Showing posts with label Hazel Edwards. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Hazel Edwards. Show all posts

Thursday, 25 October 2018

Hello, Honey Bee

Hello, Honey Bee, written and illustrated by Felicity Marshall (Propolis Publishing) HB RRP $20 ISBN 1397806482533

Reviewed by Hazel Edwards

Stunning illustrations with joyous detail abound in this book, but also shown is the serious eco-issue of how if the bees lose their home, we all lose our food because they can no longer pollinate. What makes this picture book special is the touches of satire in the wonderful friendship between the Queen Bee with attitude and the Royal Queen who just might be modelled upon an existing royal Elizabeth. And there's a Prince Charles like-alike wandering in the garden page.

Features of this book are unusual perspectives and detailed end-papers which indicate a well produced picture book. But the scientific details are also accurate because Felicity Marshall is a bee-keeper as well as a producer of fine honey and stories.

My 7-year-old grandson's favourite page is the Queen with all the Flower Power protest badges and the Buzz Radio news. My favourite illustration was the exquisitely flowered teapot for toast and honey afternoon tea.

Reads well aloud for generations to share and useful educationally for schools. Highly recommended

Monday, 15 October 2018

Ho! Ho! Ho! There’s a Hippopotamus on Our Roof Eating Christmas Cake

Ho! Ho! Ho! There’s a Hippopotamus on Our Roof Eating Christmas Cake by Hazel Edwards, illustrated by Deborah Niland (Puffin Books) HB RRP $19.99 ISBN 978 0143790679
Reviewed by Dianne Bates

Australian author Hazel Edwards had a best-seller, There’s a Hippopotamus on Our Roof Eating Cake, in 2005 and since then she has produced various incantations of the book which is targeted at pre-schoolers. Now here’s the latest with the oversized pink hippo complete with a Santa hat getting ready for Christmas.

A curly blonde-haired boy is told by his father that there’s a man fixing roof tiles, but the boy knows the truth – there’s a hippopotamus up there getting ready – as is he – for Christmas. The hippo is making a cake and icing it, then he’s making a list for Santa (just like the boy). Before long the hippo is dancing a cake dance. 

At the same time that the boy and his family are decorating their Christmas tree, the hippo on the roof has a disaster – he accidentally sits on his Christmas tree ‘with his big wobbly bottom'! However, hippo is clever, and fixes it so it looks as good as new. Niland’s full-page, colourful illustration on this page shows a tree resplendent with goodies such as carrots, apples, cherries and cakes (donuts and lamingtons, of course!)

The rest of the book has the boy and the hippo on the roof preparing for the big day (gingerbread, card-making, wrapping gifts, stringing fairy lights) until finally the boy’s family all dress in Santa suits (as does the hippo). On Christmas eve there’s Carols by Candlelight, and of course stockings and food for Santa and his reindeer. When Christmas Day arrives, there is happiness and discovery for everyone.

This is a joyous, even scrumptious book with page after page of bright illustrations that reward the reader with multiple readings. It will especially appeal to any child who is super-excited as he or she anticipates all that Christmas Day will bring, and who is involved with family in preparing for the big day. The text is easy to read with large font and simple sentences. Certainly this is a great book for a small child’s Christmas stocking!

Friday, 14 September 2018

Fake ID republished

There is now a Tamil translation of 'Fake I.D.', a YA novel by Hazel Edwards.                                                                                                                                Originally published by Lothian in 2002, with a Canadian Vanwell edition (2005), a film option was taken up, but flopped due to financial issues, rights were reverted, and it became an e-book and then it was studied by university students in Chennai.

Now translated into Tamil, it will be launched in Chennai, India, by the Consul General on 17 September. The publisher is Cre-A which publishes it with a new cover. Prof Judith Rodriguez is kindly launching the translated book as she will be in India for PEN. International.

'Fake ID' is a YA family history mystery based on 14 year-old Zoe who finds on the day of her grandmother's funeral that her Gran had a fake ID all her Australian life.

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Authors Diversifying

A Q& A with Authorpreneur Hazel Edwards, who has recently taken up a life of crime writing.

