21 December 2012

Happy Christmas, Happy Holidays, Happy New Year!

Today is our* last day in the office for the year.
As of tomorrow we will be lounging about, or cooking, or shopping, or reading, or swimming, or cleaning, or panicking, or picnicking - and generally BEING ON HOLIDAYS.
Thank you all so much for reading and commenting and being part of our community in 2012. We've had a lovely time.
Here's a little wrap-up of our year in the form of...
Things Overheard in the House of Onion**
'It's bad, but it's not bad. It's just normal bad.'

'Did you get my email? The email offering you money? For your new book?'

'You're an excellent, excellent person.'

'I don't care. I mean, it's not that I don't care, but I actually don't care.' 
'If necessary, we'll Photoshop some clothing over that.'

'I just need to remember sometimes that I'm not a machine.'

'I'm scared that when I get to his house I'll just kiss him.'

'There's no rest for the extremely bad.'

'Staying calm. Staying perfectly calm.'

'I'll just do this. You just sit there staring into space.'

'I'll just sit cheek-by-jowl with you. Which is your cheek and which is your jowl?' > 'It's hard to tell, they're both the same.'
'Let's do it your way, not the way I would prefer to do it.'

'Good morning!' > 'Yeah, I said that to you when I walked in an hour ago.'

'Do you think this is deliberate?' 
 'THANK YOU! You are a lady among ladies.'
'Is that someone's lunch burning?'

'I had never heard of that Gosling person before you sent me all those blog things.'

'The dogs have doodles. Do we de-doodle them?'

'Why do you people have to keep publishing books?'

'If you hear my mobile ringing, it's just telling me where my bag is.' 
'That editorial report. I have finished it. FINISHED. Now I am paralysed and I can't press send.'

'Resonate on the frequency where serenity resides.' 
'Why on earth are you still working? Stop it immediately. It's wine time!'


* And by 'our' we mean the two or three suckers still left.
** As recorded by a sneaky scribe throughout the year.

19 December 2012

A Very Onion Christmas - Items of Beauty

So, how's that Christmas shopping going then? Everything purchased and wrapped and sitting pretty under the tree? If so, we salute you and your Christmas miracle.

If not, DON'T PANIC! There's still time. Plenty. Of. Time.*

And if, perchance, you need an item of beauty, an item that will bring delight to all who unwrap it, an item that will appeal to young and to old, then we have the items for you.

The Selfish Giant by Oscar Wilde, illustrated by Ritva Voutila

32 pages of beauty. This classic tale of forgiveness, of how a young boy melts the Giant's heart is one of Oscar Wilde's most beloved children's stories. And Ritva Voutila's sumptuous illustrations are simply stunning. Slip over here for a sneak peek. See. Stunning.


Unforgotten by Tohby Riddle 

Nobody knows where they come from.
But they come.
Impossible birds of the big sky
and the long night...

128 pages of beauty. Tohby's amazing artwork reveals a timeless and industrious world. A world where everything is strange, yet familiar. A world in which people in need are cared for, calmly, quietly, selflessly. A world that has difficult times. A world in which everyone can be watched over, warmed and mended. Herewith a taste:

* Okay, perhaps we are overstating in an effort to keep ourselves calm. Perhaps when we say, 'Plenty. Of. Time.' we mean, 'Get. Thee. To. An. Emporium. And. Buy. All. The. Items.'

12 December 2012

The Last Cakes of the Year

It's been a bumper year for cakes. It would be tough to pick a favourite, especially as these three just slid under the wire and into contention:

Christmas Trifle by SB

Ruby Grapefruit and Choc-chip Almond Cake by SF


Crack Pie by the Cake-maker Virtuoso

When we recover from our sugar coma we will be posting one last Christmas gift list - Outside the Box books - and then after that there will probably just be increasing silliness because the holidays are so close we can taste them. And they taste sweeeet.**

* 'Say it ain't so, Joe!'
'Sorry, kid. I'm afraid it is.'
**Or maybe that's just the second helping of Crack Pie...

