21 December 2011

On the twelfth day of Christmas...

my true love sent to me...

* Yes, we KNOW there are only seven books. But there are eight films, and we chose the moment of the eighth film to say our farewells - so eight Harry Potters it is. 
** We confess that (sadly) we didn't get to eat the gorgeous Santa-hat brownies as they were made by J-WI in the Mothership, who borrowed the idea from  daisy's world who adapted the recipe from Erica's Sweet Tooth.

15 December 2011

A Very Onion Christmas - Teen & YA

O come, all ye faithful, 
Joyful and triumphant, 
O come ye, 
O come ye to another Onion Christmas list... 

Behold - books that are sure to tempt the teenager in your life...

The Wilful Eye (Tales from the Tower Volume One) & The Wicked Wood  (Tales from the Tower Volume Two) Edited by Isobelle Carmody and Nan McNab  

First of all, we'll just give you a moment to be bowled over by the covers of this wondrous pair of tall volumes with their beautiful be-winged women... You won't even have to wrap them - they look almost exactly like Christmas presents already in their red and green finery. Now, on to the stories themselves - how to encapsulate the breathtaking result of combining the forces of a dozen formidable storytellers? Each story is a treat to savour, an escape to a different reality: dark, passionate, bewitching tales of obsession and mystery, and loaded with the remorseless resolution of fairytales. They're kick-arse stories, there's no denying it. Kick. Arse.

Who for? Well, not for the fainthearted! Any fan of fabulous fairytale retelling, aged 16 to 96, will luxuriate in this enchanted collection.

Drink, Slay Love by Sarah Beth Durst 

Pearl is your average teenage girl. Partial to car theft and high-speed driving. Confident unicorns DO. NOT. EXIST. And highly flammable in direct sunlight. Which is perfectly normal. For a vampire. Well, that is until a were-unicorn stabs her in the heart with his sparkly horn and her whole vampire world is turned upside-down. Tolerance to sunlight. Sympathy for her victims. Family conflict. High school politics. In other words: T-R-O-U-B-L-E. Twists - tick! Turns - tick! Clever - tick! Entertaining - tick! Funny - tick! Well-played, Ms Durst. Very well-played indeed.

Who for? 12-16 year old girls who are looking to escape into somebody else's life over the Christmas break.

Only Ever Always by Penni Russon 

Sometimes a gift is unwrapped, briefly regarded, then cast unceremoniously onto the I-will-never-care-for-that-item pile (otherwise known as ebay). But there are other times when a gift is so loved that you feel you may never be able to part from it - even if it's something you should have grown out of by now. Particularly if it was given to you by someone truly special.

In Only Ever Always, Clare has a music box given to her by her adored Uncle Charlie, and she's not sure she's ready to let it go - even though the intended recipient is Charlie's imminent new baby. Clare wants to cling to the music box, to childhood, for just a little longer. But then Charlie is in a terrible accident - and his life hangs in the balance. In her grief, Clare retreats into dreams and the music box transports her to another place, a broken place, where there is another girl, Clara, who is almost exactly like Clare, who is trying to survive in a broken world. Clare. And Clara. The dreamer and the dreamed.This book will stay with you long after you close the last page.

Who for? Any curious, thoughtful or philosophical reader in your life, especially those aged 12-16, and even more especially if you can sneak it off their Christmas pile - while they are distracted by post-gift-giving activities - and slip away somewhere quiet and curl up to enjoy this beautifully crafted little book.

Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi

Warning! If this is the first book you open on Christmas day, you may be in danger of missing Christmas lunch. It is intensely addictive! Once you start reading, you won't be able to stop. Set in a crumbling dystopian world, it is the story of 17-year-old Juliette, who possesses inexplicable powers. Electrifying romance. Heart-stopping adventure. IN-CRED-IB-LY high stakes... Now. Anxiously. Awaiting. Sequel!

