Wednesday, 26 September 2018

There’s a Baddie Running Through this Book

There’s a Baddie Running Through this Book by Shelley Unwin, illustrated by Vivienne To (Allen & Unwin) HB RRP $$19.99 ISBN9781 760630614

Reviewed by Dianne Bates

With a title like this, the young reader can be sure there’s a lot of fun and action in this picture book. And it doesn’t disappoint. You can find the baddie, hidden among dozens of other animals such as hens, bears, tortoises and more in the fly pages before the story starts (spoiler alert, he’s wearing a mask and has a sack full of goodies over his shoulder). On the first page, the illustrator has cleverly shown the baddie running into a black space of a torn page, leaving behind a trail of lollies. As you turn the pages, the baddie is racing along, leaving a flurry of upset characters, such as the koala baby in a pram. Next, he catches the eye of a police officer.

In short rhyming lines, the author continues the baddie’s adventure. There’s ‘no time to waste/This baddie knows he’s being chased!’ On foot or in vehicles, the baddie continues to evade capture and to steal as he proceeds. To find out the baddie’s fate, one must follow him through the pages of the book until the end.

This book – ideal for reading aloud – is action-packed and fast-paced with lots of energy accompanying the animated and interesting illustrations. Lots of good fun and sure to amuse and entertain readers aged 4 to 8 years.

Tuesday, 25 September 2018

Australia Remembers

Australia Remembers by Allison Paterson (Big Sky Publishing) RRP: Paperback $14.95 Hardback $24.99   ISBN: Paperback 9781925675771 ISBN: Hardback 9781925675788

Reviewed by Anne Helen Donnelly

Australia Remembers begins with an introduction to our country, how we live and how people in other countries may live. It continues to explain, in plain language perfectly pitched for the target age group of 6 to 12, the topics such as conflict, commemoration, ANZAC and document events such as the World Wars and current events that take place in remembrance. Apparently, there are three different types of bugle calls. I didn’t know this even though I had a friend in the army who used to play at every dawn service!

After the initial explanation, the book flows chronologically beginning with World War I and ending with The War on Terror, as well as Peacekeeping efforts. It explains to children why we remember and how, detailing various Australian War Memorials within Australia and abroad. Symbolism is included, such as the wearing of poppies and other national rituals, such as the minute silence on Remembrance Day and the baking of Anzac biscuits.

The layout is spot on, with the right mixture of images and information. The text is not excessive and is presented in different ways such as in thought bubbles, posed as questions and in sections with different coloured backgrounds. The images used keep the reader interested.

Photos, both current and historical, are included, as are maps and little drawings such as lightbulbs and question marks to attract attention to various text. A glossary is included for younger readers and the activities in the last chapter including making cardboard poppies and a recipe for Anzac biscuits, will keep little hands busy and make this book a more interactive experience.

This is exactly the type of non-fiction book I would have loved at age 6 to 12. Informative and interesting with relatable content. I highly recommend it.

Monday, 24 September 2018


Marg Gibbs (M.J. Gibbs) is happy to report that her poem, ‘Christmas Fairy Wish’ and short story, ‘The Musical Christmas Tree’ have been accepted for publication in the Share your Story Competition run by Michelle Worthington.

The book launch for the anthology, It’s Beginning to look like Christmas is in Cleveland, Brisbane Saturday 1 December. Marg will be attending this launch with her family and friends.

Rebecca Colless is delighted to have received second prize in the Novels category of the 2018 Rate Your Story Awesome Openers Writing Contest for her YA speculative fiction ‘The Demon Bells’, which was shortlisted for last year’s Ampersand Prize.
‘This is my first test with an American audience and it’s encouraging to receive such positive feedback,’ says Rebecca.


Jo Mularczyk says, ‘I’m very excited and grateful to have had two stories included in The School Magazine’s October edition. Dear Mr Alien is included in Blast Off and “Hope” is included in Touchdown. A reading of an extract from Hope is also featured on The School Magazine Youtube channel.’

Sunday, 23 September 2018

All the Ways to Be Smart

All the Ways to Be Smart by Davina Bell and Allison Colpoys (Scribble) HB RRP $24.99 ISBN 9781925713435

Reviewed by Dianne Bates

‘Every hour of every day, we’re smart in our own special way’ reads the penultimate page of this rhyming picture book for readers aged 4 to 7 years. Presented in mostly greens, oranges, blues and browns, the book shows children interacting with a host of beings, some other children and some monsters and some people like pirates, witches and clowns.

The aim of the book is to show the reader ‘how smart you are the whole day through’. Numerous children, such as a red-haired boy, a brown girl, a boy wearing glasses and numerous others are shown being smart in numerous ways. These include being talented in arts and crafts: ‘Smart at drawing things with claws/facts about the dinosaurs’, and in treating other people humanely: ‘Smart is kindness when there’s crying’.

Basically, the book is a list of ways in which children can be smart, presented in rhyming couplets. It would read well aloud and allow small children to feel that they are accomplished as they recognise the skills which they already possess.