You’re best known as the author of the much loved children’s classic ‘There’s a Hippopotamus on Our Roof Eating Cake’. Why have you turned to writing adult crime mysteries?                                                                                                                I’ve always written in a variety of genres, but it’s just that the cake- eating hippo picture books are better known.  Motives interest me most whether I’m writing for children or adults and so mysteries were a natural progression when I was trying to improve my plotting. The technicalities of viewpoint and why someone might have acted in that way intrigues me. Diversity and coping with being different have been common themes in my stories for all ages.  The tension comes from doing something which is different from the values of the society in which the character lives. For a child, the society is the playground. And humour is often a way of coping.

In adult non-fiction, I’ve co-written ‘Difficult Personalities’ with psychologist Dr Helen Mc Grath and that has been translated into Chinese, Russian, Polish, Korean, audio, Braille and even American. ‘Difficult Personalities’ deals with motives but also with strategies. So does our co-written ‘Friends’ book. Writing factual strategies makes a fiction author conscious of outcomes.

Thus crime was the natural progression of extreme motives. But my type of crime writing is ‘softened’ with humour or irony. Often things don’t work out and the bumbling narrator-sleuth is revealed as inept. So getting the tone right is a challenge.
Brief crime or crime-lettes (my term) meant I could use varied settings and different narrator-sleuths. I chose first person, to get the reader onside quickly through the first character they meet. Later, readers may re-consider whether they wish to remain emotionally involved from that character’s viewpoint.

To what extent is ‘brand’ important for an author? What is your ‘brand’?                  In the last decade the term  ‘brand’ has been thrown around, but I was writing and getting published in my late twenties when I wasn’t even aware of the concept.   Authors were writers of the books. They weren’t ‘brands’.  Originally an author was associated with one publishing house and that publisher was the brand. Now authors move with each book, and they are the brand.  Versatility is vital for survival.  A self- employed writer needs a portfolio of skills.

My marketing manager daughter Kim ‘re-branded’ me with a new self -managed website about ten years ago. That was because readers expected I wrote only fanciful hippo books.  But I had a variety of publishers and kinds of books. She wanted to indicate the back-list range and also that I was a conference speaker on subjects such as ‘Writing a Non boring Family History’ or ‘Authorpreneurship’ which related to my non- fiction adult titles. Plus I was moving into diversity issues such as gender with ‘f2m; the boy within’, or ‘Hijabi Girl’. And there was the adventurous Antarctic literature after my expedition experience.

Inbetween, I’d been co-writing with ‘experts’ from different cultures and skills. Readers were getting confused.

Kim isolated my ‘brand’ to three descriptors, ‘Quirky, Issues-based, Authorpreneurial’   my aim is to take the reader into a different world and values (culture) for the length of that story, and maybe beyond, and to be known as an author-speaker as well as a writer. But I decided to stay with the one name.

Have you ever used a pseudonym or considered using one?                                           Yes.  I’ve been 25% of A.K.Aye, four women who co-wrote ‘Formula for Murder’. We chose the pseudonym mainly because our four names were too long to fit on the cover.  A.K.A means ‘also known as’ in police circles. Our collaboration was a fun hobby, until Maryse was diagnosed with terminal cancer, and so finishing the mystery became therapy. We self-published our adult novel to enable Maryse to have her copy.

How long did your current novel ‘Celebrant Sleuth’ take to write?                                About a year. I’d write from 6 am until 8 am every day, even weekends. Plotting was complicated as I was experimenting with new techniques and voices but my brain was clearer early in the day.

Apart from a print book, where would you like ‘Celebrant Sleuth’ to go?                    Television. I’ve had the experience of abortive TV and film options before, and often the project is not completed due to lack of finances. But I think ‘Celebrant Sleuth’ is especially suited to television because of the episodic stories around specific funerals, weddings and diverse cultural and aged groups linked by the celebrant’s role as a problem-solver.

Having a country town as the setting, enables continuity of roles and overlap of the florist, caterer etc.

I’d like an audio version. Plus there’s the niche of  LBTQI readers as Quinn is asexual. And currently same-sex marriage is topical. I did not predict that.

Why have you also released a collection ‘Almost a Crime’ on Kindle?   These were my apprenticeship in self publishing online. The adult short stories were written over a long period and there’s sufficient variety in settings based on places I had researched. Antarctica. French barge. Maximum security prison. Suburban Pokies venue.
As the stories were short, I called them ‘Crime-lettes’ as most suited to time- poor readers who use their devices intransit. A short story read in one trip can be satisfying.

How do you describe your occupation?                                                   Authorpreneur’ on my business card is a talking point.

