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Mem Fox

There is this battleground, see. On one side, shooting from the jungle, there are the literary agents. On the other, shooting from the swamps, are the publishers. And contrary to what you’re probably thinking the writer isn’t bleeding on the barbed wire, caught in the crossfire. Hell, no. The writer’s at home in silent safety, pencils sharpened, ruler straightened, papers just so, about to begin A New Work, for which the literary agent will extract from the publisher an advance twelve times bigger than the writer ever dared to hope for or believed possible.

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Rules of Summer by Shaun Tan & Kissed by the Moon by Alison Lester

December 2013–January 2014, no. 357

Never ruin a perfect plan’ is one of the masterful Shaun Tan’s Rules of Summer (Lothian, $24.99 hb, 52 pp). On a bone-strewn landscape, four thimbles with legs, tails, and horned heads are caught mid-procession. Two of them carry a knife and fork twice their height. The smallest one has turned its Ned Kelly visor head to salute. In doing so, he has trodden unaware on the tail of the one in the lead, who is carrying a strawberry as big as himself. The tip of the tail lies under his foot, dropped like a skink’s. A crow watches from the shadows. The narrative in this one picture would be enough to keep a reader absorbed for hours. The many colours of summer are textured contrasts.

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A pile of picture books to savour – what better start to the year? Experienced authors and artists are met again, and new favourites are found, in these eight books.

Margaret Wild and Freya Blackwood, wonderful book makers in their own right, make a special team in The Treasure Box (Viking, $24.99 hb, 32 pp, 9780670073658). A boy and his fathe ...

Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes by Mem Fox, illustrated by Helen Oxenbury & Enigma by Graeme Base

February 2009, no. 308

While the children’s picture book is a relatively recent literary phenomenon, most picture book authors still tap into the strong traditions of oral storytelling. Multi-award winning author Mem Fox is particularly good at this. Fox’s picture book texts are firmly grounded in the three R’s – the traditional rhythms, rhymes and repetitions found in children’s songs and verses throughout the ages. This, combined with Judy Horacek’s inspired illustrations, was what made Where is the Green Sheep? (2004) such a success.

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