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.