Thursday, 31 March 2011

The Trap.

If you enjoyed 'Hatchet' by Gary Paulsen you may enjoy this novel 'The Trap' by John E. Smelcer.

It's about a young man and his grandfather who is animal trapper. It gives insight into the ways of Native American Indians in the snow covered areas of Northern America. It shows how Mother Nature can be brilliantly beautiful but at the same time unforgivingly savage.

Its only a short novel but well worth the read.

Cheers julie @ pakenham.

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Shaun Tan wins Award

AUSTRALIAN author and illustrator Shaun Tan has won the world's richest prize for children's and young adult literature, just two weeks after winning an Oscar in Hollywood. Tan has won the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award in Sweden.

The award, named after the Swedish author, publisher and human rights advocate, is given by the Swedish Arts Council each year to honour a writer whose body of work has made an outstanding contribution to children's literature. Tan collects 5 million Swedish kronor, or about $A760,000, for winning the award.

The Jury wrote:

"Shaun Tan is a masterly visual storyteller, pointing the way ahead to new possibilities for picture books. His pictorial worlds constitute a separate universe where nothing is self-evident and anything is possible. Memories of childhood and adolescence are fixed reference points, but the pictorial narrative is universal and touches everyone, regardless of age.

Behind a wealth of minutely detailed pictures, where civilization is criticized and history depicted through symbolism, there is a palpable warmth. People are always present, and Shaun Tan portrays both our searching and our alienation. He combines brilliant, magical narrative skill with deep humanism"

Tan is the author and illustrator of about 20 books, including The Red Tree, The Rabbits, The Arrival and Tales From Outer Suburbia.

Monday, 28 March 2011


On her seventeenth birthday,

Cassia meets her match,

Society dictates he is her perfect partner for life.


Cassia Reyes’ world is designed to ensure that everyone will live the ideal life. From what they eat, to where they work, even who they marry and when they die, it is all decided by ‘Society’; whose only purpose is to establish the perfect utopian world. For Cassia ‘Society’ knows best and she never questions the decisions they make for her. That is until ‘Society’ makes a mistake. On her seventeenth birthday Cassia receives her match, the man she is destined to marry and be eternally happy with. The only problem is Cassia doesn’t just have one match…she has two! Her childhood best friend and the boy from the outside of society. She’s told it’s a mistake but yet Cassia can’t help but wonder…Soon enough she’s wondering about a lot of things, what’s real in her life when everything about her life is dictated by ‘Society’? Who is she meant to be with? The boy she’s known her whole life and loves or the boy from the outside who teaches her to write and think for herself? Just who is her real MATCH!

Matched is unique in its setting of a utopian world. Condie explores a world entirely inconceivable to most and yet does so well that we can imagine that this kind of world may exist one day. The novel is a bit slow but this may be due to the fact it’s the first in the trilogy and so the characters are just being established. What I did love about this novel was the fact that Cassia didn’t take on the traditional role of damsel in distress, wailing about which perfect guy to choose. It is a love story but not in the traditional romance style. Condie takes her time building the characters up and allowing them to discover one another before discovering their love. If nothing else Matched is a great thought provoking novel on the choices and freedoms we have in life. Next time your parents do something unfair pick up Matched and I guarantee you won’t feel so hard done by at by the time you finish the novel.

Courtney :)

Saturday, 26 March 2011

Interview - Gabrielle Wang

Gabrielle Wang is an award-winning author and illustrator born in Melbourne of Chinese heritage. Her latest book is Meet Poppy, the first in a series of junior novels about a girl growing up during the Victoran gold rush.

What authors/books did you read as a child? When did you first discover your love of books?

I read a lot of dog and horse books when I was young. I was crazy about them – White Fang, Call of the Wild, Green Grass of Wyoming, My Friend Flicker, Lassie Come Home, to name just a few. Of course I loved Enid Blyton, especially the Secret Seven and Famous Five series. My mother instilled in me a love of books. When we were small she would read to us every night. We had a library of good adult books in our house that I read as a teenager – DH Lawrence, Gunther Grass, Raymond Chandler, Ray Bradbury, John Wyndham, Herman Hesse…. But the one book that I will always remember with love and affection is The Magic Faraway Tree. And I still have my original copy.

When did you first realise you were a writer? What do you hope your readers will take away with them from reading your books?

I didn’t discover that I loved to write until I was in my thirties. I was never good at writing at school. In fact I failed Year 12 English so I had to repeat the year again in order to get into Graphic Design at RMIT. All my life I wanted to be an artist. It wasn’t until later that I became interested in writing and illustrating picture books. I sent a few manuscripts off to publishers but was unsuccessful and gave it away. But the dream was always there. I hope my words transport, inform, provoke and evoke. I hope my reader catches a glimpse into another culture and sees the world through the eyes of someone who may be different.

