Poetry magic

So, 2019 is off to a fabulous start! I sold a poem to Bloomsbury Education in the UK for their 2019 children’s poetry anthology Fire Burn, Cauldron Bubble: Magical Poems Chosen by Paul Cookson. This is extra exciting news for me – I’ve had quite a few poems published by The School Magazine, but this will be my first poem in an anthology. I’m looking forward to holding a book in my hands later this year. (My poem is called ‘Potion problems’.)

Here’s a picture of me posting off my signed contract:

Photo of Rebecca Newman in a spotted shirt posting a letter into a red post box.

And, yes, I made one of my kids come along when I posted the letter just so they could photograph me with the post box. Nothing’s official until you’ve been photographed with a post box.

In totally unrelated news (unless you file it under ‘2019 successes’), I’ve been trying my hand at propagating succulents. And look!

Baby succulent plants

[Off camera: a pile of brown shriveled succulent leaves that were clearly not a success. Let’s not dwell on those.]

A magical poem and baby succulent magic … a good start to the new year.

End-of-2018 book tag: children’s books

Back in July I tagged myself to share a post about my favourite books from the first half of 2018. So it seems like a good idea to tie off 2018 with my favourites from the second half.

If you’re new here: I focus on books for under 12s. (I just don’t get through many books for grown-ups — or young adults — in 6 months.)

* = I borrowed the book from the library

**= I received a review copy of the book (but not for this blog, I wear a lot of booky hats out there in the real world)

 

Currently reading:
Swallow’s Dance by Wendy Orr.

Favourite picture book read in the last 6 months
Maya and Cat by Caroline Magerl
A gentle story with divine illustrations. The text is like poetry and there are themes of friendship and resilience. This book is good for your soul.

Favourite fiction book read in the last 6 months
Louisiana’s Way Home* by Kate DiCamillo.
This revisits a character from DiCamillo’s earlier book Raymie Nightingale. Louisana’s grandmother wakes her in the middle of the night and they leave home, never to return. A novel about finding your place in the world and your sense of self. Bring tissues.

Favourite nonfiction book read in the last 6 months
Zeroes & Ones ** by Cristy Burne.
The history of technology. Which sounds dry when you say it like that, but this book is not dry! Facts are given in small sections and illustrations are in a graphic style. Burne uses amusing (true) anecdotes, quotes and weird facts, and there  are old photos with humorous captions. Read with pizza close by.

Favourite poetry book read in the last 6 months
H is for Haiku by Sydell Rosenberg, illustrated by Sawsan Chalabi
Poems (haiku) on everyday topics. Fun and appealing visually and poetically. (I bought this as part of my masterplan to buy children’s poetry books when I see them in local bookshops to prove there is a demand for children’s poetry books. This one was purchased at Paper Bird Books and Arts.)

Favourite new-to-me author discovered in the last 6 months
Tamara Moss (Lintang and the Pirate Queen)*
This was a rollicking fantasy adventure on a pirate ship. I couldn’t put this book down. This is book 1 in a series.

Favourite new-to-me illustrator in the last 6 months
Ronak Taher (Sonam and the Silence, by Eddie Ayres) A beautiful picture book about the power of music for a girl in Afghanistan, when music is forbidden. Written in a folktale/fable sort of style. The illustrations are layered and textured and collage-y … and wonderful.

Favourite picture book I read aloud to children in the last 6 months
Aunt Amelia* by Rebecca Cobb. Aunt Amelia is an unusual babysitter, and awesomely subversive. (The parents leave a DO NOT list, which the children and Aunt Amelia systematically flout.) This book is so. much. fun. I read it aloud to a class of 5 year olds and a class of 6 year olds and it took each class about two pages to cotton on to the joke. And they found it hilarious. Plus: Rebecca Cobb illustrations. So joyful.
(NB: official sources advise that Aunt Amelia is a lizard and not a crocodile. This was good for some heated discussion.)

A book that made me cry in the last 6 months
Louisiana’s Way Home* by Kate DiCamillo. (See ‘Favourite Fiction Book’ earlier in this post)

A book that made me laugh in the last 6 months
Gastronauts ** by James Foley. Okay, maybe more groans than laughs. This book has more poo puns than you could ever want. No, really. An entertaining comic-book style novel with a bit of gastro-science sneaking in as a bonus. It’s book three in a series of graphic novels.