What is meant by a ‘Hybrid author’?                                                                         One who is simultaneously self and traditionally published. A ‘hybrid’ author can be published by traditional ‘big’ publishers like Penguin Random House with a contract, advance, royalties and the support of distribution and marketing rights internationally. But the writer can self-publish other titles for niche markets or special projects which big publishers consider uncommercial or culturally difficult. Then the author is the publisher and has to handle the distribution but sub- contracts professional editing, cover design etc. Still has to publicise. And pay the bills.

This is NOT Vanity publishing where a naïve amateur-writer just wants something in print and an unscrupulous, low quality printer rips them off at a high cost with no quality control nor distribution.   Author publishing is comparable quality but where the writer under-writes the costs. Distribution is still a challenge, but often a speaker-writer will sell at workshops and talks. They have calculated whether there is an existing market before they publish.

Circumstances have changed. The means of publishing digitally is more accessible and faster.

What gives you the most satisfaction in the writing process?                                    The initial idea.

With the exponential changes in the publishing industry, what digital/new skills have you had to learn?                                                                                                                Updating a web-site even when I’m not a visual person. Social media is a challenge. I try to learn one tiny digital skill per day, even if just how to upload the appropriately sized photo.  And the fine line between ego and business PR when sharing life as an author.  Legal stuff like important clauses in contracts. Going to a ‘dummies’ class on updating Ipad skills and how to use photos on various devices for PR.

At a launch, making sure a generic photo is taken of co-authors and book which can be labeled for quick finding, also allowing time for administrivia, deciding which events are strategic and when to say ‘No’.

What proportion of your time is spent in original writing?                                              About 20%

What is your next project?                                                                                         Children’s theatre, and for my existing books to travel into new mediums, especially audio.
Hazel Edwards OAM has published 202 books including ‘There’s a Hippopotamus on Our Roof Eating Cake’ series currently touring as ‘Hippo Hippo the Musical’  ‘Hijabi Girl’ co-written with Muslim librarian Ozge Alkan about a feisty 8 year old who wants to start a girls’ footy team, is her latest junior book. A cultural risk-taker, Hazel co-wrote ‘f2m: the boy within’ a YA novel about trans youth. A believer in participant-observation research, Hazel has been an Antarctic expeditioner .She mentors ‘Hazelnuts’ writers and was a director on the Australian Society of Authors’ board.
 ‘Not Just a Piece of Cake: Being an Author’ is her memoir based on anecdote as a creative structure. Her books have been translated in ten languages and adapted for other mediums. ‘Difficult Personalities’ (PRH) co-written with Dr Helen Mc Grath is available in Russian, Polish, Korean, American and audio.  Currently writing adult mysteries including ‘Celebrant Sleuth’.

MEDIA Resources  (downloadable hi res author photo & bio) 

Monday, 7 March 2016

Hijabi Girl

Hijabi Girl by Hazel Edwards and Ozge Alkan, illustrated by Serena Geddes (BookPod)
PB RRP $15.00 eBook $5.00
ISBN 9780994358356

Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

Melek , which means ‘angelic’ in Turkish, is a multi-skilled girl who wears a hijab. She is not what her name claims. She is talkative, quick-thinking, a problem-solver, loves to-do lists, and has a Hijabi Barbi and a great imagination.

Tien, the new girl at school, is Vietnamese. She loves drawing pictures that ‘tell stories faster than words’. Melek knows about standing out and being different, so she helps Tien settle in. She also has a generous and forgiving nature, saving Zac in the pool, who then insists he was just pretending to drown.

Zac makes fun of Melek and her hijab. He’s a show-off, full of excuses and has a pet rat called Rattus Rattus which he frequently smuggles to school. But the possibility of change hovers around him. Lily is keen on dressing up and things from the past.

These are the four characters in this story, set in a mainstream school. Many schools have Book Character Parades. Librarian Ozge Alkan became co-author with Hazel Edwards to create this book after young students’ requests for a book with a character wearing a hijab. There wasn’t one to be found, so Hazel suggested Ozge write her own.

