The 'Poo Book' Blog Does Book Reviews
Friday 1 December, the 'Poo Book' Blog is delighted to introduce Karen Hughes and her fourth novel in the Kalika Magic series, The Howling Sands, as a part of her Books On Tour promotion."
The Book: The Howling Sands
Kalika Magic, Book 4
Self-published, Nov 2017 by Karen Hughes
Available to purchase online at: www.kalikamagic.com
The Intro: Welcome to the final stop on the Kalika Magic Books On Tour #Blog Blitz #Day5. The ‘Poo Book’ Blog is keen for its chance to review Karen Hughes’ 4th instalment in the Kalika Magic fantasy series, for middle-grade readers, The Howling Sands.
About the Author: Having started her own community newspaper at the age of ten, Karen Hughes’ early love of writing never dissipated, nor did her entrepreneurial spirit. Ten years ago, she embarked on writing the Kalika fantasy series, which has been likened to The Chronicles of Narnia and Emily Rodda’s Deltora Quest. In 2017, she is self-publishing the fourth book in this popular series and taking her message to the middle-graders of Australia, through school visits and creative writing workshops, which can be booked through her beautifully designed website.
Talk about a fantasy fiction empire in the making! Formerly practicing as a senior lawyer in Canberra, Hughes now enjoys the life of a writer and a professional speaker/facilitator, whilst basing herself and her family in the beautiful environs of the Hunter Valley. It's the perfect place to let her ever-active imagination, run wild.
About the Book: ‘Whirling sand ghosts, secret potions and a furious firebird… The adventure continues in The Howling Sands.’
I’m not sure if you get much better than this for a teaser. It offers the suggestion that you are being drawn into a continuing saga and at Book 4 in the series, this is most certainly the case, with further instalments planned for 2018 and beyond.
I need to preface this review by admitting I would have benefitted from reading Emerald Child, The Shaman’s Secret and The Sorrow of the Waters, before embarking on The Howling Sands. This doesn’t mean that it can’t be read as a stand-alone adventure but there is a great deal of assumed knowledge in Book 4, as with any good fantasy saga. I’d suggest that you either start collecting the books from the beginning, if you know you have a mature and engaged, young reader of fantasy on your hands. Or, dip your toe in the water with Hughes’s latest tome and if your child loves it, they can play an exciting game of catch-up, before Book 5 is released.
When I spoke earlier of books ‘Kalika’ has been likened to, the first thing that came to mind for me, was Tolkien's The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings series. This legendary writer and his books, represent what the fantasy genre is all about: - an extraordinary web of characters, the presence of mythical creatures, complex worlds, societies, cultures and languages, the threat of impending battle and good vs. evil.
In just the space of one 360-page book, Hughes employs and manipulates all these classic ‘totems’ of the genre; no mean feat in terms of storytelling. And by all suggestions, the continuing narrative that has come before, establishes the never-ending quest, to no lesser a degree.
The Plot: Though I enjoyed the book, it is not easy for me to sum up the plot of The Howling Sands. As reader, I had the feeling that a lot was happening ‘off camera’ or ‘stage left’, to borrow terms which may help to convey the impression I was left with. The book’s promotional blurb sums it up best…
One hundred years ago, the mysterious Veladin vanished into the earth. Now Kai, Indie, Nima and Jabar must ﬁnd them, or they’ll never see Shaman Yanti again. The desert sands are shifting. Time is running out. Their only hope is a reckless wind spirit, but even the wind has secrets …
The pace of Kalika Magic stops for no one. Once you embark on this adventure, you’re in for a wild, suspenseful ride and when I say things happen off camera, it means that the author doesn’t spoon-feed her audience. There are parallel streams of events to keep up with and frequent shifts in the narrator’s spotlight. If something important happens to one of the five young heroes (Indie, Jabar, Kai, Nima or Willem), when they are not in the spotlight, we find out in retrospect. There is no dilly-dallying with back story and the characters just get on with it. After all, it is up to them to save the world, before the Maleficent-esque villain Sofia, destroys it.
