Friday, 19 July 2019

Maddie in the Middle

Maddie in the Middle by Julia Lawrinson, (Fremantle Press), 2019. Pb. 226pp.  RRP $16.99 Also available as an eMobi, ePdf, ePub.

Reviewed by Pauline Hosking

Maddie Lee is beginning her last year at primary school. Her oldest and best friend Katy has been voted school captain (called a head counsellor in Queensland) and Maddie is feeling left behind. When the new girl Samara appears, Maddie works hard to become her friend. She discovers that Samara’s family have secrets and very little money. Although she knows stealing is wrong, Maddie joins Samara in shoplifting. 

The girls steal luxury items which are sold to raise cash. If the girls are caught, Maddie agrees to say she was acting alone. Samara fears that if she gets into trouble, and her family situation is discovered, she and her siblings will end up in care.

The girls are caught. Bravely (or foolishly) Maddie stays true to her friend and does not mention Samara’s name. Maddie is charged with theft and appears in the Children’s Court. Samara and Katy arrive during Maddie’s second court appearance. Samara explains her role in the thefts and says Maddie was ‘doing a bad thing for a good reason.’ The magistrate is sympathetic. Maddie in the Middle ends with the three girls becoming best friends.

I found this a difficult book to review. The publicity mentions the genre is middle readers ages 10-14. I think this where my problem lies. 10-14 is top of middle grade overlapping the bottom of YA. It’s a pity the novel wasn’t more firmly positioned in one camp. At present it’s an uncomfortable mix of serious subjects and happily-ever-after fantasy - like the frankly unbelievable way Samara and Katy are allowed to behave in court. The title, too, is very junior fiction.

Young readers may find the main characters difficult to relate to. Their behaviour and motivation are often confusing. At first Samara is presented as a Machiavellian type who manipulates Maddie. In the blink of an eye she becomes nice and responsible.
Many of the minor characters are more successful, especially Maddie’s father and Samara’s younger brother and sister. The short pieces Maddie writes for school are imaginative and deeply emotional. I think they would work even better in a grittier YA version of this story.

Wednesday, 17 July 2019

Helping the Orangutan Outreach

As you will have seen on Facebook and the Little Pink Dog Books website, Kathy Creamer has written a new picture book (The Big Old Rambutan Tree) and the entire profits will be donated to support the conservation work of Orangutan Outreach based in the USA.

This is Kathy’s third book aimed at conserving orangutans and follows previous books entitled My Cousin, Ah Meng (Singapore, 1998) and The Old Man of The Forest (UK, 2002). Both these books raised considerable funds in their host country for orangutan conservation.

As with the earlier books, Kathy has donated all her time and the funds raised via the following crowd funding initiative (below) will support the printing of the book. Link to the Indigogo Crowd Funding Site:

With such a global campaign, it is important to be able to bring such a project to the attention of the maximum number of people.

You are therefore asked if you could support the project by sharing the link on our LPDB Facebook page with as much of your network as you are comfortable to do so.

Tuesday, 16 July 2019


Stef Gemmill has signed another picture book contract with New Frontier Publishing.  In My Dreams is confirmed for release in April 2020 and will be illustrated by the talented German artist Tanja Stephani.

Stef has also announced the August release of A Home for Luna, a picture book about finding family in an unexpected place and illustrated by  Mel Armstrong.

Sunday, 14 July 2019

Over the Rooftops, Under the Moon

Over the Rooftops, Under the Moon by JoArno Lawson, illustrated by Nahid Kazemi (Enchanted Lion) HB RRP $27.99 ISBN9781 92702626

Reviewed by Dianne Bates

With a jacket cover, this beautifully designed and illustrated picture book uses abstract themes which might be difficult for young children to comprehend. There are few words in this story which features a bird with an unusual appearance. At the start of the book, the bird is alone. The words read: ‘You can be far away inside, and far away outside. With others, but still on your own…’

The message of this book is that of the journey towards self-understanding. The bird gains an understanding of itself as it explores the world, taking in people and places. Along with the sparse, lyrical language of the book are illustrations which are eye-catching and compelling, from the bird in a pumpkin patch to a night street scene and beyond. ‘Colour arrives, sometimes when you least expect it’, reads the text: accordingly, the bird’s plain feathers are suddenly brightly coloured. ‘But then snow falls’.

As you move through life, the story implies, there are moments of rejoicing and other times when life changes and people flee. But eventually, as in this book, you are ‘inside and out, alone and together.’

This is a truly lovely book especially for its illustrations which are detailed and exquisite, cleverly extending the theme of the story.

Friday, 12 July 2019

The Girl Who Thought in Pictures

The Girl Who Thought in Pictures: The Story of Dr Temple Grandin by Julia Finley Mosca, illustrated by Daniel Rieley (The Innovation Press) PB RRP $17.99 ISBN 9781943147 618

Reviewed by Dianne Bates

Neurologist Oliver Sachs wrote about Temple Grandin, a child with autism who hated to be touched and who loved animals: she grew up to become a famed inventor. One of her best-known inventions was a contraption which settled animals just prior to slaughter. Basing on this invention, Grandin made a ‘holding’ machine for herself which helped to calm her.

In this picture book for children aged 5 to 9 years, Finley Mosca has used rhyming narrative verse to tell Grandin’s story from childhood to adulthood. She invites the reader who feels ‘different’ to empathise with the autistic girl who hated ‘a big squeezy hug’, loud sounds and bright lights and who threw massive tantrums. By the age of three Grandin hadn’t spoken and at school she’s bullied for repeating the same words over and over.

In the back of the book, there’s a letter to the ‘Dear Reader’ from Temple Grandin herself and a picture of her sitting with a group of cows. There are also ‘fun facts and tidbits from the author’s chat with Temple’. One learns for example, that in 2010 HBO released Temple Grandin, starring actress Claire Danes, who won a Golden Globe for her role as the well-known Scientist. Included in the film was artwork with Grandin created as a child.

To finish this book, is a timeline of Grandin’s life which includes her many achievements, not the least of which is speaking in conferences all over the world.
The book is illustrated with simple, stylised pictures set against blocks of colour which suits the subject matter.

Wednesday, 10 July 2019


Jan Latta has dedicated the last 25 years creating books for children so they could learn about endangered animals. To do that, she followed wild animal to tell their story through photographs. She travelled to Sri Lanka for the elusive leopards, Borneo for orangutans, China for pandas, Uganda for Dr Jane Goodall’s chimpanzees, India for the endangered tiger, Costa Rica for the adorable sloths and eleven times to Africa. 

Her new book, Adventures in the Wild, is 68 pages and full of stunning photographs and amazing information during her last trip to Africa.

Contact  for school talks and sales. Or go to to buy copies.