Thursday, 28 May 2015

Hop up! Wriggle Over!

Hop up! Wriggle Over! by Elizabeth Honey (Allen & Unwin)
PB RRP $19.99
ISBN 9781743319987

Reviewed by Yvonne Mes

From the lovely end papers to the bouncy text, you feel with how much care this book has been created.

A cast of Australian animals creates a vibrant family. Mummy Koala and Daddy Big Red Kangaroo have a big family of little bush children ranging from antechinus to quoll, and they show just how warm and loving a diverse family can be. As in many large families there is always something happening and someone wriggling, hopping, or zooming around. This bunch of lively animals seems to enjoy every part of the day from top to tail.

The story pictures a day in the life of what could be a human toddler, from waking up, breakfast to bath time and bedtime stories. The simple watercolour and pencil illustrations give plenty of room to breathe between large patches of well balanced white space. The illustrations exude the movement, fun and cosy chaos of large family domesticity and are utterly adorable.

The spare text which perfectly compliments the gorgeous illustrations consists mainly of onomatopoeia.

Yvonne Mes is a children's author. Her first picture book, Meet Sidney Nolan (Random House) is scheduled for release in October 2015.

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Good Enough for a Sheep Station

Good Enough for a Sheep Station by David Cox (Allen & Unwin)
PB RRP $24.99
ISBN 9781743319031

Reviewed by Yvonne Mes

David Cox spent five years as a jackeroo on outback sheep and cattle stations before he became an author and illustrator.

Set in 1940s, the story follows a young boy’s upbringing on a Queensland sheep station. It shows its outback characters and understated humour as told in various anecdotes. The story is full of quirky details from how the boy completes his schoolwork via correspondence to learning stockman’s skills from his dad and learning to drive a truck from a young age.

This picture book documents a way of life that may be unrecognizable to many modern children raised in the city, but the story goes deeper than that; it tells of loss and handing down tradition but also, as David Cox writes in the foreword, it is a story about many kinds of love.

Cox’s fluid watercolour and ink illustrations create a colourful bush world. Dogs run in and out of the pictures as they would in real paddocks and the horses outnumber the sheep. The longer word count makes it a picture book for primary school aged children.

Yvonne Mes is a children's writer and illustrator. Her fpicture book, Meet Sidney Nolan (Random House) and Oliver’s Grumbles (Dragon Tales Publishing) are scheduled for release in October 2015.

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

The Monster Within

The Monster Within by Darrell Pitt (Text Publishing)
PB RRP $16.99
ISBN 9781922182876

Reviewed by Wendy Fitzgerald

The Monster Within is the fourth book in Melbourne author Darrell Pitt’s popular Jack Mason detective series.

Once again, we are immersed in a magical world of heroes, villains, steam driven transport, mysteries, rescues and adventures. The sharp-eyed detective Ignatius Doyle is on another mission to solve crimes with the help of his two daring young apprentices, Jack Mason and Scarlet Bell.

Readers of the series will remember that the main character, 14 year old Jack Mason grew up in a circus family. After a tragic accident Jack is orphaned and sent to live in Sunnyside Orphanage in London. The orphanage is anything but ‘sunny’ and Jack is relieved when he is offered an apprenticeship with the very eccentric detective called Ignatius Doyle.

Enter feisty, red headed, strong-willed 15 year old Scarlett Bell- who originally comes to ask Ignatius Doyle to find her missing father. She ends up becoming a second apprentice detective. Together Jack and Scarlett make a formidable team. 

In The Monster Within a lawless organisation is carrying out terrorist attacks on the streets of London. Their chief suspect is The Valkyrie Circle- a world wide suffragette society who is apparently headed by someone called Lady Death.

At the same time there are sightings of a dangerous monster living in the sewers, terrifying people and eating cats.

Are these sinister events connected?

Pitt is very good at creating intriguing plots with excellent endings. I enjoy the way he pulls everything together in clever and surprising ways.

I recommend this series kids 9 years and over who like to read stories packed with action, mystery and adventure.

I think fans of Eoin Colfer’s Artemis Foul, Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson series and Lemony Snickett’s Series of Unfortunate Events will also enjoy Pitt’s breathtaking stories. 

The Firebird Mystery, The Secret Abyss and the Broken Sun are Pitt’s first three books in this series. Stay tuned for book five, The Lost Sword, which will be published later in 2015.

Monday, 25 May 2015

Space Mash: Wheelnuts! Craziest Race on Earth #3

Space Mash: Wheelnuts! Craziest Race on Earth #3 by Knife & Packer (Scholastic Australia)
PB RRP $12.99
ISBN 978-1-74362-724-2

Reviewed by Jenny Heslop

Buckle up! In Space Mash, the latest book in the Wheelnuts! series, readers - and racers - must be able to handle zero gravity racing, showers of meteorites and hungry aliens. Warren 'Wheelie' Wheelnut has taken his third challenge out into space and this race is about to blast off! 
The now familiar teams have transformed their cars into rockets and are ready to tackle even the most unexpected challenges such as zero gravity playing havoc with Campbell's moustache, making it float and covering his eyes. Rust Bucket 30000 has the greatest advantage as these robots are used to flying around in space and they have just purchased the perfect weapon for cheating. It’s hard to see how any other team is going to beat them.
Wipeout and Dipstick the two villains are hanging around as usual in their disguises  trying to disrupt the racers and the mid-race challenge - Hey Dude There Are Robot Ants In My Space Underpants - will have most racers yelling "I'm a Wheelnut, get me out of here!"
The wacky, slapstick  humour, the vibrant colourful illustrations and the action packed racing crammed with crazy, cheating, dirty scoundrels continues in this series and is a fun and entertaining read for seven-year-olds and older.
At the end of the book is a Space Mash board game which can be detached and played. Choose your team and get driving!