Who for? 14-18 year old girls who once upon a time may have loved Twilight,* but have moved on to romance in any genre they can find it. Okay, and girls in their 20s. And we *ahem* definitely know girls in their 30s and 40s who would love it...

 If you're reading this book on a boiling hot Christmas day, you will still shiver as the cold wind the whips down the sand dunes.
If you're surrounded by annoying siblings and too many cousins, you will still feel Dow's solitude in your bones.
If you're reading this in the heart of a continent, you will still smell salt on the breeze and hear the treacherous roar of the ocean in turmoil.
Because Andrew McGahan's writing is so good it will transport you from the Land of Too-much-potato salad to the mysterious world of the Ship Kings. This is a brilliant sea-faring tale - there's blood on the decks and death in the wind. There's a mysterious girl. There's treachery and destiny and following your heart even when it seems impossible. And Dow's adventures are just beginning, so get on board, people.

Who for? 15-18-year-olds, mariners - ancient or otherwise, and Andrew McGahan fans of all ages everywhere.

Taken Away by Celine Kiernan   

On Christmas day, when everyone else is snoozing after eating too much, somtimes all you want to do is to escape. So be transported to Ireland. 1974. 15-year-old twin brothers Pat and Dom are living in their seaside holiday house after their demented nan burned down their actual house. It's not the same without all the cousins and aunts and uncles crammed in, and things soon take a turn for the CREEPY.
'It was a boy. Maybe ten years of age. White face. Dark, dark eyes, underscored with deep lines, surrounded with purple shadows...It took a moment for him to register my presence. Then his eyes jumped to mine. I flinched, terrified by the certainty that we'd done this before: me looking up at him; him looking down on me - a solemn-eyed boy of ten, untouched by the wind and rain...'

Who for? 13-16 year-olds and anyone who loves un-put-downable ghost stories, historical mysteries, fabulous characters you can love to pieces, or all of the above.

 Sensitive Creatures by Mandy Ord

If you have not yet had the heart-lifting-ly wonderful experience of meeting Mandy Ord's One-Eyed Girl, get thee to a book shop immediately. Read snippets in the store, then buy it and have it expertly wrapped and ready for your favourite someone to enjoy on Christmas day. Mandy is truly special - one of Australia's most exciting young comic artists, and this collection of stories offers an intimate portrait of her attempts to make sense of the world. Herewith rave reviews over at The Book Show, in The Age, twice.

It's about dogs and girlfriends and bums and hoodies and bogans and bearded men and one of our all-time favourites: mean people on trains.

Who for? Comics and graphic novel enthusiasts, Melbourne-reflected-on-the-page enthusiasts, wonder-of-life enthusiasts... and anyone who is inspired by vivid visual storytelling.

Always-and-ever favourites

Yellowcake  by Margo Lanagan

A Pocketful of Eyes by Lili Wilkinson

The Shattering by Karen Healey

Being Here by Barry Jonsberg

The Golden Day By Ursula Dubosarsky

* Yes, dear reader. Contrary to what the interwebs may have you believe, there are, like, eleventy bazillion readers out there who LOVED Twilight - regardless of what they may have said about it in public...

13 December 2011

A Very Onion Christmas - younger readers

We continue our Christmas gift extravaganza with books for younger readers, or, as we like to call them, People Born After Bear Grylls Became the Youngest British Climber to Scale Mount Everest But Before Kanye West Released His First Album.

Ho ho ho! Merry Christmas!

Do not give this book to your young person if you want to see them at all in the days immediately after Christmas. Because once they've begun, finding out what happens to Goldie and Toadspit and Bonnie will wait for no Boxing Day Test; it will wait for no Sydney to Hobart start; it will wait for no visit to Great Auntie Beryl's; it will wait for nothing. The second in the wonderful Keepers series, City of Lies is full of suspense, and invention and new characters - plus the old favourites in a whole new scrape.

Who for? 8-12 year-olds who love to have adventures of their own. And you, if you can prise it out of their hands.