A book that surprised me
Watch this! A book about making shapes by Jane Godwin, Beci Orpin and Hilary Walker. This is a seriously fabulous book about shapes, and instead of illustrations there are bright photographs of a group of children making the shapes with their bodies. Brilliant for the Under 6 crowd, but I’m 45 and I read it several times just because I love it so much. It would be excellent to re-create in small groups in a classroom. Or at playgroups. Or in your backyard with all the small cousins etc etc.

A book I’ve bought as a gift in the last six months
Violet Mackerel’s Brilliant Plot by Anna Branford, illustrated by Sarah Davis. Violet is the sort of child who ponders life’s mysteries, and notices details, and likes to collect small things. The entire series is a delight.

Most beautiful book covers seen in the last 6 months
Sonam and the Silence, by Eddie Ayres, illustrated by Ronak Taher.
The cover is debossed (I think that’s the right word), matt-finished (not shiny) and grainy-textured when you run your hand over it. Lovely.

Sonam and the Silence by Eddie Ayers and Ronak Taher
AND
The Slightly Alarming Tale of the Whispering Walls* by Jaclyn Moriarty, illustrated by Kelly Canby. (This middle-grade series has gorgeous covers and the books are chunky and a pleasure to hold.) The book cover shown here doesn’t properly show off the metallic foiling on the cover. It’s even better in real life!My favourite book cover for the second half of 2019: The Slightly Alarming Tale of the Whispering Walls.

Most anticipated new releases in the first half of 2019
Fiction: Catch a Falling Star by Meg McKinlay (out February)
Picture book: I would Dangle the Moon by Amber Moffatt (Out June)
Nonfiction: Kids Who Did by Kirsty Murray (Out April)

Three books waiting on my TBR
Lenny’s Book of Everything * by Karen Foxlee
Wundersmith * by Jessica Townsend
IF: A Treasury of Poems for Almost Every Possibility edited by Allie Esiri & Rachel Kelly

A girl can never have too many books on her TBR. Give me your recommendations for my 2019 bedside pile!

Mid-year book tag: children’s books

I’ve seen a few mid-year book tag posts on book blogs recently. (No-one has tagged me, but that won’t stop me joining in.) Because no-one has officially tagged me, I’ve changed up the questions a bit to suit myself. That’s the upside of tagging yourself.

I’m all about children’s books for under 12s. (I just don’t get through many books for grown-ups — or young adults — in 6 months.)

If there’s an asterisk it means I borrowed it from a library. I do love a library.

Here goes:

Currently reading:
The Dog with Seven Names by Dianne Wolfer

Favourite picture book read in the last 6 months
They All Saw a Cat by Brendan Wenzel*
The cat walks through the world, and we see the cat through the eyes of other creatures. An interesting approach to changing perspectives. I really loved the illustrations, too.

Favourite fiction book read in the last 6 months
The Extremely Inconvenient Adventures of Bronte Mettlestone by Jaclyn Moriarty, illustrated by Kelly Canby*
Magic! Meddling! Mayhem! and also dry humour. There are pirates. And faeries. And dragons. Basically there’s something for everyone, in a satisfyingly chunky and beautifully-presented book.

Favourite nonfiction book read in the last 6 months
The Bee Book (DK Books) by Emma Tennant and Fergus Chadwick*
A hardcover book with all the facts about bees you could want. Includes stunning photographs and illustrations.

Favourite poetry book read in the last 6 months
I’m Just No Good at Rhyming by Chris Harris, illustrated by Lane Smith
Poems on topics that are super familiar to primary school kids. Hilarious, clever, and entertaining. Every child and adult I shared it with loved it.

Favourite new-to-me author discovered this year
Kimberley Brubaker Bradley (The War That Saved My Life)*

Favourite new-to-me illustrator this year
Lorna Scobie (Apes to Zebras: An A–Z of Shape Poems by Roger Stevens, Liz Brownlee, and Sue Hardy-Dawson).* A book of concrete poems about animals, with some illustrations and graphic detail to enhance the text. Good poems! And a beautifully presented hardcover book. I also bought 365 Days of Art because I loved Scobie’s work so much. I haven’t tried it out yet. Because I am no Lorna Scobie. Wah.