Do you find it difficult to read purely for pleasure? Does everything you read come under your ‘writer’ microscope?

I always read for pleasure unless it is for research. I don’t particularly like researching but a book can’t survive without it. I’ve read too many novels where the author has failed in this area. If a book doesn’t grab me from the start, I won’t persevere with it. There are too many good books out there that I want to spend my time with. But as a writer, part of me is still on the job. I might be enjoying the characters and the plot, but ideas for my own stories are always snapping in my brain.

Do you have to avoid reading certain types of fiction while writing your own? Does what you read while writing have an effect on what you write? In what way?

I tend not to read a book that has the same subject matter as the one I’m working on. For example, when I was writing The Hidden Monastery about a boy and a mythical Chinese creature, I steered away from books about dragons like Carole Wilkinson’s Dragonkeeper. As I mentioned above, sometimes a paragraph or page in the book I’m reading will spark off a completely new idea that I might be able to use in my WIP.*

Name five authors or books that have influenced or inspired your own writing in some way?

The Magic Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton. I love the way this book is set in the real world but travels into other dimensions. Most of my books do the same and I owe it all to Enid. The Chuangzi by Chuangzi and Tao de Jing by Laozi. I often use the way of the Tao in my writing. Any book by Ray Bradbury and Raold Dahl for their inventiveness, boundless imagination and twists.

If you were travelling and were told you could only take one book with you, what book would it be and why?

Ursula Le Guinn’s wonderful adaptation of the Tao De Jing by Laozi. I like the way Le Guinn has interpreted this incredible book.

What makes a book ‘too good to put down’?

Unique voice, great characters, exciting plot, beautiful lyrical prose, descriptions, philosophical ideas.

What makes you put down a book without finishing it?

Boring, unoriginal, no layering, one dimensional characters, poorly researched, endless rambling instead of keeping to the story.

Do you have a favourite author? Who is it and what is it about their writing that draws you to them?

I have too many to mention. I have just finished reading The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery and really really enjoyed it. I loved the voice, the ideas and the story. I do like Paul Auster and Haruki Murakami.

What was your 2010 ‘best read’? What was it that made it number one?

The Underneath by Kathi Appelt. This is a children’s book. I loved Appelt’s beautiful lyrical writing and the ancient feel of this story and the steamy setting of the everglades.

What do you think of the non-traditional publishing methods – eBooks etc? Do you think the new technology will encourage more people to read? Do you think there’s a future for print books?

I always have an audio book on the go. This way I can read several books at once. I tend to zoom through an audio book because I can listen to it while walking the dog or cooking the dinner. And it’s easy on the eyes. The book beside my bed is always a slow read no matter what it is. I have an ipad and have downloaded a few books onto that. But for me it will never replace the simple elegance and feel of a ‘real’ book. On the plus side - More people might read because young people are used to interacting with screens, ebooks are cheaper and have less impact on the environment. I think print books will eventually die out but it will take a while and thankfully not be in my lifetime.

Gabrielle's stories are a blend of Chinese and Western culture with a touch of fantasy. She has twice won the Aurealis Award for Best Children’s fiction, and her books have been named Notable Books in the Children’s Book of the Year Awards, and shortlisted for the Queensland Premier’s Literary Awards. She is published internationally in the UK, US, South America, Korea and China. Her books include The Garden of Empress Cassia, The Lion Drummer, A Ghost in My Suitcase and Little Paradise.

You can read more about Gabrielle at

(*work in progress)

Friday, 25 March 2011

Cartooning Workshop at Pakenham

Have fun and get creative with Luke Watson's cool cartoon workshop!
Learn the fundamentals that will get you started on creating your own characters.
All materials supplied.

Suits ages 12-17 years FREE!

Numbers will be strictly limited so bookings are essential.

Wednesday 13 April, 3.00 - 4.00pm
Pakenham Library, John Street.

Ph: 5941 2036 Melway: 317 E7

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Pakenham YouthFEST


Tuesday, 22 March 2011

When the Hipchicks went to War

'When the Hipchicks went to War' is a terrific novel by Pamela Rushby. Sixteen year old Kathleen is about to begin the adventure of her life. She packs a suitcase full of satin bikinis trimmed with fringes, a pair of knee-high white boots, mini-dresses, a platinimum blonde wig and false eyelashes. And off she goes-to the Vietnam War.

Kathleen is part of a singing and dancing trio who entertain soldiers. She is a strong though naive teenager whose innocence is soon tested, and she discovers the realities of war.

This is the 1960's and the culture of the era is beautifully conveyed through fashions and music.

Political views of the time are also explored as the Vietnam protest movement takes heed.


Tuesday, 15 March 2011

You Against Me- Jenny Downham

If someone hurts your sister,
And your any kind of man,
You seek revenge right?

