31 March 2009


A little awards puffery.

2009 NSW Premier's Literary Prize
Short list: Ethel Turner Prize for Young People's Literature
Joanne Horniman My Candlelight Novel Allen & Unwin

Short list: Patricia Wrightson Prize for Children's Literature
Shaun Tan Tales from Outer Suburbia Allen & Unwin

2009 Children's Book Council of Australia

Short List: Book of the Year - Older Readers 2009
Shaun Tan Tales from Outer Suburbia Allen & Unwin

Short List: Book of the Year - Early Childhood 2009
Chris McKimmie Special Kev Allen & Unwin

We say: HOORAY! Congratulations to Joanne, Shaun & Chris.

27 March 2009

Productivity Commission - say it isn't so

It wasn't so long ago we were singing the praises of the articulate and impassioned submissions made to the Productivity Commission regarding Copyright Restrictions on the Parallel Importation of Books.

It seems these submissions have largely fallen on impervious hearts and minds as the discussion draft report released by the Productivity Commission suggests that allowing parallel importation is the destination they have in their sights. Which is alas. We shake our heads in disbelief. This big bad is harder to slay than we imagined (aren't they all? except for that one that turned out to be actual postage-stamp size).

In a nutshell they have recommended that publishers and authors retain territorial copyright on works only for the first 12 months of a book's life, after which time booksellers could purchase any edition of that book from any source in the world. Not good news.

The Australian Publishers Association have labelled the draft "unworkable and destructive". And Text's Michael Heyward expressed his disappointment out loud over here.

Further submissions are invited. [Submit! Clever, articulate, impassioned peeps, submit!]

We are ever hopeful that the PC have what it takes to put a stake through the heart of the PI reform recommendations in the draft report - or at the very least, that they give them a soul.

26 March 2009

Let the Wild Rumpus Start

The first proper trailer for Spike Jonze's Where the Wild Things Are is out in the world.

About this film, Onions are variously:
  • excited
  • nervous
  • sceptical
  • hopeful
  • rapturous
The production certainly seems to have been in and out of weeks and across at least a year. One might suspect mischief of one kind and another. All fingers, toes and claws crossed.

UPDATE According to Film Victoria the trailer features Williamstown, Werribee and the Dandenongs. The Wild Things seem to have the House of Onion almost completely surrounded. At quite a distance, true, but still... *waves out the window*

24 March 2009

SNS - short novel service

The MWF are have hit upon an excellent idea for a competition.

Instead of calling for The Great Australian Novel, they are casting about for The Great Australian Text Message (TGATM) or Gr8 Oz Txt Msg, and subscribers have been asked to enter their suggestions. They concede they borrowed this clever idea from US author, Peter Hyman's, Gr8 American Txt Msgs which include:
Mo B Dik
Call me.

Advtrs of HckFin
DQMONT but I thnk ant pol-e wnts 2 sivilize u.
Hd fer the Trtories. Tke the rft Jim dsnt wnt it 2day.

Genius, right? So we figured it might be fun to apply it to kids' books. Turns out it's quite a challenge - but we have made a start.
Chrlt's Wb
Mrcle on da web. Chekit @ Zmans farm.

Hw i Lv Nw
H8 war, luv cuz. How r u?

P'ton Bear
Pls lk aftr dis br, ta.

Wnd in th Wllws
Sprng cleaning sux. C U at Rivr or WWd or TdHall.

Get your text on, everyone.


20 March 2009

Things we've noticed

Pigs are popular.

Wilbur - Charlotte's Web by E. B. White
Babe - The Sheep-pig by Dick King-Smith
Applesauce - Applesauce and the Christmas Miracle by Glenda Millard, illustrated by Stephen Michael King
Old Pig - by Margaret Wild, illustrated by Ron Brooks
Max - George Clooney's pig
The Three Little Pigs*

Nobody wants the pig to die.

Perhaps that's why it all went so badly on William Golding's island (Lord of the Flies) and George Orwell's farm (Animal Farm) - they chose the wrong path for the pigs...

So if in doubt, save your bacon.

* We do have a soft spot for the big bad wolf, especially as the little pigs have a penchant for inappropriate development.

18 March 2009

We're under their spell

You didn't really need to finish that novel/edit that manuscript/organise that school fete/save that world, did you? Good.

Because The Times has a Spelling Bee.

(Curse you, P, for alerting us to this.)

Things that make you go OM

We are always on the look out for book design to admire, covers that catch our eye and make us go: Oh. And: My.

These ones are for adult readers, but we'll forgive them.

My Unwritten Books by George Steiner

Things We Didn't See Coming by Steven Amsterdam

One Red Paperclip: Or How an Ordinary Man Achieved His Dream with the Help of a Simple Office Supply by Kyle Macdonald

And sometimes when we are casting about for inspiration or simply need to catch our breath, we can be found skulking around the Covers blog or dallying in An Archive of Book Cover Designs and Designers or just slipping on over to see what's new on The Book Design review.

It seems we are inordinately fond of the less-is-more approach to book design, and we must confess that a little well-placed nostalgia can win us over too. You know what we mean, because really, who can look away from the very handsome Popular Penguins that have sprung up in every book store in the land.

11 March 2009

A Croc Called Capone: Anatomy of a Cover Story

1) Author writes excellent book about crocodile called Capone.

2) Editor & designer discuss cover possibilities.

3) Designer googles images for inspiration.

4) Designer & editor fall in love with an American - a six-foot fibreglass alligator and decide to:
  • invite him to Australia;
  • hire a studio for cover shoot;
  • send him to book launches around the country for 8–12-year-olds to sit upon.