Sunday, 24 May 2015

Spooky Smackdown: Wheelnuts! Craziest Race on Earth #2

Spooky Smackdown: Wheelnuts! Craziest Race on Earth #2 by Knife & Packer (Scholastic Australia)
PB RRP $12.99
ISBN 978-1-74362-723-5

Reviewed by Jenny Heslop

Multi-billionaire Warren 'Wheelie' Wheelnut has gathered contestants for a second extreme race. This time, the unique racetrack is in Spookytania, and promises to be the scariest racetrack on Earth. 

The rules are simple - there are no rules - and the teams waiting for the signal to go will take full advantage of this. The Wheel Deal, the Flying Nappy, the Rust Bucket 3000, the Supersonic Sparkler, the Jumping Jalopy, and the winner of the last race, the Dino-Wagon, all plan to cheat their way to the finish line.

As well as racing and dirty trick playing, the teams must complete a challenge somewhere along the way. In Spookytania, this challenge is the Room of Super-Mega-Help-I-Want-My-Mummy-Terror and all the teams are faced with ghosts so personal and terrifying (the robots from the Rust Bucket 3000 have a rust demon haunting them) that they do not last long at all in the challenge room.

Despite the fierce competition, there are times when the racers need to team together. Wipeout and Dipstick, the villains of the piece, are never far away and would love to destroy the race.

Spooky Smackdown is a short, colourful and fully illustrated chapter book, which will entertain readers of all ages. The illustrations are reminiscent of the Wacky Races cartoon, as is the storyline. Tongue-in-cheek humour, slapstick scenarios and jostling action make for a fun read for those who appreciate a silly sense of humour.

Saturday, 23 May 2015

Stand Up and Cheer

Stand Up and Cheer by Loretta Re
(The Wild Colonial Company)
PB RRP $14.99
ISBN 9780992306922

Reviewed by Francine Sculli

In Stand Up and Cheer, a part of Australia’s lesser-known history has been turned into an incredible novel by writer, Loretta Re, magically weaving the elements of a gripping read with the historical threads that put Albury and Australia on the map.

Told through the eyes of ten-year-old Jack, an eager aviator enthusiast, we are taken on a wildly rich journey where we grow close to Jack’s family and learn the many lessons this book offers. But let’s start from the beginning. Set in Albury in 1934 during the Great Depression, a time when aviation and the radio were the people’s greatest entertainment, we meet Jack, his brother Arnie and their parents. Jack’s mother inherits some money from a deceased family member. His father, the town’s radio presenter and voice of the ABC – convinces Jack’s mother that purchasing a car would be the best way to spend the money. The family travels to Melbourne to make the purchase right at the time that Mac Robertson – the Chocolate King – announces the ‘Great Centenary Air Race’ that will see aviators from all over the world fly from England to Melbourne to celebrate the centenary, and that he’ll be giving away a trip to Melbourne to see them land at Flemington Racecourse for anyone who collects all the letters on his Cherry Ripe wrappers.

This sparks Jack’s obsession with the race and his desperate desire to see the planes. But he is far away and has little chance of making it back to Melbourne for the race, especially after the town bully, and son of his father’s obnoxious boss, Pat O’Reilly, tears up the wrappers he has collected. Little does Jack know, this great race will change his life forever when the giant Dutch plane, Uiver, loses its way in the storm en route to Melbourne. Jack and his family are faced with a tough decision: do they break all the rules and attempt to save the plane?

Stand Up and Cheer is not just a story about Albury’s place in aviation history. With so many subplots running through its veins, this is equally a story about family, bravery and what it means to stand by your values. Loretta has created an intriguing world beaming with strong characters and a strong voice that carves a clear picture of this era in history. With its captivating writing style and incredible detail, adults and children alike can pick up this book and get lost in its pages.

Friday, 22 May 2015

The Eagle Inside

The Eagle Inside by Jack Manning Bancroft, illustrated by Bronwyn Bancroft (Little Hare Books/Hardie Grant Egmont)
HB RRP $24.95
ISBN 9781742974699

Reviewed by Liz Ledden

Jimmy the little honeyeater is off to flying school, and soon feels intimidated by the other noisier, larger birds. Wracked with self-doubt, Jimmy is targeted by a mean cockatoo which further destroys Jimmy’s self-esteem with his taunts. It takes a kind yet strong eagle to lead Jimmy to realise his inner strengths, and help him recognise that size is no barrier to success.

The rhythmic, descriptive language flows well, aided by alliteration in parts. Action and a soaring sense of self are evoked beautifully: ‘He dodged and weaved, ducked and dived, swerved and skimmed without touching a thing’.

The narrative is accompanied by dramatic full-bleed images in Bronwyn Bancroft’s inimitable illustration style. Blues, greens and browns feature prominently, reflecting the book’s natural setting, with strong lines contrasting with dot and leaf motifs. Each page is a visual feast, beautifully carrying the text and cementing this mother-son creative duo as one to watch.

Bronwyn Bancroft has had a long and successful career as an artist and children’s book creator; however, this is Jack Manning Bancroft’s first foray into children’s books. He is best known as founding the aboriginal mentoring program AIME at only 19 years old, and at 29 is its CEO and a NSW Young Australian of the Year recipient. The story is based on Jack’s experiences at university, where a mentor helped him nurture his own strengths.

The Eagle Inside is a tale of inner-strength, courage and self-belief, and the power of having someone to believe in you.