Thursday, 25 August 2016

Quick as a Wink Fairy Pink

Quick as a Wink Fairy Pink by Lesley Gibbes and Sara Acton
(Working Title Press) HB RRP $24.99 
ISBN 978 1 921504 86 0

Reviewed by Vicki Thornton

This is a gorgeous bedtime story featuring five little flutter fairies, Fairy Blue, Fairy Green, Fairy Gold, Fairy Red and the mischievous Fairy Pink. As the fairies do their nightly rituals, of taking a bath, cleaning their teeth, getting in pyjamas and reading a story, one little fairy is hiding.

Told in rhyming text, and with the repetitive verse
‘But someone’s playing hide and seek.
Can you see her? Take a peek.
Quick as a wink, find Fairy Pink.
it invites the reader to help find this elusive fairy pink.

With simple soft pastel coloured illustrations this book will be a favourite bedside read for your little one. Not only does it reinstate all that’s involved in getting ready for bed, it also gives the chance for the reader to discover Fairy Pink in her hiding places.

A great read for younger children, five and under, although older children will also enjoy the rhyme and illustrations.

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Small Things

Small Things written and illustrated by Mel Tregonning (Allen and Unwin)
HB RRP $29.99
ISBN 9781742379791

Reviewed by Daniela Andrews

Small things turn into big things when they lack attention. Small things, small acts of kindness, can change a person’s outlook on life. Small things make an impact … and deep is the impact this book will make.

The protagonist in this story is a lonely, school-aged child, laden with social anxieties. These worries start to eat away at him, expressed chillingly in the pictures by tentacled, demonic creatures. His grades at school are affected, along with his relationship with his family. He has trouble sleeping at night. 

The story is told entirely in vivid, black and white illustrations so expressive that to accompany them with words would do them a disservice. The front cover, showing a close-up of a child’s face consumed with sadness, is stark and confrontational. It is impossible to walk past this title without reaching for it.

A comic-strip style is generally maintained for the illustrations inside. The dimensions of the boxes are pleasantly varied, as is the number of pictures on each page. This style perfectly sets the pace for the story. Readers are also treated to breathtaking double-paged spreads, allowing space to pause, reflect and empathise.

I was reminded of Anna Walker’s Mr Huff when I first started reading this, but in premise only. The illustrations in this book are extraordinarily lifelike and much darker, intended for an older age group – perhaps upper primary to early secondary.

This book is hauntingly beautiful in its own right, more so because the author took her own life before she was able to complete it. Her family collaborated with award-winning artist Shaun Tan to piece the story together, thus producing an insightful window into mental health awareness. Shaun has contributed the final three illustrations in the book. They show the character understanding that he is not alone in his worries, that such feelings are universal and that reaching out to people is the only way to keep the demons at a distance.

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Born to Sing

Born to Sing by Sally Morgan, illustrated by Craig Smith (Omnibus Books)
PB RRP $12.99
ISBN 978-1-74299-151-1

Reviewed by Jenny Heslop

The holidays are here again and during a family meeting Dad announces they will all be taking a special trip. He is taking the boys to Tasmania to see the penguins and Mum will take Maddie and Nan to Shark Bay to see the whales. Maddie is a little concerned when Mum says they are taking the ratty caravan, but nothing can spoil her excitement at the possibility of seeing whales. Maddie loves to sing and her favourite music is whale songs. She is super excited!

Born To Sing tells the story of the adventure Maddie has with her Mum and Nan as they make their ten-hour journey. It also shares the fun they have when they arrive, including an encounter with the huge and magnificent whales in Shark Bay.

A humorous and happy story, it is based around an indigenous family with a lovely bond and is set firmly in the Australian landscape and culture. Where else would you see an emu walking down the main street with no-one batting an eye?

Informative and entertaining, this is a great book for those just starting to extend their reading skills to chapter books. It is well written with easy to read sentences for younger readers. Lovely black and white illustrations break up the short chapters, filling the pages and enhancing the light, fun atmosphere of the story.

Monday, 22 August 2016

Song Bird Superhero

Song Bird Superhero by Karen Tyrrell (Digital Future Press)
PB RRP $14.95
ISBN 9780994302137

Reviewed by Kate Simpson

In a world where Supergirl and Wonder Woman are real, Rosella “Rosie” Bird dreams of being able to fly. And she’s not short of ideas that might help her to achieve her goal. Unfortunately, a series of dangerous engineering failures has left her parents less than supportive and with her neighbour Frank contriving to make her life miserable, Rosie feels attacked on all fronts. Only her love of singing sustains her – and that is where the fun begins. With the help of a supportive teacher, Rosie discovers that her voice is the key that will finally let her take flight.

In Song Bird Superhero, Karen Tyrrell tackles again the subject of bullying that she has explored in previous books. Children aged 7-10 will relate to Rosie and her struggle with school bully Frank Furter, who is also her neighbour. Through the book, Tyrrell allows her protagonist Rosie to solve her own problems while also demonstrating to her readers the importance of having a trusted adult to confide in – in this case, teacher Miss Darling.

Although Tyrrell promotes her book as being aligned with STEM science, it is much more science fiction than science fact. Nevertheless, Rosie’s enthusiasm for science and invention is certainly infectious and who knows how many young readers will have new engineering aspirations after reading this book?

