Tuesday, 22 January 2019

To Rhyme or Not to Rhyme?

To Rhyme or Not to Rhyme? by Kristin Martin, illustrated by Joanne Knott (Glimmer Press) PB RRP $24.99 ISBN 978064846354

Reviewed by Dianne Bates

Said to be one of South Australia’s ‘most skilful and inventive children’s poets’, Kristin Martin has assembled this collection of rhyming and non-rhyming poems with connections to the Australian curriculum in Science and English from Foundation to Year 7. The front cover gives a glimpse into the subject matter of Martin’s poems – nature – from dragonflies to swallows to frogs and more.

The book is divided into two sections – one for rhyming and one for non-rhyming poems. Here’s an example of a rhyming quartet from ‘Sparkly Treasure’: ‘I found a sparkly treasure/on the dusty path, today/I’m lucky that I found it/as we wandered on our way’. 

All the poems are simple and use simple language. While none of them employ clich├ęs, none of the images are remarkable. 

Many poems offer prosaic statements (from ‘Drought’ for example): ‘It’s hot and dry and dusty/ I wish that it would rain’. However, for a child who loves animals, weather and country, the poems are likely to spark an interest.

Saturday, 19 January 2019

The Fork, The Witch, and the Worm

The Fork, The Witch, and the Worm by Christopher Paolini (Penguin Random House) PB RRP $24.99 ISBN 9780241392379

Paolini began writing The Inheritance Cycle at fifteen, this book being the fifth in the series set in the world of Alagaesia. The hero, Eragon departed from the there a year ago in search of the perfect home to train a new generation of Dragon Riders. He must undertake a seemingly endless sea of tasks: constructing a vast dragonhold, wrangling with suppliers, guarding dragon eggs and dealing with belligerent Urgals and haughty elves. A vision from the Eldunari, unexpected visitors and an exciting Urgal legend offer a much-needed distraction and a new perspective.

Paolini’s Inheritance Cycle series (Eragon, Eldest, Brisngr and Inheritance) has sold more than 35 million copies worldwide and has been translated into over 40 languages. No doubt this latest book will be eagerly awaited by his fans. If you haven’t read any of the books in the series, you will most likely find his latest difficult as the first chapter mentions numerous characters from the previous books.

Thursday, 17 January 2019

The Box Cars

The Box Cars by Robert Vescio, illustrated by Cara King (EK Books) PB
ISBN: 9781925335835 RRP: $24.99

Reviewed by Anne Helen Donnelly

Liam and Kai are best friends. They love playing in the park every day, with their cars made from cardboard boxes. Their imaginations run wild. Sometimes they are police officers, sometimes they are drivers for movie stars and sometimes they are taxi drivers.

One day Eve was watching them and enjoying their games. She cheered and waved and ran alongside. Liam and Kai offered Eve their box cars but there were only two cars for three people. How can they solve this problem so that all three of them can enjoy the freedom of box cars?

This is a fun tale with a simple-story line that will have broad appeal with themes of friendship, sharing and solving problems. The illustrations are soft and whimsical and a good compliment to the text. Recommended for boys and girls ages 4 – 8 years old.

Tuesday, 15 January 2019

Buzz Words Long List

There were 209 entries in the inaugural Buzz Words short story Prize which has prize-money of $1,500. The following stories have been long-listed by Dianne Bates and Bill Condon and sent to judge Cathie Tasker who has the task of creating a short-list of ten to be sent to finalist judge, Jackie French.  

We hope to announce the winner and runner-up of the Prize in our 15 February issue, along with an article titled ‘How to Win a Short Story Competition for Children’ and a suggested scoring list.

Congratulations to: 

'Morgan’s Night, Stef Gemmill 
‘A Kind of Christmas Story’, Arna Radovich 
‘Abruptly’, Kesta Flemming 
‘Cyber Parents’, Jo Mularczyk 
‘Defeating the Trolls’, Carly Taylor 
‘Finding the Magic’, Alys Jackson 
‘Hester’s Egg’, Suzsi Mandeville 
‘Mad About Metaphors and Other Poetic Problems’, Zoe Gaetjens 
‘Miss Um’, Leigh Roswen 
‘Mummy in the Water’, Kathleen Smart Smart 
‘The Money Pouch’, Steve Heron 
‘Secrets’, Carolyn Floyd 
‘The Potato Orphan’, Kaye Baillie 
‘The Wild Dog,’ Elissa Moss 
‘To the City’, Joanne Eather 
‘Just Good Friends,’ Donna Gibbs 
‘Uncle Barney’s Gadget’, David McRobbie 
‘Gone Into the Gloaming’, Janine O’Dwyer 
‘Frog-Viking’, Geraldine Borella 
'Empty Orchestra,’ Jemma van de Nes 

Buzz Words will offer its second Short Story Prize later in 2019. 