‘Resilience, self-conﬁdence, and having the courage to follow your heart are major themes in my books,’ Hughes says. This is evidenced on every page of The Howling Sands, with child protagonists who are real and flawed, yet strong, defiant and fiercely loyal. Good role models for the target audience, who will be lapping up every twist and turn.
Recommended For: Karen Hughes’s series is marketed for middle grade readers from 9 years of age and upwards. Following on from earlier impressions in this review, I would take this further and describe it as a dense read, for keen and mature readers, the likes of whom may be devouring the Harry Potter series or classics like The Wizard of Earthsea of 'The Rings' (which inspired the author).
The Howling Sands and its fore-runners are for true-fans of the fantasy genre. It’s an intelligent read and won’t patronise its young audience with over-exposition. You need to concentrate and you need to keep up. For those that do, it’s a gripping and rewarding read, that is likely to foster even more devotees of Hughes’ work.
If your child is an advanced reader at nine and loves alternative worlds, don’t hold back, though I would equally say that Kalika Magic could enter Young Adult territory, or appeal to the adult appreciator of fantasy fiction. Would love to hear your views; please feel free to leave a comment.
For more information on blog tours at Books On Tour please visit www.justkidslit.com/books-on-tour.
Words and Illustrations by Anne Helen Donnelly
Self-published Nov 2017 by Donnelly. Available to purchase online in paperback, via Booktopia for AU$16.50.
About the Author
If you’ve been following the Just Write For Kids’ Books on Tour page, you might be pleasantly exhausted from the whirlwind that is author Anne Helen Donnelly, and her Ori’s Christmas Blog Tour. Last week was a great, fun launch (online and at Dymocks Sydney CBD), for the second in Donnelly’s Ori the Octopus series. I’m not going to even try to top that with my review but I’m keen to add my voice to the praise for this driven and en-pointe new author, whose self-published books have hit the mark with children’s librarians and bookshop owners. Following an astounding 49 author visits for her first book, Ori the Octopus, Anne is virtually booked out with live storytime activities for her new Christmas book, all over Sydney. See dates and appearances here.
Born in Malta and moving to Sydney in childhood, Anne’s life has been interesting and full. She is a busy mother of two, who has likened her multi-tasking skills to an eight-armed octopus (ala her protagonist Ori). I’m sure many mums can agree with this sentiment! After moving on from a career in the health management, Anne has been inspired by motherhood to write stories and perform for children (as a children’s entertainer) and take her love of illustrating further, by training in Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop. We have these graphic design skills to thank for Anne’s beautiful fusion of hand-painted and computer drawn pictures, in the Ori books. The colours used and the expressions on the character’s faces are super engaging for adults, so I can only wonder at how children must see them. I know they captured my four-year-old son’s eye.
About the Book
But what of the book itself? I would sum it up for parents as a smart piece of publishing. If you are looking for a Christmas-themed book to put under the tree, Anne Donnelly’s offering matches it with bigger-named authors on bookstore shelves. It has beautiful production values, with glossy pages and a very cool, pull-out craft mid-section. This colouring and cutting activity comes with easy-to-follow instructions on how to make your own Ori Christmas decorations for your tree. As an author, Donnelly is all about interactivity for kids and her style promotes engagement and learning through play and fun, rather than didacticism.
Ori’s Christmas follows the tale of Ori, a natural giver who invites his ‘under the sea’ friends to celebrate Christmas together. They are all keen but come with stipulations on how they want to celebrate for the day, making it a hard act for their kind friend Ori, to juggle. With so many conflicting demands, it’s easy to imagine Christmas Day might be a disaster but luckily, Ori has gentle powers of persuasion and helps his friends to recognise that compromise is the key to achieving a great outcome for all. The narrative is well-constructed and the learning process for the characters, is an example to little readers in working together for the common good. A nice message wrapped in child-friendly, Christmas fun.