This new title is suitable for the 8+ readership. It’s a chapter book for independent readers finding their stride. It allows children to step into other people’s shoes, and view the world through their eyes. It also has good examples on how to fit in when you are different. It comes with excellent Teacher Resources, Ideas and Activities, cultural resources and What These Words Mean at the back of the book. These can also be accessed at:

Sunday, 7 February 2016

Hijabi Girl

Hijabi Girl by Hazel Edwards and Ozge Alkan, illustrated by Serena Geddes (BookPod)
PB RRP $15.00 eBook $5.00
ISBN 9780994358356

Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

Melek , which means ‘angelic’ in Turkish, is a multi-skilled girl who wears a hijab. She is not what her name claims. She is talkative, quick-thinking, a problem-solver, loves to-do lists, and has a Hijabi Barbi and a great imagination.

Tien, the new girl at school, is Vietnamese. She loves drawing pictures that ‘tell stories faster than words’. Melek knows about standing out and being different, so she helps Tien settle in. She also has a generous and forgiving nature, saving Zac in the pool, who then insists he was just pretending to drown.

Zac makes fun of Melek and her hijab. He’s a show-off, full of excuses and has a pet rat called Rattus Rattus which he frequently smuggles to school. But the possibility of change hovers around him. Lily is keen on dressing up and things from the past.

These are the four characters in this story, set in a mainstream school. Many schools have Book Character Parades. Librarian Ozge Alkan became co-author with Hazel Edwards to create this book after young students’ requests for a book with a character wearing a hijab. There wasn’t one to be found, so Hazel suggested Ozge write her own.

This new title is suitable for the 8+ readership. It’s a chapter book for independent readers finding their stride. It allows children to step into other people’s shoes, and view the world through their eyes. It also has good examples on how to fit in when you are different. It comes with excellent Teacher Resources, Ideas and Activities, cultural resources and What These Words Mean at the back of the book. These can also be accessed at:

Thursday, 14 January 2016

Not Just a Piece of cake: Being an Author

 Not Just a Piece of cake: Being an Author by Hazel Edwards (Brolga Publishing) PB RRP $19.99
ISBN 9781922 175809

Reviewed by Susanne Gervay

The hippopotamus may be eating cake, but you’ll have a feast reading Hazel Edwards’ memoir on ‘Being An Author.’  From country girl who read before she went to school courtesy of her very Baptist grandma who also terrified young Hazel with bloodthirsty missionary serials to fifty-five year old Hazel the Antarctic explorer stranded in ice on the supply ship ‘Polar Bird’, this Memoir is strangely addictive.

Hazel Edwards was born a story teller. An only child, she grew up in rural Victoria where her parents ran the seven-day-a-week general store. Life became difficult when her father fell ill and they had to keep moving, finding themselves in new general stores and towns. Hazel went to four secondary high schools alone and when her parents could not afford for her to continue at school, she started work at the State Bank. Hazel opposed the bank policy which only sponsored the study fees of male employees because ‘Females will just get married.’ She left the State Bank to study primary school teaching.  

However, Hazel knew she was a writer and refused to follow the conventions for girls and ‘marry the farmer … and (do) teaching or nursing.’ She did eventually marry and have two wonderful children who became part of her writing life as she juggled family with her profession. She was a primary school teacher for a while. Her love of teaching found a permanent place in her career through  teaching writing students, mentoring her women writers (the Hazelnuts) and acting as a mentor to many authors.

For this inveterate explorer, endlessly inquisitive, deeply interested in people, life was not just a piece of cake. ‘Luck is a matter of preparation meeting opportunity.’ It is also the willingness to go into brave new areas. Who could imagine that the endearing imaginative picture book There’s a Hippopotamus on Our Roof Eating Cake conceived in 1978 inspired by her children, would become an international best seller?

This memoir reveals Hazel to be a trail-blazer going into areas ‘where angels fear to tread’. Her F2M young adult novel with Ryan Kennedy who underwent gender change from female to male is a leading book in this new wave of young adult literature. Her adult books include Difficult Personalities in collaboration with psychologist Helen McGrath that gives insights into psychopathic behaviours; Non-Boring Family History which continues to be a staple guide in writing family histories; Cycling Solo; Ireland to Istanbul in collaboration with Hazel’s son Trevelyan who actually rode from Ireland to Istanbul.  

Hazel’s current project, an illustrated children’s book Hijabi Girl written in collaboration with librarian Ozge, gives Islamic children a place to be acknowledged.