5) Alas. Alligator suffers from otitis medea and doesn’t care for travel.

6) Designer & editor reconvene. Agree upon new strategy of asking author to act as crocodile talent-scout from his home town: Darwin – a croc mecca!

7) Author responds to the challenge with alacrity, armed with mobile phone camera. Soon, hopeful candidates are vying for attention in the croc call.

No. Too plump and soft.

No. Too articulated.

No. Too pale and spotty.

What ho! Croc A is pale and spotty, but what about his handsome friend, Croc B – he of the orange eye and the squeeze-squeak?

8) Decision made, failed candidates informed not to call us we’ll call them, Croc B invited to Melbourne.

9) Croc B duly arrives in Express Post satchel and settles into new home on the Onion first floor. Designer feeds him chicken-flavoured instant noodles.

10) Now for the design. We have a series style to consider: the Dog cover.

11) But we can’t have a cigar on the cover, and the blue is too similar to the Dog’s blue. Even if it is water instead of a doona.

12) The green isn’t right either, and Croc B has lost his Capone-ness along with the cigar, despite the designer-enhanced bullet holes.
Time to re-think.

13) Here’s Capone, his namesake. Let’s make a crime-novel cover!

14) Or a Vegas croc?

15) But it’s still not right. We return to a Dog-like approach.

16) Now we’re getting somewhere, and Croc B loves his new fedora and tie. But the type is too much like white chocolate, and we are enamoured of the darkest Lindt around here.

17) Bingo! Croc B is happy, designer is happy, everyone’s happy!

Now for the back cover…

This story brought to you by A Croc Called Capone & The Dog that Dumped on My Doona. With special guest appearances by author Barry Jonsberg, and Onions, Hilary & Bruno.

The more things change

Breaking news: young people aren't behaving as their elders believe they should!

Shock, horror. Get out of town. Stone the crows. ORLY? YARLY!

This time it's college students - apparently they're reading too much STEPHANIE MEYER and not enough SERIOUS FICTION.
Warning: This article includes the phrase 'real novel for adults'.*

Sigh. Remind me again why we slave over all these fake books for kids.

*And the 'real novel', Khaled Hosseini's A Thousand Splendid Suns, is apparently only being read by college students because it 'is the choice of a million splendid book clubs'.
Hooray for book clubs, right? Right? No, somehow this still feels like boo for students. Let us state for the record that we Onions are definitely pro-book clubs.

06 March 2009

An Onion's best friend

What a lovely rainy day. A good day to be snuggled in your burrow or safe in your den.

Our ten favourite animal characters in children's fiction (in no particular order)

  1. Wilbur (We could fill up all 10 spots with characters from Charlotte's Web, so Wilbur is standing also for Charlotte, Templeton and the rest of the inhabitants of the Zuckerman farm)
  2. Buck from The Call of the Wild
  3. Badger from Wind in the Willows (You may cry for Ratty, Mole, or Toad, but Badger is an Onion favourite)
  4. Reepicheep from several of the Narnia books
  5. Simpkin from The Tailor of Gloucester
  6. Pooh and Piglet (There was also a vote for Owl, because he can spell his own name W.O.L.)
  7. The Wombat from Diary of a Wombat
  8. Mogget from the Old Kingdom trilogy
  9. Tao from The Incredible Journey (and yes we love handsome Luath & dear old Bodger as well, but we are cat people)
  10. Kapecki from Peka-boo the Smallest Bird in All the World

Honourable mentions to animals that are just animals. (No speaking, no anthropomorphism, just wonderful, faithful, brave animals)

  1. Hedwig from the Potterverse
  2. Jack from the Little House books
  3. Fortinbras from the Wrinkle in Time series
  4. Old Yeller
  5. Willow from Sunny Side Up

And an extra extra extremely honourable shout-out to Mr Chicken - the most loveable cooked chicken ever to grace children's literature*.

Here is an EXCLUSIVE sneak preview of Mr Chicken's next excursion:

*Ahem... Sonya Hartnett thinks so too:
'The world's most beautiful city meets the world's most startling chicken ... Not since Quasimodo has Paris been host to a monster of such charm. In typical exuberant style, Hobbs takes us abroad with the gentlemanly Mr Chicken, who tours the magnifique sites of Paris unaware that his enormous top-hatted self is the most astonishing spectacle of all. Joyously colourful, brilliantly observed, hilariously wry, Mr Chicken Goes to Paris is Leigh Hobbs' masterpiece.' - Sonya Hartnett

You'll have to wait until August to get your own copy of Mr Chicken Goes to Paris, but keep your eyes peeled because we may not be able to resist letting him make an appearance here every now and then before that.

But back to the list... which beloved animals have we missed?

05 March 2009

Things to please an Onion in a fire-swept state

1) Temperature droppage & wind whisperage. Phew.

What a difference a day (or two) makes.
Thanks again, School of Earth Sciences at Melbourne University.
We are much enamoured of your graphs.

2) Rain on the radar. Hallelujah!

Okay, so it's not much rain, but there have been so few drops this year that the thirsty earth is greedily slurping it up.
Thanks to the good folk at the BOM diggity.
We are especially enamoured of your loops.

02 March 2009

'Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting. So... get on your way.'

We Onions google (tr. v.) many, many, many times a day. Many.

So we're loving Google's recognition of the 105th birthday of Theodor Seuss Geisel (aka Theo LeSieg and Dr Seuss)!

How fortunate for the designers at Google that 'Geisel's figures are often rounded and somewhat droopy.'