Tuesday 5 February 2013


Reviews on children’s picture books and novels are important for many reasons – but one of the most important is that it gets your books noticed by school and public librarians. Book sales are not limited to libraries, but they are often the backbone that prepares the way for purchases by children and parents, as well as future paperback sales.

Many librarians go by the ‘rule of 3.’ They will only purchase a book from the many listed in publishers’ catalogues if they have been reviewed at least three times. When your books are purchased for libraries, the possibilities for school and library visits (and more sales) are endless. It is less important that the reviews are positive or negative, more important that your book has been reviewed. A Starred review or special mention beyond the basic listing of your book is even a bigger coup.

Book reviews give your book an advantage to perspective parent buyers. If you are planning to promote your book through school programs and book signings, placing positive comments in reviews into your promotion packet, on a flier or on your website is an extra endorsement for your book
As an author, reading reviews of children’s books is helpful even before your book is sold and published. It is a way to find out what is liked, what is needed, or what is overdone. It is also a good way to gain ideas for writing a short ‘review’ of your book in your cover letter, as well as a jacket blurb if you are asked to provide one.

Since most print review publications print their reviews the quarter or month of a book’s publication, your book must be sent to the reviewer ahead of time. Some review sources must be done through your publisher, while others will accept books from authors. Check websites or call for information well ahead of your book’s publication date.
There are numerous magazines which review children’s book. Here some of the top ones:

BUZZ WORDS (THE LATEST BUZZ ON CHILDREN’S BOOKS) www.buzzwordsmagazine.com                                                                            This fortnightly online magazine publishes more reviews annually of children’s books than any other Australian publication. It has a voluntary reviewing staff, mostly freelance writers and children’s book authors.                      
Vicki Stanton, Compiler/Editor                                                                                           

Aussiereviews (http://www.aussiereviews.com) is an independently run, not for profit website which reviews Australian books of all genres, with a special focus on children’s and young adult titles. Reviews are written with a wide audience in mind, but many of its hits come from education-related hosts, suggesting that they are regularly read by educators and students. At present the site is averaging about 500 hits per day

The online website does review most books received, but stresses that receipt of a book does not guarantee a review – most reviews are written by the one reviewer, and so it is not possible to read and review every book published in a year. They are more likely to review a book if they first receive an email from the publisher (rather than the author) in the form of a media release, with details of how it can request a review copy. This allows it to select those titles it is most interested in. This contact between publisher and reviewer also removes the personal contact between reviewer and author which can make impartiality difficult. Review requests can be emailed to webmaster@aussiereviews.com


The official journal of the CBCA is a periodical called Reading Time. Published quarterly, its brief is to review all books for children and young adults published in Australia, many from New Zealand, as well as any other high quality international publications.
Dr John Cohen
PO Box 4062
Ashmont NSW 2650

Subtitled Talking about Books for Children, this magazine is available by subscription and is published five times a year. It has an online subject guide to children’s literature called The Source.
Rayma Turton
Email proprietor, James Turton: james@magpies.net.au
PO Box 7128
Leura NSW 2780
THE READING STACK                                                                                      The Reading Stack is an on-line book review magazine distributed monthly to a free subscriber based mailing list. Review titles can be sent to The Reading Stack, PO Box 142, Bulli NSW 2516. Because we have limited space and we only print reviews for books we recommend, we cannot guarantee a review. Review copies are donated to local schools and libraries but return can be arranged if sufficient postage is included. For further information email thereadingstack@people.net.au or visit the website www.thereadingstack.com
This is ‘the’ industry magazine subscribed to by most booksellers and publishers, and many others, including authors. It has a quarterly supplement JUNIOR BOOKSELLER+PUBLISHER which has a wide readership.
Matthia Dempsey
PO Box 101
Port Melbourne Vic 3207

Pam Macintyre
PO Box 4286
The University of Melbourne,
Parkville  Vic  3052

Dr Gloria Latham
RMIT School of Education
Building 220,
Level 3, Room 02
Bundoora Vic  3083

The magazine for book lovers
Rowena Cseh
22 Booth Street
Balmain NSW 2041

Peter Rose
PO Box 2320
Richmond South Vic 3121

Ken Merrigan
Editor 'Education Age'
GPO Box 257C
Melbourne 3001

Tania McCartney
15 Nugent Close
NSW 2619

Don’t forget also to submit your review copy to the Education Editors of major newspapers, such as Sydney Morning Herald, The Australian, Canberra Times, Newcastle Herald and West Australian. Local newspapers and magazines can help you promote the word about your book, especially in your area. Many times a review may be picked up by another newspaper. You might also consider submitting copies of your book to writers’ centres around Australia for review in their newsletters.
AMAZON.COM:                                                                                             The online mega-bookstore has become an important tool for writers and publishers. Not only can book reviews from print review magazines be placed on the site with your book, but readers can also review and rate your book. For information on how to put your reviews on your site, go to the Help menu at Amazon.com. From there click Send Email. In that menu go to Author & Publisher Services. Here you can list your book in the Amazon.com catalogue, correct information on your book’s page, and enhance your book’s detail page in many ways. You will also find the mailing address to submit information, as well as how to submit through the Internet.

Dianne (Di) Bates is the author of over 100 books, mostly for young people. Her website is www.enterprisingwords.com

Monday 4 February 2013


In 1980, three-year-old Trevelyan Edwards reported to his mother that the reason for rainwater leaking into his home was a hippopotamus on the roof eating cake. His mum, Hazel Edwards, subsequently wrote a picture book, There’s a Hippopotamus on Our Roof Eating Cake, which has now sold more than a million copies in five languages, as well as in Braille and Auslan. The influence and support of family members on the writing and illustrating of children’s books is immeasurable, but how different is it when family members collaborate creatively?