This memoir is also an author's life on the road. She’s ‘been everywhere, man (or more appropriately woman)’ from a Nepali Montessori School in Kathmandu reading hippo; Nanjing School for the Blind; the mining settlement of Mt Newman in the heart of the East Pilbara. There have been times of exhaustion and exhilaration adventuring on the road as an author speaking at schools, literary festivals, libraries and community events for all ages.  Everything that can goes wrong did go wrong from Hippo the huge stuffed hippopotamus splitting at the seams; to losing her voice; to a helicopter crash in the Antarctic. But then everything that can go right did go right from a standing ovation at St Kilda Film Festival premiere of the Pocket Bonfire film version of Hazel’s Hippo eating that cake; being in Paris and seeing Hippo displayed in the Australian Bookshop; to Alice the Country Women’s Association ‘best cook’ making Hazel 24 profiteroles in Condobolin in exchange for writing ideas.

It is heart-warming to read the fan mail Hazel receives from children and adults. Writing is more than a book. It is a full life that includes working with Auslan, Australian Sign Language and Braille, being a National Reading Ambassador and supporting literacy in a myriad of ways.

Hazel also translates her experiences into practical writing advice. How to embellish and retell stories, maintaining integrity in what you write, writer’s block, developing characters, getting ideas, how to develop them and a host of invaluable insights into the writing process.

Not just a piece of cake: Being An Author is a delightful insight into the life of a much-loved author. It inspires those who wish to begin the author’s journey and those on the journey. It’s also a book with a special quirkiness that once you have finished reading it, you want to drop in again and again. Highly recommended.

Susanne Gervay is a reviewer and children’s author

Thursday, 23 April 2015

My Holocaust Story: Hanna

My Holocaust Story: Hanna by Goldie Alexander (Scholastic)
PB RRP $16.99                                                                                                        
ISBN 9781743629673

Reviewed by Hazel Edwards

Tragic but historic WW11 circumstances are a special challenge for authors and for readers, especially those books with the word Holocaust in the title. But Hanna's story has the feisty spirit of a young girl gymnast who courageously balances war-time deprivations with her Jewish family in the Warsaw ghetto and still helps others.

What gives this story the edge is the compassion and pacing, which does not make it overwhelming for the reader. It is extremely well researched and clearly evokes place and time showing, for example, the starving food smuggler gangs of children via the sewers, the secret schools in the ghetto and the random cruelties and kindnesses.

History has not been sanitised here and yet there is compassion for all caught on both sides, even the starving peasants who betray others. And, too, there's hope. Locals prepare to hide children and refugees. Readers are left with the question of how they might have acted in similar circumstances.

This is a highly significant novel and one I'd recommend for readers aged 12 years and upwards. It is also an excellent book to set for class discussions.

Thursday, 21 August 2014

The Adaptable Author: Coping With Change in the Digital Age

ISBN  9780987488329
Reviewed by Hazel Edwards

Highly recommended for any author intending to stay published today. Realistic strategies from a range of 40 interviewees, local and international. Reassuring to hear the challenges and solutions by well known, long term writers as well as some more recent professionals. Quality work, keeping up to date with new formats and being willing to try new ways of reaching readers but being 'professional' in outlook were common themes. 

Sophie Masson is an excellent example of an innovative and adaptable author too. Part 3 has a summary of the practical successful strategies for a long career. Re-inventing yourself under a pseudonym is one I'm considering.

Monday, 3 February 2014

Paruku The Desert Brumby

Paruku The Desert Brumby by Jesse Blackadder (HarperCollins)
PB RRP $14.99 
ISBN: 9780733331794 
Reviewed by Hazel Edwards
Jesse Blackadder's books have well researched settings, whether Antarctica or historical Scotland. Her audience has now extended to younger readers with the animal series which started with 'STAY, the Last Dog in Antarctica'.These are 'faction', involving stories, dramatised around fact. The realistic detail of seeking the outback brumbies to fulfil the Sheik's contract, from a young girl's perspective, especially when accompanied by her vet father, is credible in 'Paruka:The Desert Brumby'

Family relationships are well drawn but it's the horse details which will make 'Paruka The Desert Brumby' the kind of novel, 10-15 year old horse-mad girls will recommend to each other. And even the ones who are not horse-mad. Authentic outback detail and a subtle way of opening up some broader issues of ownership of natural resources.

The inserts written from the viewpoint of the brumbies are beautifully written. Poetic and sustained.
Hazel Edwards OAM  is a National Reading Ambassador.