Saturday, 22 September 2018

The Forever Kid

The Forever Kid by Elizabeth Mary Cummings, illustrated by Cheri Hughes (Big Sky Publishing) PB RRP $14.99 HB RRP $24.99 ISBN 781925 675382

Reviewed by Nikki M Heath

Grief is a challenging topic for children’s books, especially for the very young. This gentle, warm picture book features a family learning to move on after the loss of the eldest child to illness. The story follows the narrator – a young boy – his two sisters, parents and family dog as they celebrate the birthday of Johnny, their “forever kid”, the brother who is no longer with them. They remember what they shared with him, individually and together, and look at their cherished mementos. They allow themselves both sadness and joy as they grieve and celebrate.

Cummings, who has qualifications in psychology and education, weaves comforting imagery and sensory language with a poignant tone, gradually building towards a realisation of what has happened to Johnny and the family. The fact that his death is never explicitly referenced allows for adults to guide the discussion with younger readers in whatever way they feel is appropriate.

There is also an insightful moment of tension introduced when the narrator confesses his feelings of jealousy about the attention and latitude Johnny received while he was alive, and his guilt in hindsight. I imagine that the book’s acknowledgment of these feelings will give much-needed reassurance to children who have found themselves in a similar position.

The illustrations, by experienced artist Hughes, are perfect for this story. The images of the family are bright and lively, full of expression and colour. The background is rendered in a soft, pastel tie-dye effect, with suggestions of the “cloud stories” the family shared with Johnny, even once he was too ill to do anything else.

This book will be treasured by children who have lost siblings and valued by parents and educators looking for resources dealing with death, whether of a sibling or other loved one. While the publisher nominates an age range of 4 to 8 years, the sensitive yet layered approach should give it broader appeal.

Friday, 21 September 2018

Australia Remembers: Anzac Day, Remembrance Day and War Memorials

Australia Remembers: Anzac Day, Remembrance Day and War Memorials by Allison Paterson (Big Sky Publishing) PB RRP $14.99 HB RRP $24.99 ISBN978 12925675771

Reviewed by Dianne Bates

Primary schools all over Australia are sure to snap up this well-designed and comprehensive large format book. Filled with coloured pictures and photographs (some of them historical), the book takes the reader through the story of conflicts that Australia has been involved in. It shows how our country honours, thanks and remembers those who fought to protect others, or suffered in war and conflicts in the past.

It explains how, from a population of five million, over 416,000 Australians volunteered to serve their country in the AIF. And how more than 60,000 of the volunteers lost their lives. It examines the role of Anzac Day in our country’s history with numerous coloured break-out shapes that look at subjects such as the Western Front and the Middle East, mateship, the Diggers and the Anzac Spirit. It moves on to Anzac Day services, ceremonies and parades, with numerous quotes from serving soldiers and school children about subjects such as why the day is remembered. The reader is shown stories and photographs of the bugle call, dawn services, even the RSL.

A large section of the book is devoted to Remembrance Day (11 November) with details such as when the Armistice was signed, the silence of respect, even the ode of Remembrance and why poppies are important. More than one chapter is devoted to war memorials across Australia, with additional information about the Vietnam War (1962-73), Afghanistan 2001 (ongoing), and another war on terror, Iraq (1990-91) and (2003 – 2009).

At the back of the book there is more to inform the reader, including a map showing locations where Australians serve in conflicts and peace-keeping missions. There are numerous activities included, too, such as how to make a poppy, Anzac biscuits, a wreath and even how to create a war memorial. Like all good non-fiction books there is a glossary, index and bibliography with acknowledgements and a page about the hard-working author who has also written the 2016 ABIA and CBCA-longlisted title Anzac Sons: The Story of Five Brothers on the Western Front.

The book is highly recommended.

Thursday, 20 September 2018

Total Quack Up!

Total Quack Up! Edited by Sally Rippin & Adrian Beck, illustrated by James Foley (Puffin Books) PB RRP $14.99 ISBN 9780143794905

Reviewed by Dianne Bates

‘Funny stories to make you feel good about some of your favourite authors!’ is printed on the cover of this book published in Australia. The authors are Matt Stanton, Deborah Abela, Tristan Bancks, Paul Jennings, Alex Miles, RA Spratt, Jacqueline Harvey and Oliver Phommavanh, as well as the two editors.

Superheroes, footy-obsessed pigs, birthday parties that go terribly wrong, criminal cats and hippos which prefer the beach rather than rivers are the subjects of some of these short stories.

In ‘Ratbagg’, Rory Albert Thomas Bragg has a mild superpower, which enables him to control rats with his mind. Of course, he owns pet rats, but when he discovers his school principal Mr Blart has a rat phobia, anything can happen! In Tristan Banck’s story, ‘The Pigs’, soccer team, the Kings Bay Pigs is down three to nil a few minutes from half-time: if they lose, they’ll hold the record for the Most Consecutive Losses by a Football Team in the World. In ‘How to Be A Super-hero’, Ann Small renames herself Arabella von Champion, and then attempts to reach up to the status. The title of Matt Stanton’s story, ‘What Hippopotamuses and Sharks have in Common’ signals what the story is likely to be about.

All ten stories are printed in large, easy-to-read font and black and white illustrations are scattered throughout. Not all of the stories are hilarious but there is enough humour in the book to keep a reader aged 8 to 12 years engaged for many hours.