will give children a point of connection and impart the joy of verse.
Sir Walter Scott said “Teach your children poetry; it opens the mind, lends grace to wisdom and makes the heroic virtues hereditary.”
We owe it to our children to not only show them the beauty of narrative literature but the amazing landscape of poetic creativity.
Highly recommended for children and adults from around eight years upwards. This one’s not going anywhere except my own shelves.