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

The Hidden Diffability: Discovering Aspergers

The Hidden Diffability: Discovering Aspergers by Lyndel Kennedy, foreword by Dr Richard Eisenmajer (Blasck Publishing)
RRP  $10 e-book; PB $39.95
ISBN 978-0-9873505-0-3 (ebk) and 978-0-9873505-1-0 (PB)
Available at Dymocks, Readings
Reviewed by Hazel Edwards
Reading Ambassador

A timely book, in different formats too.

This is one of the first e-books I have read on my iPad. I also gave a print copy to my psychologist friend who counsels many families and another to a busy mother of students in the age range of these families. In either the electronic or print format, this book is a valuable resource for continuing reference.

It is also very accessible reading, which is why this collection is significant. It deals with the real questions which families face and contains strategies for everyday practicalities relating to diagnosis, finding an appropriate school, applying for funding support and the final question, of educating non-Aspie families too.

The ‘Hidden Diffability’ title appealed to me, as did the emphasis upon the positive aspects of Asperger Syndrome. Fifteen families are interviewed but these are representative of much more research behind this book.

The strength of this Autism Spectrum collection is in the range of viewpoints, logical structure, excellent editing and cover, but also in having real experiences to share. Vocabulary and terms are explained. No-one wants to insult or alienate by inadvertently using ‘a label’ which others find offensive. I’ve learnt it’s okay to say ‘Aspie’, but it’s even better to talk about ‘diffabilities’.

Author Lyndel Kennedy is to be commended. Two more books are planned in the series and will cover Aspergers at School and Everyday Aspergers. Lyndel also maintains the website of the Aspergers Syndrome Support Network and is a parent support group facilitator. She is a writer, researcher, editor, webmaster (mistress) and mother of three. is where she publishes Asperger-related information.

I’m glad I went to the launch. Lyndel is also a ‘Hazelnut’, a self-named group of writing mentorees who have helped each other in the process of getting their important books written and published. All were at the launch.

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Professor Fred Hollows

Professor Fred Hollows (Aussie Heroes) Professor Fred Hollows (Aussie Heroes) by Hazel Edwards, illustrated by Pat Reynolds (New Frontier Publishing)
PB RRP $14.95
ISBN 9781921042751
Reviewed by Vicki Stanton

Fred Hollows is a worthy addition to New Frontier Publishing's excellent Aussie Heroes series. This series brings to children those Australians who have excelled in their field and made a difference not only to Australia but to the world.

This is exactly what Hollows did. Born in New Zealand, he qualified as an ophthalmologist before moving to Australia and embarking on visits to remote and Indigenous communities. This work expanded world-wide. Through his efforts, Fred Hollows gave sight to more than a million of the poorest people around the world and his legacy continues today. 

Throughout this book, Edwards details the inspiration behind Hollows' work and how he came to put his dream to restore sight, and therefore personal independence, to the world's poor into action. She does this in an easy-to-read manner and the layout of the book with its large text and colour illustrations throughout would entice young readers.

The book also includes an easy reference Fred Hollows Time Line and a list of his posthumous honours and awards. My hope is that the lives of people such as Fred Hollows will encourage children to dream big and achieve big. 

Monday, 5 December 2011

A Safe Place to Live

A Safe Place to Live written, illustrated and published by Bic Walker
RRP $20
ISBN 978 0 646 56516 3
Reviewed by Hazel Edwards
Available in selected bookstores and directly from [email protected]
As a 3 year old,  Bic was a boatperson, a Vietnamese refugee. Now she is an architect, wife and mother of two children.

Ashburton Primary School is our link. Bic’s children now attend this school, and in my childhood, so did I, from prep to Grade 6  Last Friday night, enthusiastic Asian families filled the hall for the book launch. In the 1950s, no-one in my class was born outside Australia. A picture book travels well across cultures and helps explain the  universal story of the individual, which in this story is the family voyage on a  refugee boat.

When Bic e-mailed an invitation to launch  her self-published picture book ‘A Safe Place To Live’ I agreed. Bic’s architectural skills are apparent in her design of the paintings which form the illustrations of this large sized picture book. The tone of the story is matter of fact to make this sensitive subject approachable. ‘A Safe Place to Live’ is the kind of picture book you can recommend, and reads well aloud because although it includes the sub-text of politics, pirates and danger, it also has the courage of the quest for a new life, which is universal.

