Thursday, 23 September 2021

Henry Hamlet’s Heart

Henry Hamlet’s Heart by Rhiannon Wilde (University of Queensland Press) RRP $19.99 ISBN 9780702263149

Reviewed by Wendy Haynes

Henry Hamlet’s Heart, the first YA novel by talented author Rhiannon Wilde, won the State Library of Queensland Glendower Award for an emerging Queensland writer in 2019.

Henry Hamlet’s Heart is ultimately a love story and finding love in unexpected places. Told in first person, the reader is taken on a thought-provoking ride, walking in Henry’s shoes as he navigates the last semester of high school, the stress of exams, the pressure of ‘what’s next,’ and simply finding his way in life.

The story explores the friendship of a close-knit group of teenagers but particularly the long-standing friendship between Henry and Len. Sexuality is unravelled, opened, though not explicit, and gives the reader the opportunity to explore with the main character the emotional roller coast of love and falling hard.

This story also explores who you are to you, and who you are in the eyes of others, and how there are shades of grey in just about everything. The author has captured the essence of what it’s like for a teenager experiencing feelings for another human being, and how feelings get mashed up. The author meshes mood with the setting in an evocative way adding an extra layer of depth to her characters.



Wednesday, 22 September 2021

Real Magic


Real Magic by Ash Magic (Penguin) PB RRP $19.99 ISBN 9781761043925

Reviewed by Dianne Bates

With a sub-title Tips, Tricks, TikTok and Totally Good Vibes, this is a book written by 19-year-old Australian magician Ash Hodgkinson, known as Ash Magic. Ash suffers from anxiety and ADHD, but he has overcome these to become a world-class stage performer and online viral sensation. On Tik Tok he has over 6.6 million followers and has videos have received over two billion views in the last 12 months.

Real Magic contains (coloured) personal photos and anecdotes with insights into Ash’s story and the philosopher behind his success. Full pages in his book are devoted to sayings, such as ‘Be You! You’re Awesome!’, ‘Don’t Be Afraid to Let Your Light Shine’, and ‘Be Kind to Yourself.’ The ‘real magic’ in the book is not only the magician tricks which Ash shares, but it is also positive vibes. From an early age, he says, he always felt different and didn’t fit in. However, he says, ‘thanks to my messy mind, I came up with some weird and wonderful stuff!’ Ash writes about ways in which the reader can beat anxiety; for him, what helped was becoming successful at card and other tricks.

All through this attractively designed and presented book are tips on all kinds of things, from how to do magic tricks, making friends, coping with freaking out, finding what is unique about you, discovering things you like, and much more. What shines through on every page is positivity, bringing good-vibes mindset in the reader’s mind. All this is enhanced by the numerous photographs, graphics and sub-headings – all in colour – which appear throughout the book.

At this time of Covid and lockdown, Real Magic is just the right book for any gloomy child aged 9+ years. Recommended.

Tuesday, 21 September 2021

Two Pennies

Two Pennies by Vicki Bennett, illustrated by John Flitcroft (Boolarong Press) PB RRP $19.99 ISBN: 9781925046816

Reviewed by Dannielle Viera

On his return from the French battlefields of World War I, George’s father is sad because many French villages were bombed, and there are no schools for the children. George’s headmaster announces that they will raise money to help construct a school in one of the villages, Villers-Bretonneux. Each child is asked to donate two pennies. George works hard in the family bakery to earn money and is proud to bring his pair of pennies to school. When he grows up, George visits the school in France that his pennies helped to build.

Taking inspiration from real-life events involving her father, Vicki Bennett has brought to life an important part of Australian history for primary-aged readers. Her story shines a light on the power of perseverance, revealing that anything is possible when you strive for what you believe in. Another significant theme that will resonate with young readers is the idea that even the smallest person can make a difference.

Two Pennies is John Flitcroft’s debut as an illustrator, and his images have comic-book appeal. Bright colour beams from each full-page illustration, ensuring that kids come away from the book thinking of history as anything but dull. In particular, green and red are used to visually link the images throughout the book, from the green carpet and red scooter wheels in George’s childhood bedroom, through to the green grass and red poppies at Villers-Bretonneux.

A poignant blend of memoir and message, Two Pennies is a must-read for all Australian children. Love and hope grow with every page turn, transforming the devastation of the past into dreams for the future.


Monday, 20 September 2021

Guinness World Records 2022

Guinness World Records 2022 (Pan Macmillan) HB RRP $49.99 ISBN 9781913484149

Reviewed by Dianne Bates

There’s one annual book that all children (and adults) look forward to each year, and it’s the book of Guinness World Records. The past year hasn’t stopped global pandemics and lockdowns record breakers from achieving spectacular things: indeed, they've given many people the chance to focus on their ambitions and attain goals beyond their expectations.  The changing pace of the last year has also given GWR the opportunity to take stock of our planet and explore the current state of the environment, as seen through the unique record-breaking lens.

