Thursday, 18 September 2014


Gigantosaurus by Jonny Duddle (Koala Books)
PB RRP $14.99
ISBN 978-1-74276-101-5
Reviewed by Jenny Heslop

When young dinosaurs go out to play they need to keep an eye out for danger, especially the hungry Gigantosaurus.
     His feet go STOMP!
      His jaws go CRUNCH!
      In the blink of an eye
     you'd be his lunch!

But what happens when the dinosaur on lookout, a mischievous Bonehead, decides to play a prehistoric version of the boy who cried wolf?
This is a noisy book in the best of ways. It has a rollicking rhythm, beautiful rhyme and is full of thuds, stomps, burps and other fabulously loud sounds. It exudes energy and humour and has the feel of The Three Little Pigs about it. From the first page it just begs to be read aloud.
When Bonehead calls out that the predator is on its way the young dinosaurs run to hide.
     They ran!
     They hid!
     They shook with fear!
     The Gigantosaurus was coming near!
And when, after many false sightings, Gigantosaurus really does appear, the page folds upwards to become double the height to accommodate the truly huge and awe inspiring meat eater.
Some of the dialogue is in speech bubbles (which still carry the wonderful rhythm and rhyme) and these bubbles become part of the playful illustrations. The picture on the front cover conveys the characters of the dinosaurs and hints at the role each one will play in the story. These characteristics remain consistent throughout the illustrations.
At the end of the book are two pages with pictures and factual explanations of the dinosaurs throughout the story. This is written in the same tone as the story and will keep dinosaur mad pre-schoolers who want to learn a little about these prehistoric animals happy.

This is such a fun book. It is fantastic to read and there is so much detail in the illustration to keep kids and their adult readers coming back again and again.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Freak Street : Meet the Piratesons

Freak Street : Meet the Piratesons by Knife & Packer (Scholastic Australia)
PB RRP $10.99
ISBN 978-1-74283-670-6
Reviewed by Jenny Heslop

The Piratesons are just an average, everyday family. Average, that is, for families who live on Freak Street. Some of their neighbours include the Supersons, the Werewolfsons and the Zombiesons. The Piratesons, who live in the middle of a pond with their pet piranha Phlippers, are Mr and Mrs Pirateson, Polly, Pattie and Paxton.

When Patty removes a board of the bottom of their ship to make a skateboard, their home springs a leak. While fixing this problem, Mr Pirateson uncovers a long lost treasure map and so despite Patty’s entry in the City Skate Bowl Grand Opening, it is time for the Piratesons to embark on a treasure hunt.

Full of illustrations, this is a fun book for young readers. The amusing antics of the Piratesons land them in trouble and it takes the special skills of every family member to get them out of the situation and back home safely.

Supported by a popular website, where kids can ‘join the freaks’ or learn more about the all the families on the street, Freak Street is a humour-based readable and accessible series for six to nine year olds. Heavy, glossy, colourful pages make this an attractive book to read and suitable for both genders. There are fifteen books to collect.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014


Forevermore by Cindy Miles (Chicken House)
PB RRP $17.99
ISBN 978-1-908435-92-7
Reviewed by Jenny Heslop

Ivy's mum has remarried and her new family moves from Charleston, South Carolina, the only home Ivy has ever known, to the remote Scottish Highlands. Ivy’s new stepfather is a laird and lives in a huge castle, Glenmorrag, on the rugged coastline. Ivy is expecting her life to change, but what she is not expecting is a ghost. And falling in love with someone who lived two hundred years ago was certainly not in her plans.
Forevermore is a wonderfully gothic tale with all the classic elements from this genre. From the brooding crumbly castle perched on top of a cliff high above the sea, to the evil presence trying to harm Ivy, along with a mysterious but attractive ghost, a sinister grandmother and a feisty independent heroine.
Ivy is great character. She is independent, but doesn't reject help and friendship when it's offered and has a realistic mix of bravery and caution. She is unsure if people will think she's crazy if she talks about the ghosts at the castle so is wary of mentioning them while making an effort to fit in, both at home in the castle and at her new school where she feels very different.
The use of music (Ivy is a beautiful and dedicated violinist), helps to weave an uneasy atmosphere around the castle. In my head it is always twilight at Glenmorrag and bright and sunny away from the castle, such is the skill of the creation of this eerie presence wrapping itself around the castles inhabitants.
This is a suspenseful story of ghosts and love. The mystery element is gripping, but the greatest strength is in the characters and their relationships; first love, friendships and family bonds.
This in an absorbing book and would suit thirteen to fifteen year olds.

Monday, 15 September 2014

Sports Carnival: Ella and Olivia

Sports Carnival: Ella and Olivia by Yvette Poshoglian, illustrated by Danielle McDonald (Scholastic Australia)
PB RRP $7.99
ISBN 978-1-74362-052-6
Reviewed by Jenny Heslop

Ella and Olivia are sisters. Ella is seven and Olivia is five. They live with Mum and Dad, baby brother Max and puppy dog Bob. Ella and Olivia are very excited. Their school is going to have a sports carnival day and they are training very hard for it with Ella's friend Zoe. Even Mum and Dad are training hard as they are part of the purple team the sisters are in.

Will the purple team get enough points to beat Zoe’s green team and the other two teams? Ella and Olivia would love to win the grand prize, a trip to the Slip and Slide Water Park.

