Book reviews by Rebecca, teachers' resources

Book review: Press Here by Hervé Tullet

Reviewed by Rebecca Newman, Editor
"Press Here (cover)"
Press Here by Hervé Tullet

With thick, shiny white pages and brightly coloured spots, this is a fun picture book. It has instructions on each page and you’re asked to press or tap on the dots. It’s a book, so you KNOW pressing or tapping is not going to do anything … and yet … you can’t help pressing and blowing and tapping and shaking that book and doing whatever else you are asked to do to make the dots move and change.

I read it with a 5 year old and a 7 year old and they can’t get enough of it.

As well as being fun to read (and press), it helps with understanding some Maths ideas, too. It’s fun to test out some predictions: “If you tip the book this way, what do you think will happen to the dots?” Tipping the book to the left will make all the dots slide to that side of the book (well, they don’t REALLY, but it looks like they do!) and tipping it to the right will make them all slide the other way. And with all the dots lined up, you have to stop for a bit of counting every now and then (you just can’t help yourself).

This book trailer shows you how it works.

Press Here by Hervé Tullet, Allen & Unwin, ISBN 9781742375281
A review copy of this book was sent to us from the publisher.
authors, teachers' resources

A new book from Wendy Orr (out Feb 2011)

"Wendy Orr, author"
Wendy Orr, author of Nim's Island, and Raven's Mountain.

Wendy Orr has a new book coming out in February 2011, Raven’s Mountain. You can read a post about the book on her Author Journal.

Here’s a bit about it (from Allen & Unwin’s website):

A gripping wilderness-adventure by the author of Nim’s Island. Raven’s sister and step-father are trapped under rocks on the mountain top, and their lives depend on Raven making it down the mountain to get help. But can she find the way?


When Raven woke up by the lake she just knew this day would be one she would remember forever. And as they climbed the mountain they saw bears—a Mama bear and two cubs. Not just ordinary black bears—two were white, like the Spirit Bears in the north who are said to help people in trouble. Raven is first to make it to the top of the mountain and she’s doing a top-of-the-mountain dance before her sister Lily and stepfather Scott catch up. But suddenly the rock under her feet cracks and she is falling, tumbling, crashing down over the edge of the cliff.

When she finally comes to, no one answers her calls. The rockfall is covering the trail where she last saw Lily and Scott. Eventually she hears her sister through a tiny crack in the rocks, but Scott is lying twisted and unconscious. Raven must find help. But can she find her way down through the forest? And what if she meets the bears they saw on the way up? Or wolves? She has no food, little water, no phone and no compass. And it’s late in the day. Still, Raven will do anything to save her family.

We can’t wait to read it!

authors, info, teachers' resources

Meet the author: Dr John Long

"Dr John Long"
Dr John Long. Photo courtesy Allen & Unwin

Dr John Long is a palaeontologist and a writer of fiction and nonfiction for children, including The Big Picture Book of Human Civilisation. We interviewed Dr Long about writing nonfiction, and you can read some of his answers in the spring 2010 issue of Alphabet Soup magazine. We couldn’t fit all of his answers in the magazine—so we thought we’d post the whole interview here. Read on!

Why did you become a writer?

I have always enjoyed writing since my school days. I used to write essays for the school magazine about dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals and later in  high school I contributed poems to the school magazine. I think enjoying reading is the first step towards thinking about writing. I read lots of books and enjoy trying my hand at writing for different levels of factual information, from straight nonfiction information books to occasional  works of fiction where I can really indulge in using my imagination. (I’ve actually published 3 children’s novels.)

What do you love best about being a writer?

Using my imagination and trying to think of new ways to present information that is engaging and inspiring to my readers. I also love that moment when your new book comes out and you get to hold it in your hand.

Where do you live?

Currently I’m living in Santa Monica, a beach-side town within Los Angeles in the USA. It’s a great place with plenty of open space, where mountains meet the Pacific Ocean. It’s a groovy neighbourhood to be part of.

Do you have any pets?

Yes a white fluffy cat called Molly. We saved her from the RSPCA cat haven and have recently flown her over from Australia to be with us in the USA. I reckon she must be the first member of her family to travel overseas! She loves watching squirrels and hummingbirds from our balcony.

You’ve written fiction and nonfiction books for children. What’s different about writing a nonfiction book?

Writing nonfiction means you have to be accurate with your facts and figures, so there’s a lot of research work goes into making sure everything is correct. This often involves me ringing up professional friends who have specialist knowledge in some fields, or checking library references.

"Dinosaurs of Australia and New Zealand"Was it easy to get your first book published?

