Monday, 24 October 2016

Swarm: Zeroes 2

Swarm: Zeroes 2 by Scott Westerfeld, Margo Lanagan and Deborah Biancotti (Allen & Unwin) PB RRP $19.99
ISBN 9781925267242

Reviewed by Daniela Andrews

They are not heroes, but Zeroes – teenagers born in the year 2000, each with a special power. Swarm is the second novel in this exciting young adult trilogy. It is also the code name for a terrifying, super-powered teen intent on finding and killing other Zeroes.

Trying to put the ‘Summer of Suck’ behind them, the Zeroes have opened up an illegal nightclub together. Cleverly named the ‘Petri Dish’, it’s essentially a training arena where they can practise their powers. But their actions in the first novel didn’t go unnoticed. Two new Zeroes are in town, flaunting their sinister superpowers with little regard for civilians (‘dolls’). It turns out they are fleeing another Zero, an evil killer who will ‘chew up anyone who’s got a power’ … and they’ve deliberately diverted his attention to the club owners. Bullied as a child, Swarm is angry. His power can turn an ordinary crowd of people into a mob of zombies who will violently rip apart a victim at his will. He wants to kill every Zero bar one, whom he wants to join forces with instead.

Swarm is written by the same trio of authors who wrote Zeroes: Scott Westerfeld, (bestselling author of the Leviathan trilogies), Margo Lanagan (winner of four World Fantasy Awards), and Deborah Biancotti (Aurealis-shortlisted author).

The sequel has a far more supernatural feel than the first novel. In Zeroes, their major enemies were people. In Swarm, their enemy has a superpower. The prequel spent a lot of time exploring the characters and their powers, without moving far from the action. Swarm successfully does the same. Much has changed for the characters since the previous summer and their mental states are not ignored. (Kelsie, for example, is mourning her father and suffering from a post-traumatic stress disorder.) The connection between the two novels is strong and, as a result, the characters have grown. Their powers have grown also … the sequel allows them to explore the darker sides of their powers, how to invert their powers, and how to ‘level up’. It will be interesting to see where the authors take the story in the next book!

Sunday, 23 October 2016

One Minute till Bedtime

One Minute till Bedtime edited by Ken Nesbitt illustrated by Christoph Niemann’s (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers) HB RRP US$14.99 AU $39.99
ISBN 9780316341219
Reviewed by Dianne Bates
This is a 176 page substantial compilation of new poems for children by over 130 poets including Americans Jane Yolen, Jack Prelutsky, Jon Scieszka, Mary Ann Hoberman, and Lemony Snicket. It is compiled by former US Children’s Poet Laureate Nesbitt, himself a frequent contributor, and consists of “60-second” poems designed to send children ‘off to sleep.’
Presented with over 140 new poems by many of today’s most prominent children’s poets including Australians such as Edel Wignell, Meredith Costain, Janeen Brian and Mark Carthew, readers are treated to lyric nighttime reflections on topics as disparate as relationships with favorite pets or grandparents, beloved “toasty, warm jammies,” post-dinner activities, and reflections on the moon. There is also plenty of nonsense verse sure to inspire wild dreaming “on the road to morning.”
These pithy poetic observations and New York Times illustrator and award-winning artist Christoph Niemann’s engaging and witty illustrations present a collection for the average child -- poems are mostly simple and entertaining rather than challenging or educational. The target market for readers is children aged 5 to 9 years.

Saturday, 22 October 2016

Here Comes Trouble

Here Comes Trouble by Dianne Bates (Dragon Tales Publishing) PB RRP $14.95 ISBN: 9780992523961

Reviewed by Jade Harmer

In Here Comes Trouble, Dianne Bates draws from her real-life experiences as a foster carer to share the plight of nine-year old protagonist, Sam.
All but written off as a trouble-maker by adults and peers alike, the future for Sam looks bleak. He battles loneliness, boredom, sometimes even hunger, all the while yearning for the love and affection of his parents who are busy fighting their own all-consuming battle, drug addiction.

Sam and his siblings stumble through life from day-to-day, and despite Sam’s best intentions, he more often than not finds himself in situations that live up to his ‘trouble-maker’ image. A chance meeting with foster carers who live nearby ultimately leads Sam and his siblings to the understanding and unconditional love they deserve.

This story is a pleasure to read, tackling tough and confronting issues in a sensitive, caring way. Bates never judges Sam or his family, but builds empathy for their situation and gives insight into the enormous impact the simplest acts of kindness can have on a child’s future.

A new-found sense of belonging and self-worth means the world for Sam, and allows those around him to discover just how much he has to offer in return.

Suitable reading for children aged eight years and up and a valuable read for adults.

Friday, 21 October 2016

All of Us Together

All of Us Together by Bill Condon (About Kids Books) PB RRP $14.99
ISBN: 978-0-9946428-0-6

Reviewed by Jenny Mounfield

About Kids Books couldn’t have chosen a better story—or author—for its debut. All of Us Together is an emotional and informative time-travelling treat to 1930s Australia, as seen through the eyes of young Daniel O’Casey.

It is the time of the Great Depression and Daniel’s dad is out of work. While this may mean little more than the absence of a few extra treats to today’s kids, for those living in distant times it could literally mean the difference between life and death. When Daniel’s father leaves home on his bicycle to look for work, Daniel can’t even imagine that he will never see his beloved father again.

Life for the O’Casey’s becomes increasingly harder (despite Daniel’s misguided efforts to make a few shillings to help out). With family worries distracting him at school, it isn’t long before he feels the sting of Brother James’ cane; but nothing can dim his optimism and zeal for life for very long.