As always, everyday Australians continue to inspire and this year the book includes Marty McBubble for the Tallest Free-Standing Soap Bubble, Craig Lewis for Most Somersaults in a Skydive, Anthony Kelly for Most Targets Hit with a Blowgun in One Minute Blindfolded, Rhiannan Ifflant for Deepest Underground Dive into Water and Sally Pearson for Fastest 100m Egg and Spoon Race. Of special interest is the section on child achievers, the under-16 influencers, entrepreneurs and entertainers who are taking positive steps to change the world.                                                                                                      

What you’ll also find in the 10 record-packed chapters:

• Environmental champions – the eco-warriors fighting to make our planet a better place

• Wonders of the natural world, from the most intelligent creatures to the deadliest plants

• The tallest and shortest… GWR record scouts have measured a host of the world’s loftiest and diminutive humans

• Pop Culture icons – GWR reveals the world’s most successful movie franchises, videogames, toys and brands

• Sporting heroes – GWR reviews the biggest sporting achievements of the year and put them in context alongside the greatest athletes of all time.

This is just a small sample of what’s to be found in this sturdy, ultra-interesting book. Every double-page spread is brilliantly designed and illustrated with many photographs of record achievers. Highly recommended!


Sunday, 19 September 2021

Hello World

Hello World by Lisa Shanahan, illustrated by Leila Rudge (HarperCollins) HB RRP $19.99 ISBN 9780733340826

Reviewed by Nikki M Heath

Join a toddler as she greets a new day and all the wondrous people, places, and phenomena in her world. A simple rhyming text takes us through the day, focusing on the mundane and the abstract in turn, from a hat and a hose to beloved family members and the changing weather.

From hanging clothes to picking up siblings and sharing a game of hide and seek, the joy of the day-to-day is brought to life. The pencil and watercolour illustrations are colourful but gentle, and the family members each have an impressively well-developed sense of character. That sense of unique personality perhaps doesn’t come through as strongly with the central little girl, who is shown doing all the typical toddler things like banging on pots and pans, dressing up and playing in the garden.

A multiracial household lends a sprinkle of diversity to what is otherwise a stereotypical Aussie suburban setting, one that many little people will be able to relate to in the context of their own day. This is the type of book that under-3s ask for again and again and will bring a warm ray of sunshine to any bedtime routine.

Saturday, 18 September 2021

Sorry Sorry

Sorry Sorry by Anne Kerr and cover by Marda Pitt (Boolarong Publishing) PB HB RRP $29.99 ISBN 978 1 925877359

Reviewed by Karen Hendriks 

Sorry Sorry is a story about the shared complex history of our nation that is told through the eyes of Australia’s First Nation people. It focuses upon reconciliation, forgiveness and hope for a brighter future. This book is for all young Australians to understand, respect and honour each other’s culture.


Anne Kerr has written the text simply and directly so that a young child can easily understand the story. A long time ago, when the First Peoples were hunting and fishing, there were no others in this country. She shares how the arrival of others is viewed through Indigenous eyes. The cloud was tied by strings to a huge canoe that the wind was blowing to their beach. I love that Kerr’s words are gentle and that she ends the story with positivity; we are all going forward together. This is a journey. A journey together where it is important to share, be fair and to care. She uses a mix of short and long sentences. This gives the story a flow that lets the reader take in the messages. Kerr uses some repetition and shows us the consequences of actions and the healing afterwards.


Kerr’s indigenous illustrations are simple and effective with touches of dot patterning throughout. The colour palette reflects the emotions of the story. I love the illustration with two feet, one for Indigenous, and one for others and how they are shown together. The backmatter includes creating a story journey and shows the reader how they too could draw their own. The simplicity of the child-like images allows the story to speak louder to the reader. The back matter in the book includes teacher notes and information about Marda Pitt who created the cover.


Sorry Sorry is for children 3-12 years and is a story to be shared to give an understanding of our history as a nation. The book focuses upon moving forward not looking back. It is a wonderful teaching resource that teachers will enjoy using. It draws attention to social justice issues and is thought provoking. It is the sort of story that can appeal to a range of ages.

Friday, 17 September 2021

Night Lights

Night Lights written by Inda Ahmad Zahri and illustrated by Lesley McGee (Little Pink Dog Books) RRP $24.99 ISBN 9780648652847

Reviewed by Nean McKenzie

Using the idea of different kinds of light, this story describes a child growing up at their grandparents’ house in the Malaysian countryside.  Beginning with a colourful full-page illustration of children playing in the jungle with monkeys and a monitor lizard, the reader is shown a very different life to contemporary Australia. The focus is the night-time and the different kinds of light they have including generator electricity, lanterns, torches and then more natural kinds such as the moon, stars, fireflies and glow worms. It’s also an exploration of the love of a close family and the culture and stories the adults Tok-Mak and Tok-Bah share with their grandchildren.

Lesley MGee’s illustrations are evocative, and you can almost feel the humidity and hear the ‘tch-tch-tch’ sound of geckos, the chirp of crickets. Also beautiful is the prose, for example describing the fireflies: ‘Flecks of light floated along the long grass like raindrops falling upwards.’  The grandmother Tok Mak slicing ginger roots for tomorrow’s meals and her orchid scented perfume further stimulates the imaginative senses. It’s lovely to be immersed in a story and taken to another place, especially in times when that’s not so easy in real life.

This is author Inda Ahmad Zahri’s second book published this year – her debut picture book Salih came out in March. Night Lights is suitable for children aged 4-10 years.