The voice is child-centred. The figures are stylised in a naïve, child-like way. The colour is striking.
My favourite quote is:  My brother took his kite, my sister took her teddy and I only took with me my memories. 

It starts with ‘Once upon a time, my family lived in a place which was unsafe…People were always fighting and there was war everywhere. Despite the fictional ‘once upon a time’, the story follows the facts, as remembered by her older sister. This picture book is faction, but the child is generic.

At the end, the photo ID of 3 year old refugee Bic  holding the ID board with her refugee number at the camp, and the acknowledgements, indicate the depth of this picture book.

Sometimes a story can travel even further than a person. ‘A Safe Place to Live’ would make a good audio story and could be translated or become a dual language book with some tweaking of the illustrations for space.

Highly recommended for all ages and especially for schools and libraries with local refugee communities to initiate discussion with locals who are not refugees.

Hazel Edwards ( is a National Ambassador for the  2012 International Year of Reading, a nominee for the 2012 Astrid Lindgren Award and an author of picture books such as ‘There’s a Hippopotamus on our Roof Eating Cake’ (Penguin)and co-author of the YA novel ‘f2m:the boy within’(Ford Street) She also attended Ashburton Primary School

Friday, 22 July 2011

The Hunt for Ned Kelly

The Hunt for Ned Kelly by Sophie Masson (Scholastic Australia ‘My Australian Story’ Series)

PB RRP $16.99
ISBN 978 1 74169 564 9
Reviewed by Hazel Edwards

I’ll declare my bias. Sophie Masson is an Australian writer whose international view I admire, since she manages to operate enthusiastically in several cultures and languages simultaneously. And currently I’m especially interested in the ways history can be presented in an enticing fashion for junior readers.

Ned Kelly was an apt figure about whom much is known but also myths have been created. The Hunt for Ned Kelly was inspired by a photograph, alleged to be of Kelly and his gang on the run, which Sophie Masson first saw in Beechworth.

Many grade six students are discussing the concept of ‘heroes’ and ‘quests’ so the dilemma of Ned Kelly being ‘notorious’ or ‘famous’ is a good starting point.  Using the photographic realism of a camera which was novel in this period will make ‘digital native’ students consider a time when mobiles didn’t exist.

I've enjoyed the once-removed perspective of 12 year old Jamie from which the writer presented The Hunt for Ned Kelly. It was a clever way of conveying the chronological facts of the case. Readers are likely to relate to Jamie’s viewpoint and his diary format.  I liked the way the graphics/newspaper clippings from the period were inserted and the dilemma of how Ned was perceived. Loyalty seemed to be a strong thread.

Another strength of Masson’s writing is the ability to evoke the Northern Victorian countryside but also with the correct late 1880s details. Like many readers, I’ve been in the Beechworth / Glenrowan area and Masson’s writing revived memories.  For those who have not, Masson’s writing plays on the senses most effectively. Historical detail is cleverly woven; the emotional content is involving and the brother-sister relationship convincing.

Sophie Masson was deservedly given the Patricia Wrightson Award for this title and there are many resources available including radio interviews and Youtube if you Google.

For educators, the title ‘Ned Kelly’ and the substantial range of teachers’ notes and lesson plans provided in support creates almost an entire unit of work, linked to the Australian curriculum.

As there is need for accessible history for the school reading market, I wonder how Ned might have reviewed this book. But that’s another story …

Patricia Wrightson Award: Judges' Comment
Through the eyes of young orphan Jamie Ross and his sister Ellen, an early professional photographer with designs on getting that 'one big shot' using her father's camera - a surprising narrative device which leads to a neat confluence of history and fiction - this story manages to strongly and clearly depict northern Victoria in the late 1800s, in particular the gossip and speculation that followed celebrities then much as it does now. Rather than being 'just (yet) another Ned Kelly book', this novel provides a window into a part of our history that is commonly defined by legend, myth and caricature, but is in fact so much more.

The ability to develop tension in an ending that we already know is no mean feat. In addition to its success as an exciting story this book would work well in the classroom, with the technical aspects of the writing and the historical context each offering much to discuss and explore.