Life for Daniel and his sisters couldn’t be more different to the technological time of plenty that kids enjoy today. However, some things never change, and it is these core elements that readers will connect with: fear of losing a loved one, the importance of family and friendship, bullying, and backyard cricket to name a few.

Bill Condon has a rare ability to infuse characters with authenticity and vitality, which makes everything he writes impossible to put down. While initially I wasn’t particularly interested in reading a story about the Great Depression, I quickly became invested in Daniel’s family—so much so that I keep catching myself wondering how they’re getting on, as though they’re all out there somewhere. I defy anyone to tell me that isn’t magic.

Jenny Mounfield is the author of four novels, and several short stories for children. She lives in Brisbane with her husband, daughter, and a psychotic Jack Russell-cross named, Leo.

Thursday, 20 October 2016

The Sisters Saint-Claire

The Sisters Saint-Claire written by Carlie Gibson, illustrated by Tamsin Ainslie (Allen & Unwin)  HB RRP $19.99
ISBN 9781760291563

Reviewed by Daniela Andrews

Do you know that unspoken rule about never doing your grocery shopping while you’re hungry? I suggest you apply the same such rule to the reading of this book! Tamsin Ainslie has created a mouth-watering gastronomical feast for the eyes with her delicate, pastel-coloured illustrations of pies, cheeses, baguettes, croissants and crepes. She and first-time author Carlie Gibson bring a French market place to life in this classical tale of a little mouse with big ambitions.

Cecile Saint-Claire’s four big sisters think she’s too small to go to Sunday market with them, but her parents believe she is ready. Each sister has her own interest in the market – Hattie wants to buy cheese, Violet wants to buy fruit, Beatrice wants to buy croissant ingredients and Minette wants to buy butter. Cecile, however, wants to sell her divine gourmet pies. Ladies and gentlemice visit her stall but are not willing to buy pies baked by someone so young. Fortunately, Cecile’s luck changes when a royal visitor comes to the market and samples some of her fare.

This empowering story for readers aged 4–8 years delivers a wonderful message that ‘great things can come from the smallest of us’. Readers will enjoy the author’s gentle rhymes, peppered with mouse humour (of course)!

‘I’ve baked yummy pies, I’m sure I can sell …’
Who could say no to this madam-mouselle?

The hardcover book itself looks rather delicious and would make a lovely gift. It is styled a bit like a quaint little French recipe book, with colourful berries decorating both the front cover and endpapers. (Tamsin Ainslie has illustrated recipe books before, so I’m not surprised!) The title and names of the author and illustrator are gently embossed on the front cover.

Oh and if you do dare read this while you’re hungry, don’t worry – there’s a délicieux recipe for a Croque Monsier included at the back!

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Ottoline and the Purple Fox by Chris Riddell (Pan Macmillan Australia)
RRP $19.95 ISBN 978-1-4472-7792-7

Reviewed by Ramona Davey

The moment I saw this book I could not help myself but to touch its beautiful hardback cover and turn it over to study the ornately gold decorated spine. It is a beautiful book to look at and hold.

Ottoline and the Purple Fox is the fourth book in the series about a young girl Ottoline and her companion, the strange hairy Mr Munroe. Together they have adventures as Ottoline’s parents travel the world seeking to find interesting objects to add to their ever-growing collection.

In this book Ottoline organises a dinner party. Guests get an unusual invitation that tells them what to wear. The reader gets one, too. This is a great idea. The book is full of ways to encourage the reader to interact with the story. Labels are scattered throughout the pages.  And the games played at the party are the type that the reader could try out with his or her own friends, for example:
Truth or Stair: Tell a true story or climb the stairs
Pillow Island Hopping: Jump from pillow to pillow without touching the floor.

The book is heavily illustrated and there is so much to see, so many tiny details to stop and look at in Chris Riddells’s intricate drawings. The illustrations are in very thin black pen with the odd splash of purple. There are menus to browse, lists to check, poems to ponder and Ottoline’s notes to read.

There are lots of references to Chris Riddell’s other books within the illustrations so the reader can check out his other stories.

The book is a great fast read and can be read in one sitting. It is ideal for 8-10 year olds.

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

I Broke my Trunk

I Broke my Trunk by Mo Willems (Walker Books)  PB RRP $11.99 ISBN 9781406373592

Reviewed by Ashling Kwok

Laugh out loud with this hilarious book from Mo Willems. I Broke My Trunk is another installment in the incredibly popular Gerald and Piggie series, which first appeared almost 20 years ago.

The book begins with Gerald the elephant wearing a bandage on his trunk. Piggie asks his friend how he hurt his trunk so Gerald tells Piggie the long, crazy story about how the accident occurred.

By the time Gerald gets to the end of the story, Piggie is so excited that he runs off to share Gerald’s story with his other friends but as expected, things don’t go to plan.

Gerald and Piggie books are written in conversational style with Piggie's words in pink letter bubbles and Gerald's in grey bubbles, which makes the books enjoyable and easy to read.

The series is perfect for young readers aged 3-8, as each story has an entertaining theme and fabulous illustrations that children will love. The rhythm of the story is well paced and will encourage children to read along.

I Broke my Trunk was created by the incredibly talented writer and illustrator Mo Willems, a three-time Caldecott Honor winner. His celebrated Elephant & Piggie series has been awarded the Theodor Seuss Geisel Medal on two occasions as well as three Honors.

I Broke my Trunk is an incredibly funny book that will have readers in fits of laughter. It is a fun story to share at bedtime and will become a bedtime favourite.