Everyone loves a bee - and everyone loves a spot of bee dancing. But the bees on the Bell estate are not dancing. They are dying! And we all know what that means... No more honey! No more glorious summer fruits! No more freshly harvested vegetables for Mrs Simpson to make into mouth-watering pies! Darius Bell is determined to get to the bottom of this impending disaster, and he and his friends do so in a completely captivating fashion. Clever co-operation, delightful determination, and  stellar storytelling. Delicious from start to finish - just like Christmas dinner.

Buzzwords: bee-rilliant, bee-eautiful, bee-guiling

Who for? 8-12-year-olds, especially those who loved Darius Bell and the Glitter Pool.

Crow Country by Kate Constable

This book. Oh, this book. It's a beautiful thing, inside and out. You want to hold it in your hands; you want to carry it in your heart. Sadie's story is about righting old wrongs, learning new things, getting to know new people and becoming a new person yourself. It's also a roaring good tale with a strong mystery and an amazing sense of place and time. We love it into a million pieces, and hope that lots of kids are lucky enough to find it in their stockings.

Who for? 9-13-year-olds. If you'd give them Playing Beattie Bow, you could give them this.

You may know Kim Gamble from such beautifully illustrated books as the Tashi series. He's a superb artist, and a teacher who can help anyone see the lines and shapes that things are made of, things like tigers. How cool would it be to learn to draw a tiger!

Who for? The member of your family who is always clutching a pencil.

 Have you ever ridden a motorcycle while being attacked by a monkey? Or pedalled a BMX bike off a cliff before popping your parachute? No? Well have you ever had a child read to you from the Guinness Book of World Records while you're trying to cook dinner? That child will want this book.

Who for? Everyone has someone that would eat this up as a post-Christmas-lunch snack before rushing outside for a bracing game of backyard cricket, or an afternoon spent building a jump for their new skateboard. It's also perfect holiday-house reading.

07 December 2011

A Very Onion Christmas - picture books

It's summer here,
so bring on the Christmas cheer!

In the meadow we can build a snowman...
But only if it's made out of something other than, you know, snow.

Baby, it's cold outside...
If by cold, you mean 28 degrees Celsius then, sure, put on a jumper.

The holly and the ivy, when they are in full bloom ...
We don't know when that might be, but it ain't around the summer solstice; I've got some jasmine if that helps.

Here we know that Christmas will be green and bright...
This is getting warmer...

How'd you like to spend Christmas on Christmas island...
Actually not even a little bit. Not even at all. But at least it's geographically in the ballpark.

All I want for Christmas.... is you!
If by "you", you mean "books" we got you covered - right here, right here! Oh this has turned out marvellously.

We begin with a selection for the youngest people.

Bom! Went the Bear by Nicki Greenberg

He's just a small orange bear, carrying a big bass drum, wanting just to play it.
Uh, oh. Giraffes are hitting high notes! Turtles are singing low!
Frogs! On the xylophone! A brass band of black sheep! Tap-dancing pink elephants!
Good grief. It's beginning to look a lot like a school nativity musical around here...
But our little orange drummer bear is at his happiest marching to the beat of his own drum. BOM! BOM! BOM! BOM! BOM!

Who for?* Small people aged 0-4, particularly those who like to sing and dance and make as much music as they can (or not). 

  Parrot Carrot  by Jol and Kate Temple and Jon Foye

This is a book that looks like... a chook, a shepherd's crook, a crochet hook, like it's totally hilarious. Because IT IS. It's also supercool and lots of fun to read aloud. And as if that wasn't enough there is an app. AN APP, PEOPLE! LOOK AT HOW AWESOME THIS IS!!

Parrot Carrot Safari from Parrot Carrot on Vimeo.

Who for? The 2-5-year-old hipster in your life.