If your brother’s accused of a terrible crime,
But says he didn’t do it,
You defend him, don’t you?

When Mikey and Ellie meet nothing will go as planned.

Mikey’s sister has accused a boy of sexual assualt. She won’t leave the house and their mother can’t handle it. Social services and the police are breathing down his neck and the guy who assaulted his sister just got out on bail.
Ellie’s brother is accused of sexual assault, but he says he didn’t do it. Ellie was there that night and says she slept through it all. So why does she not feel safe when her brother gets bail and comes home? Why does she feel like a stranger in her own family?

Mikey and Ellie are brought together by extraordinary circumstances. Both trying to help out their siblings but nothing goes to plan. They begin to feel for one another and Ellie is starting to question what really happened that night. What is the truth? Did her brother who once saved her from a dog mauling commit a crime or is the girl from the wrong side of the tracks trying to ruin his life? And what about Mikey how does he stay true to both his sister and the girl he’s falling for?
No one can win. One family will be destroyed no matter the truth. The question is can Mikey and Ellie survive the outcome.

You Aginst Me is an enthralling read, so different from other novels of the genre. Although an aspect of the novel focuses on love this is not a love story. This is a story of loyalty, truth and family. Heavy issues are addressed through the novel and some may find it emotionally draining. It’s a stand out novel with a powerful story and engaging characters. I know books are described as page turners but this one truly is ( I read the whole thing in two days, only stopping to sleep) There is no good guy or bad guy there is just a bunch of characters who like ourselves make mistakes and have to deal with the consequences. This is one book that will not disappoint. A must read for 2011.

Courtney :)

Friday, 11 March 2011

Interview - Kate Forsyth

Kate Forsyth's latest book The Wildkin’s Curse, is a tale of high adventure and true love for readers aged 12+. It is the sequel to her award-winning novel The Starthorn Tree.

What authors/books did you read as a child? When did you first discover your love of books?

I could read before I went to school, and was already devouring books as fast as I could get my greedy little hands on them. I remember loving my first day of school because - as all the other kids began to be taught the alphabet - I got to curl up on a beanbag and read my way through the class library. They had to bring in another box for me, and I remember thinking, ‘Oh I love school! I get to read all day.’ Books have always been a source of enchantment and wonder to me. I spent a lot of time in hospital as a child, and books were my only escape from the pain and fever and loneliness. By the time I left primary school I had read every book in the library, and my local council library had issued me with special permission to read the books in the adult section as I’d read everything in the children’s!

When did you first realise you were a writer?

I don’t remember a time when I didn’t have a desperate longing to be a writer. It was my one ambition, all of my life, and at every crossroads I’ve always taken the road that would lead me towards that dream. It’s not always been easy, particularly when I was young and poor, but I feel justly rewarded now that I’m an established writer with a body of award-winning and internationally published work. I feel I’m living the life I always dreamed of, and that’s a joy all in itself.

What do you hope your readers will take away with them from reading your books?

I have such high ambitions of every book I write! I want my readers to be totally absorbed in the world I’ve created, as if they have stepped through a magical door into another land. I want them to laugh and gasp and cry and shiver. I want them to finish reading my book with that sting of tears in their eyes, that lump in the throat, that means they have been truly moved. I want them to look up from the book and see our own world with a clearer, brighter gaze, with a new sense of astonishment and awe. I want them to feel as if the boundaries of the known universe have been pushed out, and their own sense of the possible enlarged. I want them to think about my book in the days and weeks and years that follow, and go back to it and read it again with the feeling of meeting an old and trusted friend. I want them to push a copy into the hands of everyone they meet and say, ‘you must read this! It’s wonderful!’ I want them to treasure my book, and give it to their own children and grandchildren, and forever after list it as one of their all-time favourite books. I want them to divide the world into people who love it, and so are clearly kindred spirits, and people who don’t, who are obviously lacking some kind of magic in their soul. Sigh! Wouldn’t all that be heavenly?

Do you find it difficult to read purely for pleasure? Does everything you read come under your ‘writer’ microscope?

No, I read for pleasure all the time. It’s one of the great sources of joy in my life. I do find that my reading is shaped and affected by what I’m writing – for example, when I was working on The Gypsy Crown I was utterly obsessed with the English Civil War and Oliver Cromwell and the history and culture of the Romanys, and so I found it very hard to read anything outside that area of interest. As soon as I finish writing a book, I start catching up on all the books I wasn’t able to read during the writing process. I’ll have books stockpiled, sometimes for years, waiting for me to read without any underlying purpose. I always read with a critical eye – a sign of a good book to me is one that works so beautifully that I relax into it and just enjoy it.

Name five authors or books that have influenced or inspired your own writing in some way?