Favourite picture book I read aloud to children in the last 6 months
The Hole Story by Kelly Canby and
Oh, Albert!* by Davina Bell, illustrated by Sara Acton
Both these books are fun to read aloud. Also easy to read aloud (no stumbling). The perfect length. The illustrations were lovely. I (as a grown-up) enjoyed the story. The kids loved the story and joined in with the obvious repetition.
Both excellent read-alouds. Yay!

A book that made me cry this year
The War that Saved My Life* by Kimberley Brubaker Bradley 
Ada has a twisted foot and is trapped inside day in and day out. She and her brother join the students evacuated to the countryside in WWII and are put into the care of a woman who isn’t expecting them. I couldn’t put it down. 

A book that made me laugh this year
Duck! by Meg McKinlay and Nathanial Eckstrom 
This is a picture book that’s funny to read out loud and the pictures are funny and the twist at the end is funny and it’s just a wonderfully silly book for those times when you need a good laugh.
 

The Extremely Inconvenient Adventures of Bronte Mettlestone* by Jaclyn Moriarty, illustrated by Kelly Canby

A book that surprised me this year
Room on Our Rock* by Kate and Jol Temple, illustrated by Terri Rose Baynton
A picture book that can be read from front to back. And then read from back to front — and this flips the message from negative to positive. With the treatment of refugees and people we’re being told to call ‘other’ in Australia at the moment, this is an interesting book to share with young readers through to older readers.

A book I’ve bought as a gift in the last six months
I’m Just No Good at Rhyming by Chris Harris, illustrated by Lane Smith

Most beautiful book I’ve read this year — which sounds fickle, but … hey, I do judge books by their covers. If you’re a book with a beautiful cover, you won’t stay on that TBR pile very long.
The Extremely Inconvenient Adventures of Bronte Mettlestone* by Jaclyn Moriarty, illustrated by Kelly Canby

The extremely inconvenient adventures of Bronte Mettlestone. Cover is dark blue, with gargoyles and girl and a boy and the title is in gold foil.

This image doesn’t do it justice. The cover is so shiny. The words are in gold foil. It’s a beautiful book.

Most anticipated new release in the second half of 2018
Fiction: The Slightly Alarming Tale of the Whispering Walls by Jaclyn Moriarty, illustrated by Kelly Canby (out November 2018)
Picture book: Maya and Cat by Caroline Magerl (out August 2018)
Nonfiction: Zeroes & Ones by Cristy Burne (out August 2018)

Three books waiting on my TBR (yes, I do have loads more than three on my TBR, but I’d get RSI typing it up)
The List by Patricia Forde
My Life as an Alphabetby Barry Jonsberg
Wormwood Mire* (Stella Montgomery Book 2) by Judith Rossell 

Know any good books I should put on my TBR before the end of 2018?

A new studio and other exciting happenings

Lots of excellent happenings have been … happening … around here. A few months back  I said yes to a shared studio space at Paper Bird Books and Arts in Fremantle. There are three of us being creative in the studio space. It’s light and bright, and since I started writing here (about twice a week) I’ve finished three picture books and I’ve written a good number of poems, too.

Don’t you love this mat?

Paper Bird studio

Speaking of poems (and not so much about mats), The School Magazine has bought two more of my poems this year. And I’ve posted new poems to the Poetry Tag site. Here they are, and if you haven’t already, you should definitely zip straight over and see them in all their glory:

SEA SECRETS

BACK TO SCHOOL BLUES

AFTER A STORM

For my birthday, my very clever musical daughter composed a choral work based on ‘Sea Secrets’, which I might post to the blog once I figure out how. *ahem*.

And I’m now on instagram. Over there I’m @rebeccanewmanbooks. I post some poetry stuff, some booky stuff, some garden-y stuff, and some day-to-day-just-sort-of-noodling-about stuff.

In other (kitchen garden) news: this season we’ve planted a new passionfruit vine to replace the old one that’s not really thriving, cucumbers (which are thriving and already have flowers on them, go little cucumber plants!), watermelon, sunflowers, and lettuce. Everyone is thrilled to know that the succulents I planted earlier this year seem to be doing OK. But I imagine even I would have trouble killing those …

Thrives on neglect

New Years’ Resolutions — I have some.

Writing
Submit manuscripts to publishers.