Hazel Edwards’ latest junior fiction is Sir Edward ‘Weary’ Dunlop published by New Frontier in the ‘Aussie Heroes’ series.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Trailblazers: Caroline Chisholm to Quentin Bryce

Trailblazers: Caroline Chisholm to Quentin Bryce by Susanna de Vries (Pirgos Press)
PB RRP $39.95
ISBN 9780980621617
Reviewed by Hazel Edwards

 At a time when gossip-manufactured ‘celebs’ are featured merely for being thin, it’s a relief to read about ‘real’, historic females. ‘Trailblazers’ includes fifteen women from Australia’s past, and a few contemporaries  who achieved significant goals, solved problems for others or tackled challenges as the ‘first’ in their field.

‘Trailblazers’ anthology of chapter biographies includes reasonably well known women such as migration activist Caroline Chisholm, (on the bank note, despite her straitened circumstances late in life) as well as lesser known names. Chisholm’s chapter provided a rounded  insight into her motivations and the financial challenges of balancing family, travel and public life. Politician-parent Dame Enid Lyons also comes across as well organised and compassionate.
However, nursing sister Anne Donnell, pioneer-mother Eliza Hawkins and expeditioner-travel writer  Mary Gaunt were new for me. A resurgence of interest in the unusual oil painting style of Hilda Rix Nicholas  makes her chapter timely.This portrayal  had depth of passion about the challenges Hilda faced in acquiring her skills and an insight into the financial and emotional support of her mother and sister.

Money or lack of it, and husbandly support or lack were significant variables in whether these women could act unconventionally in a society which had strong expectations of female roles. A marketable skill, or at least the charm to convince others to support the project, plus hard work seem to be the common traits.

Filmic interest in translator Madame (Nell) Kerensky has been mentioned, and certainly action-woman (Nell Tritton) was a fast-driver, which was an asset for her Russian ex- Prime Minister husband being sought by assassins . They left the scene fast. But her choice in husbands, especially the non-opera singing , free-loading charmer Husband No. 1 did not indicate shrewd judgement. Her ambition appears to have been to marry a famous man. She married a notorious womaniser, twice.

Several of these women appeared to be in circumstances where interesting things happened, or they travelled because their families paid the bills. The philosophical  dilemma is:  Adventurous risk-taking, ego  or stupidity? This could have been discussed further.

War correspondent Louise Mack worried me.  But maybe that is my bias of wanting admirable traits in historic females. Not just ambitions related to personal fame. Re-entering Antwerp just prior to the German invasion, put others at risk for the sake of Louise Mack filing a story. Is this courage, stupidity or ego?  De Vries extract use of Mack’s diaries was a clever insight into the personality.  De Vries is an experienced historian and especially good at placing her characters in context. The endnotes are well documented and the index works, so this has been a thoughtful study. Interesting photos add to the portrayal of the women’s lives.

I have to admit another bias.  de Vries’ ‘Blue Ribbons and Bitter Bread’ is an earlier  biography about  refugee worker Joice Nankivell Loch which  I’ve recommended a lot. I’m a keen reader of history about significant females motivations and we all need heros.

In ‘Trailblazers’ there are nine chapters, each devoted to a specific woman,  except Chapter 8 tends to bundle all the ‘politicals’ together, but this is also the dilemma of including living and recent  role-changing females. Having the Governor General on the front cover is a statement, especially as she’s called Governor of Queensland in her chapter and the reader gets the impression the latter chapters on Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Quentin Bryce tend to include recent ‘news’ rather than a broader, historical evaluation of their roles. A work in progress is hard to evaluate historically.

I’d recommend  ‘Trailblazers’ but more discussion of the rationale for inclusion would be a bonus. And whether there are any common characteristics?  Or is the subjective elements of what attracted the compiler, a valid  rationale? Was the choice from each major field or from the material available? The section on Quentin Bryce is very personal-author related.  

‘Trailblazers’ is a good resource for those wanting accessible history to inspire younger women ( and men). How about a docu-drama based on ‘Trailblazers’? Maybe there are more ‘anonymous’ females in our history who didn’t have wealthy families nor the time to write diaries of their lives. Heroines without headlines?  But ‘Trailblazers’ is a good start.

Hazel Edwards ( is an Ambassador for the 2012 National Year of Reading and the Victorian Premiers’ Reading Challenge. Author of ‘Writing a Non Boring Family History’ she has also contributed to the Aussie Heroes series with ‘Sir Edward ‘Weary Dunlop’ and ‘Dr Fred Hollows’.