Lazy Daisy, Busy Lizzie by Mary Ellen Jordan and Andrew Weldon

Come on, how can you resist that big cow on the front cover? That's Daisy, she should eat grass, but she's too lazy. Instead she eats jelly, spoon after spoon, all through the morning to late afternoon. Lucky Daisy! And lucky small person who recieves this brilliant picture book on Christmas morning. (PS It has a puffy cover!)

Who for? Any 2-5-year-old misbehaver you know and love.

Ten Blue Wrens  by Elizabeth Honey

This is simply the most beautiful counting book. The pictures are stunning. And only Liz Honey would have you count potoroos, pavlovas and bower-bird treasures.

Who for? Any 4-6 year-old, especially if they live overseas and would love a little bit of Australia - but also extra-especially if they live in Australia and would love to see their own world on the page.

The Little Refugee  by Anh Do, Suzanne Do 
and Bruce Whatley

It's quite likely that you got or gave a copy of Anh Do's The Happiest Refugee for Christmas last year. The funny, moving, inspirational story of Anh and his family's escape to Australia from war-torn Vietnam has been so loved. This is a beautiful picture-book version. We can't really say it better than Sinead, age 7: 'Awesome. I liked how it was sad in the beginning but it was happy in the end.'

Who for? 4-8-year-olds everywhere.

All the Way to W.A. by Roland Harvey

Uncle Kev is at it again. He went looking for the rare Bearded Night Parrot, but now he's lost and someone has to find him. Roland Harvey is always welcome in a stocking.**

Who for? 6-10-year-olds whose hobbies include: being silly, finding Wally, holidaying with family.

* Well the dedication says it's for Poppy and the baby - who we now know to be the delightful Coco - but they are nicely brought up little girls and I'm sure they are more than willing to share with all small people everywhere.
** He's also a man who appreciates a double entendre. So we thought we'd give him one. (Oh, mercy.)

02 December 2011

Friday stuff and items to be thankful for

People in other parts of the world have been celebrating Thanksgiving.

Here we come, late to the party, but willing to stay late and drink the champagne.

Thank you to all our hardworking designers and typesetters and printers. Without you - the ugly and the unreadable.

Thank you to all the booksellers, especially in a tough market. Without you - the unsold and the unhappy.

Thank you to the teachers and librarians. Without you - the lonely books without their one true reader, the lonely readers without their one true book.*

Thank you to all of the Onions, the ones in the House, in the Mothership, in the UK, in NZ, and on the road. Without you - no cake, no expertise, no support, no shop-talk, no one to complain to, no one to laugh with... no us.

And the hugest of all thanks to our wonderful authors and illustrators. Without you - nothing. Nothing at all. Blank pages. Empty minds. Echoing hearts.

Thank you all!

And while we're in the mood for the thanking.

Thanks to MP at Hardie Grant for drawing our attention to  Marcel the Shell with Shoes on.

Thanks to whoever compiled the Christmas Dogs of Flickr

And thanks to PD James for being the magic combination of brilliant crime writer and passionate Jane Austen scholar. 
The Darcys and their guests are preparing to retire for the night when a chaise appears, rocking down the path from Pemberley's wild woodland, and as it pulls up, Lydia Wickham, an uninvited guest, tumbles out, screaming that her husband has been murdered.
Who could resist  Death Comes To Pemberley after that?

*NB We are in no way suggesting that it's cheating to have many One True Books, even *ahem* at the same time. Racy.

24 November 2011

The Gauntlet

Not content with the harbour, the bridge, the A&U terrace and occasionally dining at Quay, The Mothership now wants a piece of the cake pie*.

And, to be honest, they are doing it right.

SC took it to the next level with a salted caramel cheesecake and caramel sauce. And KB kept it there with a nectarine cake with almond meal.

Ladies and gentleman, I think this just got real...

(pic via juliamarchese flotsam and jetsom)

*Mmmm, cake pie

22 November 2011

Tuesday Stuff and Items

The weather is getting warmer.
There are Christmas decorations on the streets and in the shops.
Social calendars are filling up.
It must be time to get down to some serious planning...