With its bright colours, use of bold shapes, read-aloud and ‘learn as you play’ qualities, Ori’s Christmas is a terrific book for 3 to 5-year olds. It has the pre-school demographic down pat and Donnelly works hard to make sure that she is out there meeting the parents and the kids, through live readings and book signings. The book also provides useful parent and teacher notes to prompt discussion points with your child. The author’s website is an extension of her books, with Ori videos and downloadable colour and craft activities. Very comprehensive Miss Donnelly and a model to other aspiring authors on how to market your children’s books. I will be watching the ‘Ori space’ with interest and look forward to the next instalment in the series in 2018.
Follow Anne Helen Donnelly on Facebook.
To be Published Nov 2017 by Lilly Pilly Publishing, Hardback (AU$29.95)
About the Author
The first book for an emerging author is a monumental thing. The build up to launch day is a bundle of excitement and expectation. The recent Facebook posts of debut author Michelle Wanasundera, have been a joy to read, as she primes her beautiful new ‘book baby’ for launch into the world.
This new book bub is Bubbles and Puddles, with poetry by Wanasundera and illustrations by interior designer and children’s book artist Thana-one Yazawa.
Reading Michelle’s bio puts her book into perspective. She lives in the Blue Mountains with her family; the most perfect place to indulge a love of nature and creativity. Career-wise, Michelle has studied psychology, philosophy and children’s meditation. These skills infuse her writing, with insight into how a child’s mind works and an endless appreciation of the calming wonders of the natural world.
About the Book
Published in glorious hardback, Bubbles and Puddles makes a statement with its visually -pleasing balance of rich colour illustrations and white text backgrounds, for its blocks of poetry. The publication’s design is striking and reminds me of those books from childhood that I wanted to retain as keepsakes, to dip in and out of at my reading leisure. The picture books that impacted me as a child were often anthologies of poetry, fairy tales, nursery rhymes or Aboriginal legends but publications like this almost seem to represent a dying art. It is therefore wonderful to see this genre making a comeback with books like Bubbles and Puddles and Magic Fish Dreaming by June Perkins, to name just two.
With scope for classroom and library readings and helpful ‘Teacher’s Notes’ for each poem, this dreamy verse collection is grounded in an understanding of child psychology. It deals beautifully with issues like childhood anxiety (Belly Bubbles) processing big emotions (Waterfall), as well as appreciation for giving to others (Rainmaker) and allowing yourself to ‘be’ in the moment (Little Lights). Wanasundera is a talented poet and while she has a good command of rhyme, also employs free verse, which keeps the collection from falling into any sing-songy traps that would undermine the importance of its messages. Every full-page illustration is a celebration of the poetry within and I hope that Wanasundera and Yazawa continue their partnership which is seemingly a match made in heaven.
The Poo Book Blog would heartily recommend this collection of holistic poetry for sensitive and creative children, of primary school age. Keen readers ages 5-6 will need their parents help and there is a lot of text, so breaking it down to one or two poems before bed, may be the best way to foster appreciation and a love of repeat reads. For middle-primary readers, able to read independently and developing an interest in poetry, this book is the kind I can see them reaching for frequently, depending on their mood and which poem resonates on any given day. The dream-like illustrations (which conjure up fairy tales of yore), are pure escapist joy and will help ensure this book’s long shelf-life, along with the heartfelt verse, which pays tribute to the way the author’s daughter, Amali, views the world.
Congratulations to the Author/Illustrator team on the soon-to-be launch of Bubbles and Puddles and I look forward to seeing the book’s buddy, Hugs and Bugs.
Follow Michelle on Instagram at michellewanasunderaauthor.
It’s that time of year again. The time dads in Australia act surprised on Father’s Day, as they open gifts from Bunnings.