11 December 2012

A Very Onion Christmas - Young Adult

Young adult, old adult, whatever - no one is ever too old for the Muppets!

Anyway, on to the subject at hand...

Spark by Brigid Kemmerer 

The Elementals series: Hot. Hot. Hot.
Four elements: EARTH. FIRE. AIR. WATER.
Four Merrick brothers: Chris. Gabriel. Nick. Michael.

Spark is the second book in the series that started with Storm. This time the spotlight is shining on Gabriel. The reckless twin. And he plays with flames. Literally. And because fire is his element, he can't get burnt. But other people can. So what happens when practice flames erupt into real fires; fires too powerful for him to control? Trouble. That's what happens.

And then there's trouble at school too. Maths trouble. Enter Layne. Maths whiz. Mysterious past. Good sister. Definitely the kind of nice girl who should keep away from a bad boy...

Who for? Teenagers who will devour a book sizzling with action, mystery, elemental powers and hot romance. Perfect for diving into after the last present is unwrapped.


Location: Elly Pickering's high school - the film set for a new teen flick starring teen heart throb, Jake Blake. (And Elly's mum is doing the PR.)

Elly's Mission: Get on the set, secure a spot as an extra, get close to her Hollywood crush.

Reality check: Elly is not a glamorous extra or a fascinating and helpful assistant. She's stuck in the unairconditioned catering van in the middle of summer - wearing a hairnet - making coleslaw and coffees for the cast and crew. Nothing else could possibly go wrong, could it?

Who for: Girls aged 12 or more, who would enjoy a bright and bubbly novel about best friends, bad friends, bad decisions, boyfriends, not-so-secret Hollywood crushes, and surviving it all with one's dignity (mostly) intact.


The Diviners by Libba Bray 

DO NOT READ  The Diviners at night when you're home alone. Do not do it.
DO READ IT at all other times. Compulsively.

It had me at: 'Cassandra Clare meets Phryne Fisher meets Patricia Cornwell.' And it kept me with the speakeasies, the jazz clubs, the occult scarefest, and the terrific cast of characters.

Who for: teenagers who love a spooky mystery with a hot cast and a glimpse of Jazz Age New York. Adults who like same. And for anyone who wants to pick up good line in 1920s slang, it's po-si-tute-ly the cat's miaow.

The Voyage of the Unquiet Ice (Ship Kings Book 2) by Andrew McGahan 

Dow finally has his heart's desire - he is aboard the Chloe, leaving behind the strictures of New Island and his old life, and making for waters unknown. But he is sailing not only into the dangers of the frozen north, but into the treacherous waters of Ship Kings politics, where ruthlessness and betrayal rule the day. Andrew McGahan's writing is sublime - and this book is chock-full of high adventure: sea monsters, rivalries, dangerous icebergs, and a desperate search for the missing heir to the throne. Oh, and also some EXCELLENT URST, for those of you who like that kind of thing.*

Who for: people who love Patrick O'Brian, or the Hornblower books, or Poe's mysterious tales, or Scott Westerfeld's Leviathan series.


The Convent by Maureen McCarthy 

This is a very special book, especially if you live in Melbourne. Set in and around the Abbotsford Convent and encompassing three generations of women, The Convent is Maureen McCarthy at her brilliant best - a big warm, messy family story with heartache, heartbreak and heart-ease by the bucketload. It's also an interesting, moving, intensely real view of the changing lives of women over the decades, and a reminder of how the choices we make, and the choices that are made for us, reverberate down the generations.

Who for: anyone - teens and adults - with a heart and soul, and anyone who's always had an ounce of curiosity about what went on behind the high walls of the Abbotsford Convent.

 *Which is clearly everyone.