Matilda’s How to Be a Genius

Matilda’s How to Be a Genius by Roald Dahl illustrated by Quentin Blake (Penguin Random House) PP RRP $16.99 ISBN 9780241371183

Reviewed by Dianne Bates

Ultra-popular children’s author, the late Englishman Roald Dahl lives on, thanks to the UK marketing department of his publisher. As well as the books on writing recently released, now comes this book which was inspired by Dahl’s novel, Matilda. It’s a colourful book with the sub-title ‘Brilliant tricks to bamboozle grown-ups’ and with lots of visual interest which ought to appeal to readers aged 8 to 12 years.

After the bright fly and title pages, there’s a double-page spread introducing, with drawings and descriptions, all the main characters in Matilda, including the ‘extra-ordinary child genius looking for revenge’ (Matilda herself), Mr and Mrs Wormwood, her ‘stupid and despicable parents’, Miss Honey, the kind teacher, Miss Trunchball (‘hulking and horrifying’) and Bruce Bogtrotter (read the book to find out about Bruce!)

In this book readers will discover mental marvels, amazing tricks, puzzles and games to train the brain. They will also learn how to stun others with the powers of mind-reading (guessing shoe size, for instance), how to add massive numbers sans calculator and how to write fiendish riddles, including secret messages using invisible ink. They will even learn how to poke skewers through balloons without popping them, and how to make exploding cakes.

No doubt this is a book which will entertain and occupy curious kids. It’s chock-a-block full of amazing material. No doubt Dahl would have approved!

Sunday, 13 January 2019

Mr Bambuckle’s Remarkables: On the Lookout

Mr Bambuckle’s Remarkables: On the Lookout by Tim Harris, illustrated by James Hart (PenguinRandom House) PP RRP $14.99 ISBN9780143793144

Reviewed by Dianne Bates

This is the fourth book in Australia Harris’ book series about Australia’s favourite literary teacher, Mr Bambuckle who oversees students of room 12 B. The book begins with a roll call of those 14 students, which includes their names, pictures of them and their likes and dislikes. One of the students is Vex Vron who likes cars and dislikes almost everything apart from cars.

The story begins at camp which has Mr Bambuckle and the stern assistant principal Miss Frost, both very different. Mr Bambuckle values learning, individuality and fun while Miss Frost is far more concerned with discipline, procedures and efficiency. Student Vex has left a note to indicate he is running away so the hunt is on to find him before his parents and school realise he is missing. This involves everyone, including new twin sisters, Grace and Gabby Wu.

As in the previous books in this series, Harris makes use of visual page ‘tricks’ such as phone calls, conversations (with cranky canteen Carol), notes (passed from students to one another) and ‘dos’ and ‘don’ts’. The book, also like the others, is full of witty asides, jokes and sparkling dialogue. Sentences are generally short and there are snappy, fast-paced actions that lead to a happy conclusion. All of these devices make this book another to be enjoyed by readers aged 9 to 12 years.

Wednesday, 9 January 2019

A Lot of Stuff Happens

A Lot of Stuff Happens by Adrian Beck, Oliver Phommavanh, Will Kostakis and Andrew Daddo (Penguin Random House) PB RRP $19.99 ISBN9780143794752

Reviewed by Dianne Bates

Here is a collection of four books in one from some of Australia’s best-known contemporary males writing for children. The book is divided into four sections titled, ‘Dale’, ‘Ned’, ‘Sean’ and ‘Ethan’. Dale, for example, is written by TV producer Adrian Beck and begins with the words, ‘Press-studs are evil’. When you read the sentence below which contains the words ‘I once had a pair of pants with an unreliable press-stud fly’, you know to prepare for something humorous to happen.
Each of the four boys attend Monvale Primary where everyday stuff happens, such as friendships, ghost stories, the school play, disappearing hamburgers, new teachers, singing monkeys and lions, the first day at school, flags made of underwear, living up to older brothers and sisters, warring dinosaurs. Stuff that happens all the time!
The stories are related in first-person and are written in easy-to-access, informal language that demonstrates lots of wit and good humour. There’s action a-plenty in this fast-paced book which is sure to be a hit with readers aged 8 to 11 years.