I’m an advocate for Father’s and Mother’s Day, so don’t get me wrong. I know it’s highly commercialized but we need to teach kids to show appreciation and to give to others, even if it means putting their hands in their Angry Birds or Trolls wallets.
But this Father’s Day, Sunday 3 September, how about a novelty gift for Dad? He is usually the man who has everything, so how can you make him laugh? Capitalising on sweeping generalisations about Dads might be a good place to start but I’m not suggesting anything tool or gardening related.
David Moye (HuffPost), wrote an article for Father’s Day in the US, titled Weird Father’s Day Gifts That Even A Normal Dad Will Love.
Yes, there are the standard ‘all-dads-love-beer’ gifts but there’s also a book mentioned and only one book made the list!
It’s my debut picture book, Daddy and the World’s Longest Poo. This article gets the “Poo Book”. It pinpoints the tremendous novelty factor in a book that cheeky mums and kids can buy for the dads (or grandads) in their life.
We have all bought books about the love between a Daddy Bear and a Baby Bear for Dad’s first Father’s Day but what about kids who are getting older and becoming attuned to the world around them?
I have great feedback from parents who love reading Daddy and the World’s Longest Poo with their children – both dads and mums alike. It’s the kind of book that ends up on rotation. Four to seven-year olds love this kind of fun, toilet humour and they are more knowing than we like to think, without getting caught up in higher levels of meaning. The latter is for mums and dads who read the book and if your family has a good sense of humour and can cope with a few mentions of poo, you won’t be disappointed. I’d liken it to the kind of novelty longevity enjoyed by My Aussie Dad (Yvonne Morrison and Gus Gordon, Scholastic).
But is there a more serious point to this blog, apart from a book plug?
I’m a children’s book author, so I would advocate giving a book to Dad or Grandad this Father’s Day, especially if your son or daughter need assistance with reading. They might be a reluctant reader and humour could be the hook that reels them in.
Childhood literacy is important and experts acknowledge the power of a male role model reading books to themselves, or to their sons, in particular. It has an incredible influence on young boys, who may naturally favor more physical pursuits.
Daddy and the World’s Longest Poo (Lulu Publishing), is for every family who has ever laughed at a certain someone who sits on the toilet for too long. It’s for a Mum who’s ever wondered where her husband was hiding out for hours on end. It’s for a child who finds poo hilarious and most of all, it’s for a cheeky dad or grandad, who can laugh at himself.
"Daddy and the World's Longest Poo is a wonderfully whimsical book about one of life's greatest mysteries. Both children and adults alike will enjoy the authors wicked sense of humor as she explores where and why dads disappear for such long periods of time. With bright beautiful illustrations that at times reminded me of Dr. Seuss' art style bringing the funny story to life. Children and adults of all ages will enjoy this delightfully entertaining book." – Amazon Customer Review (5 stars).
For Australian shoppers, Daddy and the World’s Longest Poo is available to buy online at Lulu.com (in paperback and eBook). It is also in paperback on Amazon, and all major online book retailers – see here for details. It's best online price (with local postage in Australia) is with the Just Write for Kids Shop.
And if you’re from the Sunshine State, drop in to visit 'Human Bel' and 'Human Jack' at the very cool Little Gnome bookstore and coffee shop in Wynnum. Little Gnome is well stocked with copies of Daddy and the World’s Longest Poo and it’s a great way to avoid postage fees.
Don't miss out for Father's Day - order your copy now.
In this tri-series of blogs on the value of a professional PR campaign, I’ve shared the degrees of failure and success I’ve had with traditional and social media campaigns.
To wrap the series, I'll share the lessons I've learned from the investment I’ve made in a social media PR campaign.
Building an Author Platform
Create your presence online via dedicated professional pages, rather than personal pages. For example, anyone who is interested in your work should be able to 'like' and follow your Facebook Author Page, rather than send you a friend request.