It's not just Father Christmas who makes lists at this time of year. It is our feeling that you can't expect to get the most out of your summer if you don't carefully itemise what you intend to do. 

Herewith the beginnings of a list...

1) Watch THIS MOVIE*

Charlize Theron plays a writer of young adult fiction? SOLD!

Also, did you know Diablo Cody is deep in development of a Sweet Valley High movie?? *squeals*
Will they cast real twins to play Jessica and Elizabeth? Or will they pull the starring-Hayley-Mills-and-Hayley-Mills routine, also known as the Winklevoss Ploy.

2) Go to TJUKURRTJANU - Origins of Western Desert Art at the Ian Potter.

A nice, gentle, easily achievable goal this one.

4) Swim.

5) Swim.

6) Eat.**

7) Watch trailers for the Hunger Games movie as they are released. Comment loudly to anyone who will listen about what we think are the likely pros and cons (based on 2.36 mins of footage and some magazine articles).***

8) Devise (and consume) literature-inspired cocktails.

The Anne
2 parts Marilla's best current wine
1 part vodka
Garnish with carrot tops.
If you're going to set your friends drunk, you might as well do it in style.

The Margo Lanagan

1 part champagne
1 part Gosling's Black Seal Rum
Slice of lime or scattering of fresh sea wrack.
If you drink enough of them, you too will be seeing selkies.

The Fantasy shaker
1 flagon of mead (butterbeer will do in a pinch)
2 shots whisky
A dash of ichor
Serve with Lembas or whole suckling pig.

The Justine Larbalestier
Assemble a basic Manhattan.
Serve in a Vegemite glass in front of the cricket.****

The Renesmee
Pour tomato juice over ice cubes.
As you drink, crunch the ice between your teeth to simulate Bella's cracking ribs.
Make sure you put the empty glass in the dishwasher before your best friend can imprint on it. Cos that would be awkward.

What's on your list of things to do over summer?

* NB Australian release dates may make this *ahem* seemingly impossible. But we're with the US Army Corp of Engineers on this.
** At least an hour after swimming.
*** Pros: Lenny Kravitz, Woody Harrelson, the look of the thing, the vibe of the thing, Prim, Rue, Effie, Katniss, Peter.  Cons: Gale
**** Good work, Pat Cummins!

21 November 2011

The Onions Go To Sydney

Do you get disconcerted when characters you know in one setting move away from their familiar spheres?

Like when Kate Ruggles, who usually resides at Number 1, One End Street, spends a whole book on holiday at the Dew Drop Inn.

Or instead of returning to the Lake District, the Swallows and Amazons relocate to Hamford Water.

Or when the characters in Friends appear somewhere other than their apartments or Central Perk.

Well, hang on to your hats, because in this episode of Alien Onion, we leave The House behind and take a trip to Sydney...

Last week we attended our annual Editorial Conference where we recharge our editorial batteries, are apprised of new and exciting publishing industry items, and spend time with the wonderful Onions who inhabit the Mothership.

Garth Nix gave a fabulous talk about telling stories and writing fantasy. (And he also gave us chocolates, so he's invited back any time.)

We participated in excellent discussions on copyediting and structural editing with Nan McNab.

Nicola O'Shea shared very useful thoughts on editing onscreen.

We talked ebooks, and discount department stores, and pathways to becoming a publisher.

And then, ladies and gentleman, we ate delicious food in front of this view:

Thank you, AH, for organising such a terrific day of listening and learning and talking... and eating, lots of lovely eating.

And thank you, Sydney - the jacarandas were blooming, the air was soft, the views were spectacular and the people friendly. We can't wait to come again! 

But for now you'll find us happily back at the House - our One End Street, our Wildcat Island, our Central Perk.
Where, of course, there is cake.

14 November 2011

Every good weep-fest deserves cake

It's not every cake that features a drop shadow...

