Thursday, December 11, 2014

Sunshine Heighs PS Writers Festival

Last month, the kids at Sunshine Heights Primary School had a Writers’ Festival at their school, organised by art teacher and writer powerhouse Francine Sculli (along with her in-school writers' group). First up there was a panel of guest writers: Meaghan Bell, Jennifer Down and me.

Jennifer is getting her first novel published, Meaghan is a poet and I've met Andy Griffiths. So we were kind of like rockstars. The audience was brilliant. They had questions upon questions and weren't afraid to double check the facts.
‘What was that metal word you used?’ asked a teeny front-row preppie.
A moment of confusion, but then Meaghan redefined meta(l)phors and similes (using an analogy, which I may have misremembered but the cuteness factor remains).
The preppie sat up straight, smiled, and confirmed: ‘So...a simile is the wind was like a feather. And a metaphor is the wind was a feather...but it’s not really a feather, it's a metaphor.’

Then the P/1/2 classes and I trooped over to the gymnasium to CREATE A PICTURE BOOK of our very own. First off I read My Teacher is a Monster, because it’s brilliant. But we had to keep things simple given our one-hour time limit. So five-page OPPOSITES books it was.

First off we workshopped some classic opposites: big/small, loud/quiet, tall/short, happy/sad.

But some kids were cleverer and more unique than that...

And some just loved sharks:

All the kids got right into it, even the ones who sometimes find it hard to concentrate in class. Even if they didn't finish all their pages I'm pretty sure each of them was proud to be a real author at the end of the session. It was absolutely the best day. The End*.

*except not the end. I would do it again right now.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Tuesday, August 26, 2014


In August 2009 this blog was born. I was reading The Ask and the Answer.

On this day in 2010 I was singing along to Darren Hanlon's latest (at the time) album.

Around this time in 2011 I was reading Yellowcake and enjoying some MWF sunshine.

In 2012 I  was being brief (though excited) about books, and keen to hear The Futureheads' acapella album, RANT.

August last year... who knows, really... But I had been to see Joan Baez (has it really been a year?!) and was soon to muse on the cost of books.

Skipping to the present day...


Four months (almost to the day) after being retrenched from my in-house editor job, I am cheerfully living the #rockstarfreelancelifestyle, editing picture books for Little Hare and proofreading whatever comes my way.

I have also returned to my original career as a children's bookseller! I like to think of it as working at the coal face. Excitingly, this includes visiting local primary schools...

And there's time to read.
The protag has already eaten at least one "simple meal".

I loved it. In spite of this cynical review.

Some pop-lit-psych as an entree to understanding literacy.

And the end of August is bringing SPRING to Melbourne. It's (starting to be) T-shirt Weather!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

my teacher is a monster

Published by: Little, Brown

Definitely my favourite picture book this month*. You may have already read some of Peter Brown's books, actually:

Mr Tiger Goes Wild 

The Curious Garden

If you have, you'll know that not only does he use colour brilliantly and offer a out-of-the-box perspective on the world, but you will also be prepared for all the laughing.

The premise of My Teacher is a Monster is pretty clear from the cover: Bobby's teacher Ms Kirby is a MONSTER. She roars and stomps and is not impressed with paper aeroplane flights in class.

For Bobby, the weekends are bliss. Until the day he arrives at his favourite place at the park to find MS KIRBY SITTING RIGHT THERE.

Without spoiling the rest for you, let's just say that, luckily, our friend Bobby is polite. Also that appearances can be deceiving and you must never judge a book by its cover. (Except this book, because its cover is wonderful.)

An excellent book to read out loud: perfect for classrooms of children, or while sitting on the couch with one or two kiddies, or reading to your grown-up colleague at the bookshop while they try to serve customers.

*I work at a bookshop again!

Monday, June 2, 2014

opening lines

I love a great opening line.

You know these classics, but here are the first sentences (sometimes first two) of the books currently on my to-read (or recently read) pile:

I said a silent prayer.
Actually, silent is probably the only type of prayer a guy should attempt when his head's in a toilet.

– Winger, Andrew Smith

Tommy was a talker and didn't much like the other ghosts, so he was forever talking to Kelpie.

– Razorhurst, Justine Larbalestier

 'I think Bill is in love with Mrs Peck,' I confide to an undersized blue swimmer crab that has become all tangled up in my line.

– The Minnow, Diana Sweeney

The ring is small and space is tight, and their circles feel like flying.

– The One and Only Jack Chant, Rosie Borella

The first thing we had to do was catch the Tralfamosaur.

– The Eye of Zoltar, Jasper Fforde

It happened before Jack was born.
When Amrei was six, a spider appeared on her shoulder.

– No Stars to Wish On, Zana Fraillon

The first thing is the smell of blood and coffee.

– Why We Took the Car, Wolfgang Herrndorf

The ground is hard and dry. The dirt yields grudgingly as the gravedigger thrusts his shovel in.