Facebook is a good channel for click-throughs to your Author website, so as minimum presence, I would recommend a website (including a blog page) and an author page on Facebook, for sharing content from your website. Use the two in tandem for cross-promotion, enlisting page likes and website subscribers (if your website is set up for the latter).
Instagram and Pinterest are popular methods for building your community online but they rely on catchy images. Are your marketing messages best told through images/photos, or better conveyed through words, images and web links.
What about Twitter? How many platforms do I need to use?
If your time capacity permits, I would recommend having at least two social media platforms in addition to your website. I would include Facebook, Twitter and Instagram in the core group because of their popularity and reach. Each of these platforms rely on different approaches but the key to building engagement on all is commenting and sharing posts from other users, not just ‘liking’.
Google+ and Pinterest are other platforms to consider, if you have capacity. The advantage of Google+ is that it has the best SEO results for your blog posts but it is harder to build a community. And though I have LinkedIn and have for many years, this is a serious professional networking site (an online CV), rather than an informal sharing site, so be aware of this.
What is Goodreads All About?
If you are a writer and presumably a reader first, you should be on Goodreads. It’s a dedicated social media networking site for book nerds. Set up a personal page but if you have a published book, you need to take advantage of the Goodreads Author Dashboard service (your own Author Page) and list your book.
Readers can follow you and rate and review your books here and it is not based on verified and unverified reviews, like Amazon. If you think that Amazon is the only place you need reviews, you are missing a trick. I value the exposure and networks I have accessed on Goodreads far beyond my extremely low-ranking, almost invisible indie author Amazon page.
Having said this, if your book is being sold on Amazon, set up an author page via Author Central, so that people who do visit your page can follow you.
Why have a website AND multiple pages on social media?
The above-mentioned platforms, except a website with a registered domain name, are FREE channels for author exposure. I am not recommending you join more social media platforms than you can handle but I am suggesting that the more channels on which you have a presence, the wider the reach for your content (blogs and book WIPs) and community building. And think of it this way… what if a publisher pulls your book from a slush pile and cares enough to Google you and see what they can find out? Will they find you?
How much time should I spend on social media?
Don’t obsess over rules. Follow sensible and achievable advice and adapt to your life. Only you understand what your time, skill and budget capacities are for driving your author platform.
My PR campaign manager said I did not have to be omnipresent on social media. I breathed a sigh of relief. Her advice was to build a consistent schedule of blogging/posting and interaction every week, whether it be 30mins total, or 30mins on each platform, each day.
The amount of time is not as important as the consistency and the quality of your interaction. Remember, comment and share. Don’t just 'like'. Another trick is to use your scheduled slot to pre-schedule posts on Facebook, so you can post content regularly without having to be online at the time.
Where can I market my book for FREE online?
Remember to class your author pages as FREE promotional channels but don’t just self-promote to your followers. There are an infinite number of FREE targeted marketing opportunities online, as there are an equal number of options for you to invest in commercial book promotion services.
Part of the journey for you is doing your own research on these options and weighing them up for yourself. Many options promise more than they can deliver, so manage your expectations and if you are going to invest money, ask for recommendations and work out what you want to achieve by paying for a service. Beware measuring success only in sales figures as you are likely to be disappointed. Brand awareness for you and your books is the endgame for an emerging author.
My Biggest Gem of Advice
SEIZE targeted opportunities for promotion on social media. Though I have invested money in a PR campaign, I have taken just as many FREE opportunities for promoting my work. You can see them listed on my website in Breaking News and the Links to Press page.
One advantage of devoting consistent slot/s to building your online platform is getting to know other writers and accepting offers of interviews, Facebook page shares, FREE book listings etc.
The golden rule is RECIPROCATE. If someone gives you a free promotional opportunity, don’t take it for granted. Share the mention and tag in the page on which it originated. Thank people and offer to promote them when the opportunity arises.
Build goodwill and strong content and you’ll find yourself with an Author platform. You might then just find yourself with sales.