Happy birthday, FL!

And excellent cake-makery, SB!

10 November 2011

'All sorrows can be borne if you put them into a story.' - Karen Blixen

It is a truth universally acknowledged that sometimes we all crave a little bit of comfort crying. Holly Hunter as Jane Craig in Broadcast News certainly knew it.

And every avid reader knows it too. We have touched on this topic before, but this time we decided to poll the Onions about which books made them weep, or sob, or at least caused a single tear to slide down their cheek. And we were well-rewarded!

Be prepared people. Sad stuff happens - which is our way of saying
*spoiler alert*. 
You have been warned.

Herewith our list of fifteen titles to weep by:

 1) The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman
There are many teary moments in the HIS DARK MATERIALS books. Lyra leaving Pan behind. Poor little Roger. The sad/sweet ending. But it was the death of Lee Scoresby and Hester that made me weep and weep. I'm weeping now just thinking about it. 'She pressed her little proud broken self against his face, as close as she could get, and then they died.' *SOB*. One of the very comforting things about having a Daemon would be the knowledge that you would not have to face your death alone. (And then, and this is not a sentence one writes every day, I felt a lot better once Iorek Byrnison has eaten Lee's dead body.)

2) Jacob Have I Loved by Katherine Paterson
Those in the House will know that I have always found it difficult to enthuse over books where the romantic protagonists are more than a few years apart in age. So who knew that a book about a girl falling in love with a man old enough to be her grandfather could touch me so deeply and make me weep copious buckets of tears over Louise's oh-so-unfair life. And weep again at her ultimate acceptance of her life and, if not happiness then contentment with it. Sob.

3 & 4) The Silver Sword by Ian Serraillier & The Chestry Oak by  Kate Seredy
It's strange, because I know I cried over books, but the only two I can really remember (and that's probably because I returned to the weepy parts again and again, when I needed to weep) were when the children in THE SILVER SWORD had to leave their faithful dog on the German shore of Lake Geneva when they escaped to Switzerland and when the horse Midnight was found and an acorn planted at the end of THE CHESTRY OAK. I would say animals definitely jerked my tears more than people.

When I was a teacher I found an old class set of THE SILVER SWORD. I gave it to a group of naughty low-literacy Year 9 boys to read, thinking they would enjoy the war theme. Unfortunately, I had completely forgotten that all through the book, Jan's precious rooster is referred to as 'Jan's cock.'

5) Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

6) Pippi Goes on Board by Astrid Lindgren
I will never, ever forget reading the story of Pippi Longstocking's father. I'd opened my book the second I hopped into my mum's car for the ride home that afternoon, and when we arrived, I was too engrossed to move; the doors slammed shut around me and I sat there in the car-warmth reading and reading.

And by the time I got to That Bit, it was almost too dark to see, and I didn't just cry - I WAILED aloud in bereft solidarity through the entire scene... That peculiar sensation of genuinely devastating yet still somehow half-enjoyed tragedy has never left me.

7) Black Beauty by Anna Sewell
A friend's daughter was not just distraught but profoundly shocked when Ginger died of neglect and mistreatment in BLACK BEAUTY. There was the grief at the death of BB's friend, but also the shock of something BAD happening to a good character: this was probably the first time she had encountered this. I remember that: it does feel like a betrayal, to be led through hundreds of pages of delight, and then felled by a cruel plot twist.

8) Charlotte's Web by E. B. White
One of my fondest memories of my littlest sister was finding her completely distraught one day, over a book I had never heard of.
"What's wrong, Kathy?"
"It's the BOOOOOOK!"
"Oh dear. What happened?"
"Charlotte DIED!"
"Oh no. That's very sad. Who was Charlotte?"
"A-a-a-a  S-S-SPI-I-I-DER!!!!"
(Somewhat taken aback and at a loss for words) "A spider! Is the whole book about a spider?!"
"Yes, and Wilbur. Charlotte SAVED Wilbur!!"
(OK - thinking we might get to the human story now) "And who was Wilbur?"
"A-a-a-a P-P-P-PIG!!!!"
Kathy then collapsed completely, well beyond the reach of my meagre comforting skills.