07 December 2012

A Very Onion Christmas - younger readers

Did we mention the Christmas season is upon us? Did we mention Melbournians are sweltering one minute and freezing the next? Oh, yes. We did. Well, let us reiterate.

Christmas. It us upon us.
Melbourne. It was 11 degrees on Monday morning and it is going to 37 degrees tomorrow.

Yes. it will be HOT! However, one sure way to beat the heat is to loiter in the air-conditioned comfort of your nearest book-selling emporium...

LOLS: best jokes for kids by June Factor, illustrated by Mic Looby

How do you catch a rabbit?
You hide behind a tree and make a noise like a carrot.

A Christmas stocking without a jokebook is like ship without a sail, a boat without a rudder, or a fish without a tail. A Christmas stocking without a jokebook is like a wreck upon the sand, there's only one thing worse in the universe and that's a... nope. There is nothing worse. Unless perhaps it's the jokes themselves. You will  laugh, you will groan, you will eyeroll, you will splutter, you will choke and you will guffaw out loud. Don't let the giggling stop with the Christmas cracker jokes when there can be days and days of pun-filled goodness from the Far Out, Brussel Sprout lady herself, June Factor.

Who for: 5-7 year-olds. And pun-lovers everywhere.


Figaro & Rumba and the Crocodile Café
by Anna Fienberg & Stephen Michael King 

Introducing: Figaro - an irrepressible dog who runs like the wind.
Introducing: Rumba - a cat from Cuba who loves to sing and dance.

Figaro and Rumba plan to ride the Very Fast Train - that goes like a speeding bullet - all the way to the beach.
'Figaro took one look at the water and rolled down the carpet of sand until he fell WHOOSHUFF! into the brilliant blue. He swam and dived and barked with excitement, chasing waves and cloud-shadows, until he was so tired that even his tail stopped wagging.'
It sounds like paradise, but should they trust their new friend the crocodile with a perfect set of teeth and a voice that's sugary and sweet?

Cool cats. A delightful dog. Gorgeous illustrations. Hilarious adventures. Highly entertaining. So much to love!

Who for: a beautiful hardback edition for 5-8 year old boys and girls who love to laugh and are ready for the thrill of reading alone. And for those who love being read to. Perfect beach holiday reading.


Martha Grimstone is back in a new adventure! Martha has inherited her father's gift for music. She  can play notes that will bring sunshine, breezes and rain, but not even Marthca can turn back the approaching storm... With beautiful illustrations, quirky characters and full-colour gorgeousness, all of the Grimstones books would make excellent gifts.

Who for: 8-12 year-olds with a bit of whimsy, a bit of magic , and a bit of creativity in their souls.


The Adventures of Scarygirl by Nathan Jurevicious 

A dazzling mystery adventure in glorious colour, featuring the lovable, weird and excellent Scarygirl, who is on a quest to find out who she is, where she came from and who her real friends are ...

This book is so many awesome things in one: it's a hair-raising adventure, it's funny, it's a stunningly beautiful passport into a whole new world.

Who for: 8-12 year olds, particularly those who love graphic novels, comics and cracking good stories.


Everybody wants this kind of reaction from their children on Christmas morning. So literally everyone should be giving Path of Beasts. The BRILLIANT conclusion to the Keepers series, Path of Beasts is gonna serve you up everything a keen Keepers fan is longing for - resolution, retribution, renewal, Goldie, Toadspit, Bonnie, Broo, the Cat, the evil Fugleman, and more and more! And if you or your younger people haven't read the Keepers, you can start from the beginning!

Who for: 9-13 year-olds who love derring do, capture and escape, using their brains and their brawn, and being independent but not afraid to rely on their friends and family. And all those adults who sneakily read books 1 and 2 and are DYING to find out what happens.

06 December 2012

Adieu, Marie!

We interrupt our Very Onion Christmas recommendations to say a sad and fond farewell to the lovely Marie!

Marie has been our intern for the last five months. We've loved having her around the office. But today is her last day. 