It took quite a bit of work. I had an idea to write a book about Australian dinosaurs back in 1989 and wrote a sample section and did the drawings myself then sent it off to a number of publishers. After a few months I received an letter from a publisher saying they liked the idea and wanted to offer me a contract. That book, Dinosaurs of Australia, was published in 1991 and has been reprinted 2 times since (1993, 1998).

Are there any downsides to being a writer?

Yes, sometimes you commit to writing a book and as the deadline draws closer to deliver the final manuscript, you realise you have a lot more work to do, so you end up writing at nights and working all weekends to meet those deadlines. Also once the writing is done and you have your book in press with a publisher, you then have a lot of subsequent work checking proofs and organizing illustrations, and permissions for using artwork, which can also take up lots of time when you least expected it.

What was your favourite book as a child?

I loved The Hobbit by Tolkien and also The Lord of the Rings but I only worked my way through the latter in my teenage years.

How do you do your research for a book?

As a scientist (paleontologist) by trade I am already accomplished in doing research work. I know that I can search databases for primary information from scientific and history journals, search museums collections for suitable objects to illustrate my writing, and can even ring up other experts in the field to get information or arrange to have my writing checked for accuracy.

"The Big Picture Book of Human Civilisation"When you write a book like The Big Picture Book of Human Civilisation, do you have to find your own photographs and images for the book?

As I have travelled the world extensively I sometimes draw upon my own images for some of my books, but most are sourced from photo libraries or as images form museums  that the publisher can buy for use in a book. I use many of my own photos in both The Big Picture Book and The Big Picture Book of Environments but none of my own shots were used in The Big Picture Book of Human Civilisation.

What do you like to do when you are not writing?

I love reading, exploring new places and bushwalking in wilderness environments.

Of your own books, which is your favourite?

Probably the book I am most proud of is The Big Picture Book, as I’ve received a lot of great feedback about it from both children and teachers in Australian schools when I give talks.

"The Big Picture Book"

Would you like to have lived in another point in history?

No, I’m very happy living with our present levels of medical science and advanced technology right now, thank you very much.

Are you working on a book at the moment? Can you tell us something about it?

Yes I’m nearly always working on a new book at any time. I want to explain in very simple language for children How Do We Know Stuff?

How do you know when you read something in the paper, or on the internet or see it on TV that it is likely to be true or an approximation of the truth? So much information in the media is simply not accurate, and I want to provide kids with a bit of a roadmap to be able to decide for themselves how to determine the accuracy of information they find.

Do you have any advice for young writers (and in particular young writers of nonfiction)?

Yes, make sure you first know how to find reliable (i.e. accurate) information and then think about how you want to get it across to the reader in ways that haven’t been done before. Writing is much like speaking, if you can communicate vocally well you can generally write well. The trick is how you present your information to make it exciting and engaging, and this is where time is needed for thinking. Practise writing at any chance you get, the more you write, the better you become.

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Book reviews by Rebecca, poetry, teachers' resources

Big Book of Verse for Aussie Kids

Big Book of Verse for Aussie Kids cover

This book is so much fun! The Editor, Jim Haynes, has collected over SIX HUNDRED poems in it, including a mix of old favourites (see if your parents and grandparents know them!) and more modern verse including games and chants, limericks, nonsense verse, poems about animals and birds, gross and gruesome poems … and more!

Here are a few of our favourites (but with over 600 poems, there are many more to choose from):

Fancy Dress (Anonymous)

There once was a fellow named Paul
Who went to a fancy dress ball.
He thought he would risk it
And go as a biscuit,
And a dog ate him up in the hall.

The Drovers by CJ Dennis

Out across the spinifex, out across the sand,
Out across the saltbush to Never Never land
That’s the way the drovers go, jogging down the track,
That’s the way the drovers go. But how do they come back?
Back across the saltbush from Never Never land.
Back across the spinifex, back across the sand.

Why? (Anonymous)

Why does a clock face not have a nose?
Why do foothills not have toes?
Do all-day laundries close at night?
Will the teeth on a garden rake ever bite?
Why can’t a needle wink its eye?
Why can’t the wings of a building fly?
What is the sound of a gum tree’s bark?
Can you leave your car in a national park?

I’m pretending not to notice the poem by Hilaire Belloc on page 334 called ‘Rebecca (Who Slammed Doors For Fun And Perished Miserably)’. Do you know it?

Tell us your favourite poem, and we can celebrate [Inter]national Poetry Month together!

~ Rebecca, Editor, Alphabet Soup magazine

Big Book of Verse for Aussie Kids, edited by Jim Haynes, Allen & Unwin, 2009

Our review copy was sent to us by Allen & Unwin