The Ella and Olivia series is pitched to 5 plus beginner readers and Sports Carnival is a sweet story which this young readership will adore. The sisters have a lovely, but realistic, relationship and they are feisty and interesting without being naughty - the cheekiness is left up to Bob the puppy.

The illustrator creates fun characters that are friendly and lively. These pictures break up the text which is clear and easy to read with short sentences and short chapters.

A constantly growing series, there are plenty of titles for young girls to read and enjoy.

Sunday, 14 September 2014

The Fairy Who Wouldn’t Fly

The Fairy Who Wouldn’t Fly retold by Bronwyn Davies, illustrated by Pixie O’Harris (National Library of Australia)
HC RRP $24.99
ISBN 9780642278517
Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

Bronwyn Davies retells the original story by Pixie O’Harris of The Fairy Who Wouldn’t Fly, one of the classics from the National Library’s Marcie Muir Collection of Children’s Books. Themes covered include being different, conquering your fears, discovering your own individual gifts, adjusting to other’s expectation while staying true to yourself, and working together to bring about change.

It sounds a lot, but the story is so perfectly arranged that one theme rolls into another naturally.

The Fairy-who-wouldn’t-fly doesn’t want to be like other fairies. She enjoys lying in her spider web hammock and watching the world go by. So she is banished from Fairyland to the Woodn’t until she learns to comply with the rules.

In the Woodn’t everything is different. Lots of living things don’t do what is expected of them. Trees grow their own way. Kookaburra doesn’t laugh. Frog doesn’t like hopping. Bee won’t join the hive. Bat refuses to fly at night, Glow-worm won’t shine, Spider won’t spin, and Flower’s petals won’t close at sunset. How boring it all is.

The Fairy-who-wouldn’t-fly begins to imagine how it would feel to fly. At first, her attempts fail, but with perseverance, she discovers joy and achievement in flight.

When a very young boy is lost in the forest, the fairy enlists the help of the group to return the boy home. In a show of unity, they all reclaim their abandoned talents and learn many things about themselves they didn’t know.

The exquisite original illustrations are accompanied by additional pictures from NLA’s collection. Davies has breathed new life into an old favourite for another generation to enjoy and learn from.

The presentation, as usual, is of the highest quality. The book comes with a gorgeous jacket and the valuable information is found in the List of Illustrations. This is another gem for collectors and lovers of unique children’s books, regardless of age.

Saturday, 13 September 2014

The Devil and his Boy

The Devil and his Boy by Anthony Horowitz (Walker Books)
PB RRP $12.95
ISBN 9781406357684
Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

Anthony Horowitz believes that teaching history to children has to be fun. In The Devil and his Boy, he has chosen the year 1593 and Queen Elizabeth 1 to prove that learning history can be an exciting adventure.

The Queen is sixty years old. She has secrets about her past that she wants answers to. The wizard, John Dee, is the only one that can give them to her.

Tom Falconer, a thirteen year old orphan, is a slave to a heartless couple. When the stranger, Sir William Hawkins comes to take him away, he has nothing to lose. Things go wrong and Hawkins is murdered by Ratsey, a notorious highway man. Tom escapes towards London, and is saved from death by the thief Moll Cutpurse.

These main characters’ lives are twisted together in a thrilling mystery that involves Tom’s real identity. The story includes the young William Shakespeare, the Rose Theatre, and a troupe of mysterious actors who are not what they seem. All this is plaited in with conspiracy and betrayal in the Queen’s court.

I sped through this terrific mystery novel. Readers of all ages will learn a vast amount about early England, people’s way of life and early death, poverty, and how orphans were used and abused by unscrupulous people cloaked as protectors, to make money.

Fast-paced and absorbing, the talented Horowitz has made history interesting and entertaining just as he set out to do.

Friday, 12 September 2014

Rainbow Magic: Selena the Sleepover Fairy

Rainbow Magic: Selena the Sleepover Fairy by Daisy Meadows (Orchard Books/Hachette)
PB RRP $9.99
ISBN: 9781408330739
Reviewed by Hilary Smillie

This Early Reader edition has been especially designed for younger fans of Rainbow Magic books, with an easy vocabulary and full colour, beautiful illustrations to encourage independent reading. The book has been divided into three story chapters.
Rachel and Kirsty, who are friends of the fairies, are going with their school to have a sleepover in the National Museum. On the way, their coach stops at a service station and the children stretch their legs. The two friends notice a cloud of purple fairy dust and sure enough, a fairy appears. It is Selena the Sleepover Fairy who is very unhappy because Jack Frost’s servants, the goblins, have stolen three of her objects vital to ensure a happy sleepover. She needs to recover The Magical Sleeping Bag, The Enchanted Games Bag and The Sleepover Snack Box as quickly as possible and return them to Fairyland. The girls offer to help Selena find them.
Daisy Meadows has created an enchanting storyline which maintains interest to the end. There is plenty of action and excitement as the girls set out to recover the lost items. Kirsty and Rachel are used to being transformed into fairy-size by a wave of a wand, and they are very good at solving problems and dealing with nasty goblins. Jack Frost gets his comeuppance, too! With such fun characters, it is no wonder that the Rainbow Magic series holds small girls in thrall. I was impressed by the full colour illustrations which add a lot more oomph than black and white drawings. The large font text is also a plus.
With each of the original stories available as Early Readers, junior fans of the series will be delighted at the feast of reading in store for them.