9)Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt
When I began working at a publishing house, I was introduced to TUCK EVERLASTING. Even though I am now a grown up, I can and, when necessary, do reduce myself to gasping sobs any time of the night or day by reading the last chapter. It's probably a good thing I didn't encounter this book as a child.

10) Seven Little Australians by Ethel Turner
No sooner is Judy all recovered from her adventures and reunited with her huge family than she is killed by a falling tree in a stunning early lesson about the randomness and unfairness of the universe. That is all.

[I didn't cry, but it made me shocked and angry and upset because it seemed so wrong. Why couldn't it be some minor character we hadn't got to know much? Why couldn't the General just die and allow for a spell of decent mourning as a plot element? But I love the book anyway.]

11) A Patch of Blue by Elizabeth Kata
For Year 10 English, I read A PATCH OF BLUE and I wept and wept - so much so that I was recently surprised to find my dog-eared copy is not at all tear-stained, just yellowed with age and a little brittle in the bindings, but holding together nicely courtesy of its clear plastic covering and liberally applied sticky tape.

There was a film as well, and our whole year level was to be shown it as a special treat - but some of the Year 10 boys made inappropriate remarks in the opening ten minutes and the viewing was cancelled. And I wept again.

12) The Education of Little Tree by Forrest Carter

13) Rilla of Ingleside by LM Montgomery 
War books. It's always the war books - and war films - that move me to tears and beyond. I think it's the sheer WASTE of young men. It's the UNFAIRNESS. This is especially poignant in books written in the interwar period, where the hope that all those boys gave their lives for everlasting peace - that it was the war to end all wars - has not yet been proved a lie.
RILLA OF INGLESIDE was one of the first books I read that brought this home to me. The death of Walter - the most Anne-like of all Anne's children - in action at Courcelette had me prostrate on the couch for hours. As soon as I read the title of the chapter -  'Little Dog Monday Knows' - I knew too. And I almost couldn't read on. LM Montgomery had known for ages. She had been preparing us for this moment since she introduced us to Walter as a young boy in ANNE OF INGLESIDE.*
Walter was smiling in his sleep as someone who knew a charming secret. The moon was shining on his pillow through the bars of the leaded window ... casting the shadow of a clearly defined cross on the wall above his head. In long after years Anne was to remember that and wonder if it were an omen of Courcelette ... of a cross-marked grave 'somewhere in France'.

But I was young. I didn't KNOW what that meant. I'd never HEARD of Courcelette. I didn't think she could mean THIS. 

And then, of course, I bawled again when Jem comes home, and old and arthritic Dog Monday becomes, ' a young pup, gone clean mad with rejuvenating joy.' Brave, uncomplicated Jem. Faithful, loving Dog Monday. AND NO WALTER.

14) A Necklace of Raindrops by Joan Aiken
A student at the Faber Academy event on the weekend mentioned A NECKLACE OF RAINDROPS, and I screamed aloud, because I was obsessed with it as a child and used to go to the primary school library at least once a week and read it cover to cover. One time I got in trouble at school and was sent to the library as punishment and I took this book to the corner and read it while I cried... Did you read it, too?

15) The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness
One word: Manchee.

Deep breath. And another. That sound you hear, dear reader; that sound is stifled sniffling. After such a list, it is most tempting to give in to the call of the comfort reads and curl up on the couches downstairs and weep our way though the afternoon. But alas, we cannot. We have WORK to do. Sigh. But if you have time to curl up away from the world, do let us know so we can at least indulge in a little vicarious comfort weeping.

I have just discovered that Anne of Ingleside was published 18 years after Rilla of Ingleside. It didn't occur to me that they weren't written in chronological order. It must have been so bittersweet for LM to be writing that golden childhood after having written the war, the pain, the death. 

