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.

Monday, 17 October 2016

An Artist’s Alphabet

An Artist’s Alphabet by Norman Messenger (Walker Books) HB RRP $29.99 ISBN 9781406346763

Reviewed by Ashling Kwok

An Artist’s Alphabet is an exquisite alphabet book that will delight anyone who appreciates beautiful works of art. Flick through the pages and watch ordinary letters of the alphabet transform into incredible artworks that will take your breath away.

This intriguing book is overflowing with beautifully crafted images drawing on such themes and styles as botanical, woodblock, watercolour, mythology, classical and modern.

Go a visual journey and watch capital ‘A’ become an acrobat standing atop a horse. There’s a colony of beetles attached to the leaves they’ve munched, creating a big and small letter B. And two kingly beasts that create the letter K.

An Artist’s Alphabet was created by Norman Messenger, an established artist who gave us The Land of Never Believe and the wonderful Imagine. Just like his previous works, this book will have readers glued to every page as they study the stunning detail in each surreal image.

An Artist’s Alphabet is for readers of all ages. It is the perfect gift for art lovers and book collectors, and will make a fantastic coffee table book. It is unique and breathtaking, and a visual feast for the eyes.

A captivating book and highly recommended.

Sunday, 16 October 2016


Brobot by James Foley (Fremantle Press) PB RRP $14.99
ISBN 9781925163919

Reviewed by Teena Raffa-Mulligan

Award-winning illustrator James Foley has produced a reader pleaser with his latest release, a junior fiction graphic novel with maximum appeal for children in middle to upper primary.

Brobot is about a girl who believes she can build a better brother than the one she has. Joe is messy, smelly and impossible to control. Sally Tinker, who has the trophy to prove she’s the world’s foremost inventor under 12, eliminates these imperfections in Brobot, which is ‘just as a brother should be’.

The amazing Brobot cleans up messes, fixes broken machines, is never smelly, sticky or wet and as an added bonus has a built-in cupcake machine. Best of all, Sally can control her robot’s every move with the Brobo-remote.

But when the control gets broken and Brobot is out of control Sally reconsiders the merits of young Joe.

Foley’s own inventiveness comes to the fore in Brobot, which lives up to its promise as ‘a hilarious graphic novel for young readers’. He has cast appealing characters in a quirky tale that will resonate with kids who have sometimes frustrating younger siblings.

The level of humour in the drawings is right for the target age group and the comic-style format will draw in young readers who might be reluctant to read a standard novel.