– The Forgotten Rebels of Eureka, Clare Wright

 And how about this breath-taker:

It took slightly under eight hours for Melbourne to die.

– Pandora Jones: Admission, Barry Jonsberg

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

métro, boulot, dodo – no more!

Au déboulé garçon pointe ton numéro
Pour gagner ainsi le salaire
D’un morne jour utilitaire
Métro, boulot, bistro, mégots, dodo, zéro 
                                                 – Pierre Béarne

When you don't work the ole nine to five you can...

go to a bonfire & celebrate your freedom,

make some new plant friends,

go to dogsit at your parents' place for one night (but stay four) & you can throw the ball to the dog,

and throw the ball to the dog,

and throw the ball to the dog,

and throw the ball to the (other, less interested) dog,

you can go to a preview screening of The Fault in Our Stars & crying-headache hangover be damned,
get exciting new work that you can do from your house in your pjs,
stay up till the wee hours because you have a new story idea,
cycle down the street & get a fringe trim on a whim,
pick up a shift or two at a bookshop,
drink all the coffee,

and read. Of course.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

we are all clapping, all of the time

Sometimes a girl has to put down her books and go in search of a song.

Fortunately, this girl didn't have to look very far.

Beyond the Bathroom Choir is a weekly singing group for people who just want to sing, whether or not they're great singers. You can come every week or just drop in when you feel like it. We all have a couple of drinks during the evening, meet new folk during the break and learn songs by ear (in four part harmonies).

I think we sounded pretty darn good during our performance at the Sydney Road Street Party last month.

The title of this post came from a recent confusion while learning Pharrell's Happy. There's so much clapping in this song. Clapping in time, out of time... But Pippa set us straight. We are all clapping, all of the time. It'll probably be the title of our biography when we're famous singers beyond the bathroom.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

dirtbag little women

Follow @mallelis on the twitter.

Friday, February 28, 2014

And this was our day

 Andrew Smith's Grasshopper Jungle is certainly strange. It won't be for everybody. However, it is dangerous, violent, very funny and exceedingly compelling. The narrative voice is engaging, honest and completely unique (well, perhaps a younger brother to a certain Caulfield or Billy Pilgrim), Throughout his winding narrative Austin Szerba explores war, history, lust and human nature. Oh - and the end of the world.
 But no historian could ever put everything that happened in a book.
 The book would be as big as the universe, and it would take multiple countless lifetimes to read.
 History necessarily had to be an abbreviation.
 Even those first men - obsessed with recording their history - who painted on cave walls in Lascaux and Altamira, only put the important details down.
 We killed this big hairy thing and that big hairy thing. And that was our day. You know what I mean. 
 It was hard for me, at times, to separate out the connections that crisscrossed like intersecting highways though and around my life in Ealing.
 It was the truth and I had to get it down.
 And that was our day. You know what I mean.
 I took off my boxers and went to bed.
 It was 6:01 a.m.
 The end of the world was about four hours old. Just a baby. 
So it's the story of the end of the world, brought about after Robby and Austin discover a strange strain of a mysterious plague. But various threads intertwine throughout the narrative and you've got to keep up. Amid the the newly-hatched Unstoppable Soldiers, Austin talks about his ancestors, who came to America from Poland and had their consonants taken from them on the way (Szczerba became Szerba), in almost the same breath as he talks about life in (very "middle America") Ealing Iowa, Lutheran Brothers' reading habits (no books about masturbation, please), urinals, diving bells, his mother's addiction to Xanax, his brother deployed in Afghanistan. Then there's his feelings towards his girlfriend Shann and his even more confused feelings towards Robby.

This is smart, weird YA. Like Going Bovine by Libba Bray, How to Say Goodbye in Robot by Natalie Standiford, or King Dork by Frank Portman* – and I’ll admit it’s a massive story to take in. But it is totally worth it.

You know what I mean. 

*Did you hear? There's going to be a sequel soon, King Dork Approximately. Isn't your delight just doublish thanks to the Bob Dylan reference? Yes, yes it is.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Begin as you mean to go on

And I am a creature of habit, so 2014 will contain many books and much coffee. Fortunately these things are in ready supply, especially icy lattes from Top Paddock (pictured) and A Minor Place (not pictured, but often consumed).

February also heralds the release of Grasshopper Jungle. It’s as if John Green and Stephen King had a baby. Plus giant, horny, flesh-eating bug people. Grasshopper Jungle has the feel of a smart, cool, laconic contemporary YA – complete with an edgy, cynical male narrator who is always thinking about sex, cigarettes and sex (a little reminiscent of Holden Caulfield) – but this is also a story about the end of the world, as a manmade plague creates a strain of Unstoppable Soldiers in the form of giant praying mantises who take over a small town in Iowa (and then the world). I goddamn loved it.

So roll on 2014. You're looking awfully pretty so far.