03 November 2011

The editor's cut

This one time, there was jelly slice in a manuscript. 

But the manuscript was set in Queensland, where the jelly wouldn't. 

Set that is. 

Or maybe the whole thing would melt. Anyway it would be a disaster.

And so a difficult decision was made: 


But the Cake-maker Virtuoso just couldn't let it go. She had jelly slice on her mind.


What follows is an exclusive cut scene, an outtake, a special-features reel.

Isn't it beautiful, the way it wobbles...

 the way it refracts the light...

So beautiful, so wobbly, so refracty. And just a little bit illicit.

Bootleg jelly slice - the best kind.

31 October 2011

Fictions on the Field IV

Greetings from the skeleton crew staffing the House of Onion today. Sensible people took a long weekend, but here we are - pottering around, sending books to the printer, amusing ourselves.
Horses you would bet on in the 2011 Melbourne Cup if it were...

A Georgette Heyer novel:
  • Fox Hunt
  • Precedence
  • Lost in the Moment

A Hornblower novel:
  • Drunken Sailor

A novelisation of Casablanca:
  • Americain

A Roddy Doyle novel:
  • Shamrocker

A French farce:
  • Moyenne Corniche
  • Red Cadeaux
  • Glass Harmonium
  • At First Sight

A picture book:
  • Illo

An epic fantasy:
  • Older Than Time
  • Hawk Island
  • Niwot
  • Manighar

A PD James novel:
  • Unusual Suspect

A letter from Maria Shriver to her ex-husband:
  • Verminator

A pamphlet on what to expect if you are a passenger grounded by Qantas:
  • Tullamore

So, here's to the race that stops a nation. BOM reports that it's likely to be one for the Rain Lovers, so Think Big in terms of wet weather wear, may your champagne be sourced from a Vintage Crop, may your fluttering be Efficient, not Shocking and your day be entirely Tawrrific.

26 October 2011

The Festival of Lies

 Deception is everywhere. 
Trust no one...

 This trailer is totally boring. It won't set your heart racing at all. We highly recommend you don't watch it.

Also, avoid this game like the plague.

It doesn't feature any of Sebastian's beautiful illustrations, 
and is not at all fun; so why would you bother?

And don't these two books look rubbish side by side?

Soo whatever you do, don't go and buy City of Lies

It contains no adventure to speak of.  Goldie just sits around doing nothing, and Toadspit and Bonnie are never in any danger at all. Broo goes on vacation, and Morg spends the whole book feathering her nest. 

What's that? Oh no - there's certainly no Slommerkin stalking the corridors of the Museum. 
I don't know where you heard that.

Isn't it terribly tedious that City of Lies is in your local bookshop right now?

20 October 2011

Oh, also...

We ate this:

Those are candied rose petals, y'all. CANDIED ROSE PETALS.
Because it was A Very Special Someone's Very Special Birthday. 
Happy birthday, VSS!


And also, also, this is funny: 

18 October 2011

Where we've been

We have been...

Doing this:
(so has Karen Healey)

 Savouring this:

Eating these:

 Admiring these:

Waiting for this:

Knitting this:

Laughing at this:


But mostly doing a lot of this:

We will be back to regularly scheduled programming soon!

30 September 2011

23 September 2011

I'm Still Awake, Still - still!

A story can be told a million ways.

You can sing it.
You can write it
You can read it aloud.

You can paint it.
You can play it.
You can use puppets and pianos and actors and musicians.

Here is Elizabeth Honey telling the story of taking I'm Still Awake, Still! from song, to page to stage, in gorgeous pictures...

Fairfax Studio, The Arts Centre
28 September - 2 October

Take the kids.
Take the grandparents.
Take the neighbours.
Take the neighbours' kids and grandparents.
Take everyone!*

* Probably not the dog though. Leave the dog at home, lest it get overexcited by all the joyous rumbustification.