Only five? There are so many wonderful writers! A few favourites from different stages of my reading life:

C.S. Lewis and the Narnia books – these books were among the first I ever read all on my own and the very word ‘Narnia’ has the power to make me shiver with delight.
Enid Blyton and the Famous Five – how I longed for adventure when I was a child! I still wish I lived in a house with a secret passage, that led somewhere mysterious and exciting.

The Bronte sisters - I loved the whole story of the girls sitting and scribbling by candlelight and creating these astonishing books and poems. I like to re-read their books every few years.
Tad Williams and his fantasy series Memory, Sorrow & Thorn – I had not read any fantasy since I was a child and these books led me back to tales of magic and adventure and danger, which encouraged me to write my own fantasy, Dragonclaw, which was my first published book.
Tracey Chevalier – she is one of my absolute favourite writers. I love the perfect balance of plot, character and place, and I love the way she brings history to life.

What makes a book ‘too good to put down’?

A fascinating plot full of suspense and surprise, compelling writing, characters that you really care about, a world that has been so beautifully crafted it feels real. Easy!

What makes you put down a book without finishing it?

A boring plot, bland writing, flat characters, a beige setting.

What was your 2010 ‘best read’? What was it that made it number one?

The best book of 2010 for me was The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett. It was absolutely stupendous. The only reason he’s not on my list of Top 10 favourite Writers of all time is that I haven’t yet read any of his other books yet. I’ve bought them and I plan to read them just as soon as I can. Other stand-outs for me, in adult fiction, were The Distant Hours by Kate Morton and The Rose of Sebastopol by Katharine McMahon. Best crime novel was Heartstone by C.J. Sansom, and The Weed that Strings the Hangman’s Bag by Alan Bradley. Best children’s book was absolutely Dark Angels by Katherine Langrish, though I also enjoyed A Curse as Dark as Gold by Elisabeth C. Bunce.

What do you think of the non-traditional publishing methods – eBooks etc? Do you think the new technology will encourage more people to read? Do you think there’s a future for print books?

I think e-books are a wonderful innovation that will open up reading to many people who might otherwise find books heavy, inconvenient, expensive, or just too daunting. There’s no doubt it will change the way many people read – but so too did the printing press. I think books published in the traditional way will become collector’s items, sought out because of their beauty and rarity. I think signed books will become a lot more valuable, and that publishers will begin to do limited editions of certain books remarkable for their packaging and presentation. In other words, start collecting first edition, signed copies of books now!

Kate Forsyth is the internationally bestselling author of more than twenty books for children and adults, including The Puzzle Ring, The Gypsy Crown, The Starthorn Tree, and the bestselling fantasy series The Witches of Eileanan and Rhiannon’s Ride. In 2007, Kate became the first author to win five Aurealis awards in a single year when Books 2-6 in the Chain of Charms series were jointly awarded the 2007 Aurealis Award for Children’s Fiction. Her books have been published in 13 countries around the world. You can read more about her at

Tuesday, 8 March 2011


THIS IS SHYNESS - by Leanne Hall

Imagine a place where the sun never rises. A place where darkness rules.

Imagine a boy that howls - and a girl that wants to forget.

This is the story of one night, the story of Wolfboy, Jethro and Wildgirl, Nia. For this night he will be her guide, show her this place he lives in, this world he knows. For one night she can see Shyness as it truly is.

A place of eternal night, where the sugar crazed Kidds roam freely and where The Dreamers dream to escape.

Together Wolfboy and Wildgirl face their own truths as they venture into the night.

A great book that shows how people adapt to circumstances – and if they can’t – how they desperately try to escape from them.

Vicki from Pak

Friday, 4 March 2011


Tamara Drewe is currently screening in cinemas around Melbourne. The film is based on a graphic novel, which is also called 'Tamara Drewe', and is written by English author Posy Simmonds.

There are several fine examples of graphic novels that have preceded 'Tamara Drewe.'

For instance, 'Maus' by Art Spiegelman is an outstanding graphic novel that depicts a man's memory of the holocaust.

'Tamara Drewe' is set in rural England and centres around a group of people, mainly authors, and their relationships.

Tamara is a newspaper columnist who inherits a farmhouse and moves back to the country, hoping to work on her writing career.

Her neighbours are the Hardimans. Nicholas is a roguish established crime fiction author. Beth, his wife, attends to his every need, editing and typing his manuscripts, responding to his fan mail and organising his author functions.

They also have extra living quarters on their farm which they let out to aspiring writers. Beth cooks and generally looks after them as well.

Meanwhile, a couple of teenage girls live in the neighbourhood and are bored, bored, bored. They start to snoop on Tamara as she starts dating their idol, the drummer in a band.

An affair (or two) begins and the seemingly idyllic lifestyle is shattered.


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