Sunday, 21 August 2016


Shield by Rachael Craw (Walker Books) PB RRP $27.99  ISBN 9781922179647

Reviewed by Ashling Kwok

Get ready to be taken on the ride of your life in the latest instalment from New Zealand author Rachael Craw.

Shield is the final book in the popular Spark trilogy. The first part of this gripping young adult sci-fi series, Spark, was released in 2014 to rave reviews, followed by Stray in 2015.
In the latest book, the drama continues but this time Evie is out of options. She must comply with the Affinity Project in order to survive. Evie must obey their rules, play their deadly games and give up Jamie.
When Evie decides to help a small group of Shields trying to affect change, she finds herself in all sorts of trouble. Counsellor Knox is determined to reveal her secrets and tie her to the Affinity Project for life. To protect her family, Evie must betray those closest to her. The odds of success, and of Evie’s survival, are slim.
Shield is a fast paced, action-packed thriller that will grab reader’s attention from the very first page. It is an original, exciting story with underlying themes of friendship, loyalty, courage and love.  
Shield is perfect for teenagers with a passion for sc-fi and for anyone who enjoyed The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins and the Maze Runner Trilogy by James Dashner.
Rachael Craw is a prolific talent as evidenced by her latest book. She has the ability to produce brilliant work that is well-written and contains just the right amount of action and excitement to enthral readers.
A great read and highly recommended.

Saturday, 20 August 2016

Pattan’s Pumpkin

Pattan’s Pumpkin by Chitra Soundar illustrated by Fran Lessac (Walker Books) HB RRP $27.99   ISBN 9781910959442

Reviewed by Ashling Kwok

Pattan’s Pumpkin is an Indian flood story, reminiscent of the traditional Noah’s Ark tale. It is the story of Pattan, a kind and caring man who stumbles upon an ailing flower and decides to plant it near his hut and nurture it back to life. Pattan watches the flower gain strength and its yellow flowers blossom in the glorious sun.

One day, to Pattan’s surprise, he notices that the flower has transformed into a magnificent pumpkin that is bigger than the goats, bigger than the elephants, and is actually so tall that it reaches the summit of the mountain.
When a terrifying storm arrives and the waters rise, Pattan’s quick thinking and imagination help him devise a clever plan that enables him to rescue the whole village from impending disaster.

Pattan’s Pumpkin is written by well-known author, Chitra Soundar, who was born and raised in India, a place where traditions, festivals and mythology are a way of life. Over the years, Chitra has produced a wonderful array of books in various genres.

The illustrations by award winning artist Frane Lessac are striking and vibrant, and the colour palette is so rich that the images practically leap off the page.

Pattan’s Pumpkin is a sweet tale for readers aged 4-8 years. The text is easy to read and has a soft, gentle tone that will soothe young readers at bedtime and have them happily dozing in no time at all.

Pattan’s Pumpkin is a beautiful book and the perfect addition to your picture book library.

Friday, 19 August 2016

A Toaster on Mars

A Toaster on Mars by Darrell Pitt (Text Publishing) PB RRP $19.99
ISBN 9781922182869

Reviewed by Wendy Fitzgerald

I have previously reviewed two of Darrell Pitt’s books from his Victorian era steam- punk series, The Firebird Mystery and The Monster Within. In both of these books I was swept along by the fast paced mysteries set in a magical world of airships, space steamers, a 200 mile high metro tower, lots of crazy machines and intriguing gadgets.

Now Pitt’s new book, A Toaster on Mars, is a stand-alone story set in the future- 2509. Once again, Pitt uses his excellent writing skills and vivid imagination to cleverly paint a futuristic back drop for this action-packed inter-galactic adventure.

Neo City is a multi-layered metropolis built on what used to be the east coast of the USA. The buildings are up to1000 storeys high- linked by walkways and roads. It’s a world of flying cars, buses, taxi-gondolas and helium cyclists where cars drive themselves, people eat food-flavoured pills and travel between planets. 

A Toaster on Mars will spark many interesting discussions in homes and classrooms about the future. What will the world will be like in 2509?

Bartholomew Badde is the villain of the story- a criminal mastermind. He steals the super computer- EMP and holds the world to ransom. So, Agent Blake Carter from the Planetary Bureau of Investigation (PBI) and his new partner, Nicki Steel are assigned to the case.

Nicki Steel is my favourite character. She’s a cyborg- 90% robot and 10% human. She’s strong, brave, funny and is able to process information super quickly. When Badde kidnaps 12 year old Lisa, Blake’s ex-wife, Astrid joins the team. Together they go on a wild romp through the galaxy to rescue Lisa.

I like the way Pitt injects the story with humour and clever intertextual references. I also like the way Pitt has included comments from the editor (Zeeb Blatsnart.) These comments start with Zeeb says: and are printed in italics. This is a unique way of explaining certain terms and concepts. I think this tool works well.

There is one thing that concerns me. The main characters are all adults. Lisa is 12, but she is not a focus character. As a rule, kids like to identify with characters their own age.

That said, I believe A Toaster on Mars will appeal to many kids aged 10+ years who would love to project themselves into Pitt’s entertaining vision of our world in 2509.