Her opinion, her insights, her proofreading skills* and her delicious accent will be much missed when she flies back to France. So we expressed our love in the best way we know - cooking!

Et voilà - an Aussie feast for French Marie!

It looked and smelled and tasted like the 60s, the 70s, the 80s. O the nostalgia. O the excess of sugar.

Le menu

party pies and sausage rolls,
asparagus rolls (white bread, crusts cut off)
chocolate crackles and honey joys,
Vegemite-and-cream-cheese sandwiches,
vanilla slice (AKA snot blocks),
French onion dip,
kabana and cheese,
Tim Tams, Twisties, Wagon Wheels
and, best of all, A PAV!

Très sophistiqué, non?

Thanks so much for everything, Marie! Have a safe trip home and a very happy Christmas!

Lots of love,

All the Onions xxx

*In a second language, no less! Amaze!

05 December 2012

A Very Onion Christmas - picture books

The Christmas season is upon us. People are decorating and partying and watching the cricket.  In Melbourne, people are sweltering one minute and freezing the next - as is traditional.

The Christmas season is also a time that raises questions for people.

Where is Orientar?
Why are Jeff's nuts roasting on an open fire?
Who are these married gentlemen who need to get dressed?
What do slave elves in the snow actually sound like?

And what gifts am I going to give to the littlest people in my life?

Well - we got you covered on that last one. The finest gifts we bring, parumpapumpum!

Noni the Pony board books by Alison Lester

Can you run like a rabbit?
Can you jump like a frog?
Or laze like a lizard stretched out on a log?

Two gorgeous new board books from the best-beloved Alison Lester.
And everyone's favourite pony, Noni, is now in board-book form.

Who for: The very littlest stocking-carrying people you know - the ones who still list chewing as a primary method of book consumption.

Dinosauritis by Jeanette Rowe  

Oh wait, Darwin doesn't have  the flu - he has Dinosauritis!
With Dino jokes to tell, flaps to be flipped, games to be played and Darwin's story to be read - Dinosauritis is bigger than a T-Rex, funnier than a Muttaburrasaurus* and livelier than a paleontologist.**

Who for? 3-5 year-olds who dig dinos and love activity books.


Ruby Learns to Swim by Phillip Gwynne & Tamsin Ainslie 

Splash the water       Blow big bubbles
Splash the water       Blow big bubbles
     Learn to swim!  Learn to swim!

Join gorgeous little Ruby as she learns all the essentials that take her from the opening page where she sits splishing and splashing her feet in the pool, to the triumph of the final spread - where she's swimming fast! A beautiful, bright and bubbly, chant-out-loud picture book that will encourage even the most reluctant child to discover the joy of swimming.

Who for: every 2- 5 year old boy and girl who lives near a pool or near the ocean or near a river or near a waterhole or near a dam or near a water channel or near a lake, or on an island.


Mouse Mansion: Sam and Julia by Karina Schaapman 

This is the story of Sam and Julia and the amazing house they live - that they ACTUALLY live in! If you go to the Amsterdam Library, like one Onion did,*** you can see the REAL HOUSE. The book is beautiful and intricate and full of the kind of detail that will occupy a mediumly small person for many happy hours.

Who for: 4-8 year old boys and girls who love to spend hours pouring over intricate illustrations, or who are obsessed with minatures and dollhouses.


The Moon Shines out of the Dark  by Stephanie Dowrick & Anne Spudvilas

A tender and heart-warming story of a sensitive boy missing his mother, and drawing strength from the moon in his quest to wait out the cold night for her return - touching and truthful, and gloriously illustrated by Anne Spudvilas.

Who for: 4-8 year olds - perfect bedtime reading.


On the Farm another brilliant holiday picture book by Roland Harvey.