Two writers living under the same roof has many advantages, as I well know, being a much-published children’s author married to another. Bill Condon and I began our writing collaboration at around the same time as we began our romantic relationship, about 30 years ago. Our first success was a collection of plays titled Madcap Cafe, followed soon after by a children’s adventure novel. Writing together resulted in many laughs - and occasional stressful moments. Nowadays, each of us has published over 100 books, only a few in collaboration. There are, however, many advantages of keeping our writing lives “all in the family.” Besides the extra joy at Lending Rights and royalty payment times – and learning of CBCA and other awards - these include sharing ideas, passing on publishing information and having another wordsmith on tap when you can’t quite think of that right word or plot twist. We both read our works in progress and offer encouragement. When one of us is deeply entrenched in the writing of a project, the other becomes the housekeeper, taking over the cooking, cleaning and shopping. Rarely do we have artistic differences: instead we are one another’s muse, writing confidante and publicist. It’s a great life keeping our writing all in the family!

Another creative partnership is that of Paul Collins and Meredith Costain. When they met in 1995, Paul wrote mostly for adults, although he had recently begun writing for fantasy collections for various publishers. Meredith had written or edited material solely for the children’s market: along with her editorial work on the Victorian Education Department school magazines and several reading schemes, her titles ranged from teenage popular fiction and non-fiction through to picture books and novelisation of the TV show Heartbreak High.

Their talents melded perfectly. Paul was conversant with the science fiction and fantasy genres, and Meredith was immersed in the world of children’s literature: between them, they knew most of Australia’s genre writers and illustrators. Together they created four boxed sets of speculative fiction anthologies and have since been responsible for introducing many adult writers into the children’s sphere. Meanwhile, their combined talents produced a couple of chapter books and 18 non-fiction books (complete with photo research). These days they collaborate less frequently, although both show their work to one another for proofreading and brainstorming. Like Bill and I, each has a separate study, phone line and internet connection.

Prize-winning children’s author Susanne Gervay recently worked in collaboration with her daughter Tory on a YA novel. Tory, Susanne says, was the driving force of That's Why I Wrote This Song (HarperCollins). She wanted me to collaborate with her to reveal the real issues facing girls growing up,’ Susanne says. 'Like many young people, Tory expresses her inner self through music. She writes lyrics and melody and has a beautiful voice, having studied music since she was five, playing the piano and trumpet, and performing in bands.’ 

Tory inspired the novel’s storyline set against the rock music scene, about four 16 to 17-year-old girls connected through music and their relationships with their fathers - the good, the bad and the ugly - and how their fathers affected their relationships with boys and each other.”

Tory wrote the rock lyrics that drive the text, lyrics for songs such as ‘Psycho Dad’ and ‘I Wanna Be Found’, which reveal character and theme, as well as pushing the narrative forward.

YA novelist Krista Bell's son Damien has illustrated some of her Lothian book covers. Damien, who is now an adult, has been a passionate and eclectic reader all of his life, Krista reports.

‘My first book was published when he was just four and so he's grown up taking for granted that his ma writes books and gets them published (in fact one for each year of his life so far, which seems fitting). When he was younger, as I wrote drafts of my stories, Damien would want to read them and at one point he was suddenly reading and editing my work faster than I could produce it.’

‘My major focus has been on junior fiction for readers of 10-14. When Damien was that age he was my major sounding board for all aspects of my work. When I'd finished a first draft, he would read and edit it, and he would sometimes also make plotting suggestions.

‘In 2002 when Helen Chamberlin, my publisher at Lothian Books, asked me to suggest who might do the chapter headings for my junior novel Who Cares? I was bold enough to suggest that my seventeen-year-old son, Damien Bell, might do them.

‘The upshot was that Damien did five chapter heading cameos. They were published in 2003 in my book which went on to win the 2004 Australian Family Therapists' Award for Children's Literature. So, technically, he's an award-winning illustrator! Since then Damien has drawn his mother’s entire junior novel chapter heading illustrations: four in total so far.

‘I'm a very lucky author to have such a talented illustrator with whom to collaborate,’ his proud mother says.

Another couple who work together on the creation of children’s books is historian-author Nadia Wheatley and her partner, artist Ken Searle, both of whom have enjoyed considerable success in their respective endeavours.

In 2005 Nadia and Ken worked with sixteen students from eight Sydney schools - some Muslim, some Catholic and some government. As well as experiencing the natural environment, the children were encouraged to learn about harmony between the traditional owners and the land, and to find harmony in friendship and collaboration. Going Bush, the resulting picture book, showcases some of the students' illustration and writing, linked together with art and design by Ken and a narrative by Nadia. Published in March 2007, the outstanding book – and their earlier co-produced book, Papunya School Book of Country and History - is testament to what can be achieved when a talented couple collaborates creatively.

The family partnerships mentioned here are not all that Australian children’s books have produced. There are, for example, the picture book collaborations between illustrator-designer Donna Rawlins and her husband, author Simon French. And who can overlook the amazing output that resulted in author Ruth Park working with her illustrator daughters Deborah and Kilmenny Niland to produce numerous award-winning picture books? It all goes to show that creativity does run in families and runs very well indeed.

The website of Dianne Bates and Bill Condon is www.enterprisingwords.com