Thursday, 29 October 2015


Well, it's Halloween at the Hooting Owl Inn, everyone's favourite place  to get together and tell stories. And what better time to gather around a cosy fire in the snug and talk in hushed voices of ghosties and zombies and witches and other deliciously creepy things? So WELCOME!

Every  writer worth their salt needs to write at least one Halloween story - an Alberta McWhirter was no exception. But unfortunately for Alberta, her story  didn't work out too well.


Alberta McWhirter was at her computer, writing a Halloween story.
   A witch came whooshing down the chimney and peered at the words on the screen.
  “Am I in your story?” she asked.
  “No fear!” said Alberta. “Witches are totally out. No one wants them any more. Witches are so uncool.”
  “Uncool!” screeched the witch. “Who’s uncool? If it’s cool you want …. watch me!”
  Off she whizzed on her broomstick to the nearest shopping mall. She herself bought some groovy clothes, the most seriously snazzy gear. She had emerald studs stuck all over her nose and a diamond to drip from the end.
  She swapped her black steeple hat for a cute little fascinator and traded in her broomstick on a late model vacuum cleaner.
 Then back she flew to Alberta’s house. “I’m a funky witch now,” she cried. “Can I be in your story?”
  But Alberta shook her head. “No one wants witches any more. Witches are ugly old hags.”
  “Ugly!” shrieked the witch. “Who’s an ugly hag? If it’s gorgeous you want….watch me.”
  She went to the gym and worked out for hours to get rid of her bulges and flab. Then she popped next door to the dentist for a new set of shiny white teeth.
  Off she zoomed to the beauty shop, the most expensive one in town. They sloshed mud all over her wrinkles, they turned her straggly hair into bright blue curls. She put on lipstick, eyeshadow, mascara and squirted perfume behind her ears.
  Then it was back to Alberta again. “I’m fabulously gorgeous now!” the witch cried. “So can I be in your story?”
  But Alberta shook her head. “No one wants witches any more. Witches are nasty and mean.”
“Nasty!” squawked the witch. “Who’s nasty and mean? If it’s super sweet and kind you want….watch me!
  She cleaned Alberta’s kitchen and she baked Alberta a cake. She hung out Alberta’s washing and watered Alberta’s plants. She turned Alberta’s dog into a handsome prince and gave herself some angel wings.
  Then she simpered at Alberta. “I’m so fantastically good,” she said. “So can I be in your story?”
  But Alberta shook her head. “I’ve never liked witches very much and I don’t think I ever will.”
 With that the witch went ballistic. “You don’t like witches?” she hissed. “Well, here’s one witch who doesn’t like you and you’ve really been asking for this!’
  Alberta’s hair turned to greasy rats tails. Warts sprouted on her nose. Her face shrivelled into wrinkles and her teeth went all snaggled and snarled. With a snap of the witch’s fingers, Alberta was dressed in rags. The handsome prince turned into pile of dog poo and before Alberta could say, “Can we talk?” she’d shrunk down to the size of a mouse.
  The witch sat at the computer and busily started to type.“Once upon a time, there was this really ultra-cool witch. She was utterly fabulously gorgeous and sick-makingly good and kind.”

  “If you want to be in a Halloween story,” she cackled, “You just have to write it yourself.”

Monday, 5 October 2015

A Great Review! Thank You ReadPlus!

Review Blog

Oct 06 2015

Underneath a cow by Carol Ann Martin

cover image Ill. by Ben Wood. Scholastic, 2015. ISBN 9781742990880
(Age: 5+) Highly recommended. Animals, Farms, Safety. When Madge the cow notices a huge dark cloud over the farm, she invites the rabbit to shelter beneath her as the first large rain drops begin to fall. The farm dog passes by and takes shelter as well, then the mother hen and her chicks, while later an echidna rolls under her as well. Each addition causes a little mayhem at the start, but all settle down to shelter from the rain. When the rain stops Madge is presented with some flowers as a thank you and she tells them that what is important is that they are all in a safe place, while sometimes we are the safe place.
This is a charming story about safety, about putting aside differences to take shelter, to work together to be safe, and will encourage younger readers to discuss their safety within this carefully worded text. Martin uses repetition in some parts of the text which will encourage younger readers to predict what is happening next. The song she presents could be used as a learning tool to recite when this book is brought out for rereading.
I love the illustrations, Wood using mixed media and digital means to draw his characters, giving them amazingly human expressions. I adore Madge's udder which seems to leave the dog a little nonplussed, and figures a little more prominently when Spike crawls beneath her. What an introduction for parents and teachers to discuss where milk comes from, as few, if any, picture books show this important part of a cow's anatomy. Discussions too could evolve concerning the farm portrayed, comparing it with other picture books where Australian farms are drawn, and perhaps even discussing why Spike's animal status is not named. Perhaps this book is being aimed at an American market as well?
Whatever group of kids reads this, they will ask for it again and again as they absorb the playful humour of the farm animals sheltering beneath Madge the cow, make up their own song to go with the words and contemplate how they keep themselves safe.
Fran Knight