Mum, Dad, Henry, Penny and Frankie are off on another fabulous adventure. In past years they have been to the Beach, the Bush , the City , the Top End  and All the Way to W.A. This year they are holidaying on the farm, and not any old farm. They are holidaying on Uncle Kev's farm.**** And there are cows and pigs and sheep and horses and alpacas and ducks and dogs and geese and peacocks and all manner of lovely fresh produce, impressive hay sculptures, a kitchen gymnasium, a harvest festival and PLENTY of work to do. As ever, Roland's illustrations are delightful, alive with humor and spiced with fun - and highly entertaining chaos.

Who for: 6-10 year old boys and girls (and the young at heart) who are curious about the world, love to laugh and find endless delight in detailed illustrations.

* Well known to have been the jokester of the Cretaceous.
** What do you mean, 'How hard would that be?' On behalf of paleontologists everywhere, we object.
*** According to EJ, the Amsterdam Library is the coolest place in the entire world and everyone must go there - it even has furry walls!
**** Anyone who has actually ever 'holidayed' on a farm will know that when we say holiday here, we mean...work very hard from dusk until dawn - and if you are very, very lucky, find a little time (after a very big lunch of excellent farm produce) to sneak away and hide under the shady leaves of the apple tree to nap.

03 December 2012

It was meant to be...

Penni Russon and Kate Constable. 
Before they knew each other, they each wrote a book about a boy named Trout.
After they knew each other they wrote a book together.
And last Friday, they flew up to Sydney together to go to the NSW Premier's Literary Awards  ceremony, because they each had a book nominated, in separate categories.
The odds weren't good for the running double - but some things are just meant to be...
WINNER: Patricia Wrightson Prize

It seems that war friends form lifetime bonds, except when class and/or race enter the equation. Such is the basis for this compelling story set in a small Australian country town. Manslaughter, cultural secrets and unrequited love give rise to the tensions and ill-feelings that linger into the second generation. When Sadie unwillingly moves with her mother to the little town of Boort, the thirteen-year-old finds herself in conversation with a crow who embroils her in a mystery from her family's past. When she time-slips into the body of her namesake of two generations ago she is caught up in a class-race conflict. Constable has cleverly let Sadie participate in her past history without changing it, which allows her to be the keeper of an enormous and troubling secret in her own time. Constable's characters are beautifully rounded and real, from the family in the past to old Auntie Lily, an Aboriginal elder.

This is a multi-layered story, beautifully told, with themes interwoven through three generations; the prejudices and mores of the 1970s persist into the twenty-first century with black-white friendships frowned upon in both parents and children. The Indigenous connection to the land is a major theme, with a sacred circle of stones being exposed when drought causes the dam water to recede and the old town to be revealed. As in life, sport becomes the common bond as truths win out and secrets are fought for and kept. At the start of each chapter a small black crow sits on the black number while the cover illustration signals the stark ravages of drought with a large crow demanding attention as it does throughout the book.
Scoot over here to read the judges Comments on all the titles short-listed in the Patricia Wrightson Prize. 
WINNER: Ethel Turner Prize

Only Ever Always is a magnificent psychological puzzle that uses complex shifting points of view and a dreamscape of alternate realities. Moving between a crumbling dystopian cityscape and the recognisable realism of a suburban home in our own world, this complex and challenging narrative employs the doubles motif, contrasting Claire's grief with Clara's struggle to survive. These parallel realities dwell on the border of dreaming and awakening and are linked by an object of definition, the music box. Only Ever Always interrogates the relationship between self and material objects and explores the question: 'Do we create our environment or does our environment create us?'
Only Ever Always is a philosophical enquiry into how we make sense of ourselves and our own values. What matters? How do we define ourselves? It challenges the reader to ponder what is real - the dream or the dreamer? Who occupies the space between the real and the imagined?
Slip over here to read the judges comments on all the titles short-listed for the Ethel Turner Prize.
Huge congratulations, Penni and Kate!
Thank you for being such inspiring writers and such fabulous women to work with - separately and together!
Congratulations also to the other winners , and to everyone who was shortlisted