The Home of the Ghosties!

The Home of the Ghosties!

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Tuesday, 31 May 2011

What makes a good children's book?

So I was asking myself that question, "what makes a good children's book?"  And of course it depends on who is answering... the child or the parent.

Well, you should go to the ultimate source, so I asked the 5yo Pink Kid, "What's your favourite book?"  Of course, I was hoping she'd say, "Making Rainbows" or "Moon Ghostie Manners", but of course she didn't. 

"Hairy McClary from Donaldson's Dairy!" she exclaimed.  But then (because we were looking at the Penguin site at the time, she saw the cover of Jane Tanner's "Isabella's Secret" ...  "Oh, no!  This one, I have this one.  I LOVE this one with the fairies!"

Well, I love Hairy too, and no one can argue against the fact that Jane Tanner does the best fairies in the business!  But what about "Diary of a Wombat"?  And all those lovely picture books with Australian animals.  And then there's multiculturalism which is a great theme this year... what about a book that deals with children from different cultures?    Nope, not popular with the Pink Kid.  She likes 'FUNNY', 'BEAUTIFUL' and 'SHINY'.  (Also, I should emphasise 'funny', not 'amusing' or 'humourous'.  'Amusing' and 'humourous' are too subtle.  We're talking 5yo here).

So here we are.  Parents buy (and often choose) the books.  But when my children choose their favourite books, they rarely pick the ones I would.  So there's a tug of war between what I see as educational, humourous and interesting on the one hand, and what is 'FUNNY', 'BEAUTIFUL' and 'SHINY!' on the other.  I still reckon that parents buy "A Very Hungry Caterpillar" to teach their children about the wonder of a caterpillar turning into a butterfly, and kids like it because it's the biggest banquet they've ever seen!  Pink Kid virtually salivates when we get to the part about the cake!

So perhaps that's it then, the "best" children's books are ones that bridge the gap between the adult "wants" and the child "wants".  So books like "Hairy McClary" and "The Very Hungry Caterpillar".  Adults get to smile, kids get to belly-laugh, it's visually attractive and not too boring to read aloud for the 100th time.

So the small Pink Kid sits in the corner while I gleefully read "Dairy of a Wombat" (having refused to read Disney Princesses yet again).  I laugh at the wombat slowly training the family he adopts while Pink Kid sort of listens, sort of waits for it to be her turn to choose...

Sunday, 29 May 2011

How it almost(!) happened...

So I have to tell you the story of the day I released and then had to snatch back "Making Rainbows" (my first book!).

It was only last week, actually.  Got my hot little hands on the proof (about the 5th proof I should add - had to change the layout, then had to change the font, then didn't like the cover, and so on...)  Anyway, this time I was sure I had it right!  And here it was in its pristine glossiness!  I ran into the computer to press the "GO" button and publish this thing and promptly went ahead and ordered 50 copies to send to reviewers, friends, family and the like, racing away so I could complete all these exciting tasks before school pickup.

Went and picked up the blue kid from school...
"LOOK", I shove book in blue kid's face "Mummy's published the book!" - manic delight bordering on hysteria - I can hear it in my own voice.
"Oh, cool, have you seen this pokemon?" ... humph.
So, spitefully, I ask, "Have you got your homework bag?  Did you get a new book to read?" - well no, he forgot, so I can dive in for the kill....
"Good, well there's my book, read that aloud to me!"

So he did.  And there was a problem.  I'd used the same word twice, too close together!  This is a tragedy.  It's a tragedy because it's a children's book with not much text.  Therefore, each word of the text is of utmost importance and a mistake like that stands out... way out!
It's a tragedy, because I don't speak or write Chinese and I have a Chinese translation of this book... and I have to change 1 word in English and I won't be able to fix the Chinese version without bugging my good friend, Carolyn, AGAIN!

It's a tragedy, because I've ordered 50 copies of the book, print on demand, no refund.

The good news is that I now have a good supply of kindling for my fire.