I need to send more of my work out on submission. Shortly after coming to this conclusion: I submitted a short story to an anthology on 5th January. Pat on the back for me.

Garden
Turn my garden into a low-maintenance garden that has actual living plants in it.

succulents

Ready to plant …

I bought pots of succulents. Lots of them. I don’t love succulents — I prefer leafier sorts of plants that rustle when the wind blows (the same sorts of plants, it turns out,  that can be burnt to death by summer sun and desiccated by scorching salty winds). But, emboldened by my new resolve to stock my garden with appropriate flora, I bought a stack of succulents — in particular the ones with labels that said:

COASTAL CONDITIONS

LOW WATER NEEDS

THRIVES ON NEGLECT

FULL SUN ONLY

They are now planted in between my roses (because I can’t give up my roses). I’m still growing some edible plants, too. This year we have cherry tomatoes (with tomatoes on), cucumber vines (with no sign of a cucumber), passionfruit vines (with two passionfruit, hang in there!) and basil, thyme, rosemary and mint.

Drawing
Draw something little every day.

I’ve always wanted to be able to draw. And so I’ll try to draw something little every day, even if it’s complete rubbish. Because I quite like drawing. Even if it’s complete rubbish.

In other news, I was very excited to find real mail in my postbox this week.

Rebecca with poem

It’s my latest poem ‘Body Beat’ in the February 2017 issue of The School Magazine (Countdown). The wonderful illustration is by Cheryl Orsini.

And I’ve had a couple more poems up at Poetry Tag (which were not written in 2017 but I thought I’d catch you up). Here they are:

2017 is looking good.

~ Rebecca

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Happy World Poetry Day!

World Poetry Day

The School Magazine celebrating 100 Years.

Some of you more savvy readers will already know that this year The School Magazine is celebrating 100 years in print. To add to the excitement, today is World Poetry Day, and Jackie Hosking has talked a bunch(?)* of poets who’ve been published in The School Magazine into a poetry blog tour to mark the day. (Yay!)

My very first poem in The School Magazine was called ‘Odd Socks’, published in June 2014 — and that was the first time I’d been paid for a poem, too. The opening line of the poem came to me while I was at work one morning but I can’t remember if I had odd socks on that day. I do have a history of wearing non-matching socks. You would think that people wouldn’t notice socks … especially since I mostly get around in jeans. In fact, it’s surprising the number of Helpful Souls who will point out to you when your socks don’t match. Those same people are unfailingly astonished to discover it wasn’t a mistake, and that I left the house wearing clashing socks on purpose. Since June 2014, I can tell any Helpful Souls that my wearing odd socks worked out to be quite profitable, really.

The icing on the cake was that Kerry Millard illustrated my poem. As you can imagine, June 2014 was a truly wonderful month for me. (I am strongly in favour of The School Magazine continuing in print for another 100 years!)

You can read ‘Odd Socks’ on the POEMS tab of my website.

So — Happy World Poetry Day to you!

* Internet wisdom suggests ‘an iamb of poets’ but that doesn’t really trip off the tongue, does it? Oh, the irony. In my online wanderings I stumbled across someone’s vote for  ‘a jubilee of poets’ and maybe I should go with that …

Autumn and baking and more poems

Since we returned from the summer holidays, I have taught myself how to make fromage blanc (with the help of the internet, and a kit), and one of my lovely sisters-in-law taught me how to make sourdough bread.

Here’s my first attempt at fromage blanc:

Fromage blanc, made by me. Weird, huh?

Fromage blanc. Weird, huh?

And here’s my latest batch of sourdough:

Sourdough bread, made by me.

As you can see, my sister-in-law is a very good teacher.

I’ve also been busy poem-making, and you can see two of my recent poems over at Poetry Tag:

  1. Beneath the Backyard Lemon Tree and
  2. Cottesloe Beach Skipping Rhyme (with bonus instructions for skipping in a group). BYO skipping rope. And a large bottle of water if you’re in Perth and suffering through this heatwave.

Speaking of heatwaves, looking out of my window I can see my sad garden. Other than my brave rosebushes, there’s not much in it because we were away over the summer break. So, here’s a photo of some of my roses because I didn’t get around taking a shot of the cos lettuces … or the weeds.

Roses from my garden.

Roses from my garden. They smell like turkish delight.

~ Rebecca