The other good news is that the blue kid is very proud.  He found another mistake mum's made.

Every cloud has a silver lining.

Saturday, 28 May 2011

Gloria Lapin's books for beginning readers

Well, my pink kid (the 5 yo "beginning reader") has done a little Red Riding Hood - ie:  she's gone to grandma's house!  Ahhh... it's like taking off a tight pair of shoes.  The kid is adorable, but loud, clumsy and... adorable.  All I can say is: TGFG (thank God for Grandma).

I have the blue kid under AV restrictions (for every hour of audio/visual, he has to do one hour of something else).  We've spent some time creating a progressive story (where he writes one paragraph of a story and I write the next - leads to some interesting, if disjointed creations).

Hmmm, but speaking of 'beginning' readers - I was, wasn't I? - I wanted to tell you all about Gloria Lapin's books on Smashwords ( because I've discovered her books when looking for something that the small pink kid can read ("all by herself!").

Gloria's books are great.  They are very simple.  Simple illustrations and simple words (with some good repetition) which makes them perfect for children who are just starting to read.  There's some good variety, and the stories, while -shall I say it again- are very simple, there is a story, unlike some of those early readers like the "P" Book etc., which are really just word lists with small sentence examples.  I don't know about you, but I'd rather hear an actual coherent story, no matter how simple!

They display really well on the iPad too, which is a bonus, because the pink kid loves the iPad (so does the blue kid, but he's banned).

So thanks, Gloria.  I thank you, my pink kid thanks you (and my blue kid is ignoring you because he's probably surreptitiously playing his DS under his doona).

Cheers everyone!

Picture Books I love!

Well, I have to say that having 2 kids is a really good excuse to read picture books (which I love).

One of my favourites in recent times is Jude the Dude; The Peanut Allergy Kid and another book by the same author called I Promise.

Both books are well illustrated (a must for me!) and each perfect for the use for which it was intended!  (to use some consumer affairs language).

"Jude the Dude; The Peanut Allergy Kid" is a great book to leverage for a discussion with children on allergies in general (for kids with them and for kids who need to understand why they should not share their food, or why the school has banned certain things from school lunches!).  I love the illustrations which are cute and appropriate.   I can really recommend this one.

The other book, "I Promise" is a poem of dedication to the author's son.  Love it... I even teared up!  Again, cute illustrations and a lovely book to read to one's son.  So I'm not going to read it to mine until he cleans his room, makes his bed and stops playing incessantly with his DS.  Then I might tell him how much I love him and read this book to him...

Well, that's all for today!  Past my bedtime and the small pink kid wants warm and fuzzy time.


Friday, 27 May 2011

Hi Everyone! This is my blog

Well, we're finally in the countdown to book launch for both Moon Ghostie Manners and Making Rainbows (English/Chinese)!

Can't wait to see those hardback proofs!  I'm still aiming for a June launch!  (ok, it's probably going to be July...)

Of course I'm now on to the sequel to the Ghosties, which is going to be entitled Moon Guesties.  Text complete and five illustrations in...  I'll post some of them on deviantart ( when I get around to it. 

Anybody with some good book promotion ideas needs to contact me to let me know!  (visit website at: I'm new to the marketing thing.  Hmmm... this is what happens when you start your own publishing company instead of submitting your books to other publishers.  Here's hoping someone buys and reads the books!  Here's hoping anyone sees the books!

In other news, just picked up pink kid from kid party (nearly forgot her when I got carried away creating this blog!)  Blue kid spent quality time with Dad and a a todo list I drafted before I left.  Got back with pink kid, 2 helium balloons and a monster lollipop to find todo list in pristine virginity on the kitchen bench... oh well, a girl can dream.

Have a kool weekend everyone (oh, fave music at the moment is now Wild at Heart by The Birds of Tokyo thanks to the fact that they played it at the Air Show while the jets were blowing us away!! <presses repeat button on ipod>)