Tuesday, 10 April 2018

Pepsi the Problem Puppy


Pepsi the Problem Puppy by Sandi Parsons, illustrated by Aska (Faraway Nearby Ink) PB RRP $12.99
ISBN 9780987615701

Reviewed by Brook Tayla

Puppies!
Every child wants one!
Every parent thinks twice!
                     .......and then somehow, in one way or another they arrive!

This book is all about the ‘settling-in’ phase and how that is viewed very differently by each member of the family.

Rosie is the protagonist who has long wished for a puppy. Her little brother Jacob always seems to say the wrong thing – especially when Mum’s around. Dad is the parent who finally gives in and finds the puppy, although his research wasn’t so good.
Mum is the reluctant parent who is nit impressed with all the upset and happenings that Pepsi the dog is causing. Granny can see the funny side of everything Pepsi does and it is ultimately because of her that the dog gets to stay.

Children will laugh at the funny scenarios presented in this early independent reader novel.

The author has a real dog called Pepsi with his own web page that you can look up here: www.pepsiparsons.com.au

Sunday, 8 April 2018

Message in a Sock


Message in a Sock by Kaye Baillee, illustrated by Narelda Joy (MidnightSun Publishing) HB RRP $27.99 ISBN 9781925227383

Reviewed by Brook Tayla

This very touching and true war story is special. It doesn’t just depict a time in history -- it transports you right there. Unlike most war stories, this story focuses on the women left at home during WW1 and homes in on one aspect of how they supported their men – the soldiers.

Author Kaye Baillie tells the story of a little girl placing messages into the toes of socks that her mother has knitted during a war appeal to assist Australian soldiers serving in France. She includes other features in her story, including a poetic ‘Knitter’s Song’ that encapsulates the whole premise of this tale and the words of the original letter that sparked this book into being. Her story is underpinned by excellent historical research that makes this tale even more touching.

Narelda Joy’s collage illustrations perfectly compliment not only the story but the era of war. The colours and materials used have very vintage muted tones in hues of brown, green and blue. Another interesting aspect is that all the people in this story, including the child protagonist, Tammy, are always looking down, but the soldier looks you straight in the eye – a very open for interpretation move on the part of the illustrator.

This beautiful book and its unusual perspective will be treasured for not only it’s uniqueness but also for it’s truthful historical interpretation.
I feel very special to have known about this book for quite a long time. Kaye Baillee told me about it on the first day I met her, and I have been anticipating it’s release since 2016! Congratulations Kaye – it was worth the wait!

There is a very special Book Launch happening for ‘Message in a Sock’ for those who would like to attend on Anzac Day, 25th April, 2pm – 3pm at The National Wool Museum, 26 Moorabool Street, Geelong, Victoria. Here are the details: MidnightSun Publishing together with author Kaye Baillie and illustrator Narelda Joy are proud to launch their picture book, MESSAGE IN A SOCK at the National Wool Museum with FREE ENTRY to the Museum all day.

Join Sue Lawson, writing teacher and young adult author of books including FREEDOM RIDE and PROTEST IN AUSTRALIA as she discusses MESSAGE IN A SOCK with Kaye Baillie and Narelda Joy. Listen to a reading from the book then handle replica World War 1 socks knitted by a talented Red Cross volunteer. Enjoy a hot drink and Anzac biscuit then view the Museum’s sock knitting machines and the collection displaying the full story of wool.  National Wool Museum volunteers will demonstrate ‘casting on’ and signed copies of MESSAGE IN A SOCK will be available for purchase.

Brook Tayla writes a picture book review blog at telltalestome@wordpress.com and would love you to drop by, read some reviews, leave a comment and subscribe.  Brook also offers editing services for beginning and emerging writers.




Thursday, 5 April 2018

Parmesan the Reluctant Racehorse


Parmesan the Reluctant Racehorse by Jacqui Halpin, illustrated by John Phillips (Little Pink Dog Books) HB RRP $24.95 ISBN 9780994626929

Reviewed by Stacey Gladman

In life there are adversities and challenges around every corner, the real challenge is how we deal with them. Parmesan, the Reluctant Racehorse introduces the reader to a racehorse, with a rather unique problem. 

Parmesan is a racehorse, or is he? As far as Parmesan is concerned he very well could be a dog, and since birth he has done everything like a dog, from stretching like a dog to even fetching like a dog.

Unfortunately for Parmesan, he is not a dog and with champion heritage parents, his owner expects big things for him on the race track. One day Parmesan's owner came to visit him at the stables expecting to see a champion racehorse in training, but what he finds is a horse who thinks he is a dog. 
His owner threatens to sell Parmesan if he is not race-ready, which is upsetting for his trainer, Joe. Joe tries and tried to remind Parmesan he is a horse, but nothing is working. From tying a carrot to a stick in front of him, Joe tries everything until inspiration strikes: what if he makes the race like a game of fetch, which Parmesan adores? 
It seems that dogs can be champion racehorse; well at least for Parmesan they can. For the first time in his life, Parmesan feels like a racehorse. "He ran like a horse. He won like a horse. He even fetched like a...dog." While racehorses might not be well known for their fetching skills, Parmesan shows that you can be more than what's expected of you and to test boundaries. 

Parmesan, the Reluctant Racehorse is a charming story of testing boundaries and embracing your differences, no matter what your quirkiness may be. I loved the use of humour in the story, and it was a subject matter slightly different that I think will appeal to younger children.

The picture book is beautifully illustrated with colourful imagery that grabs the attention of readers both young and old alike. 


Sunday, 1 April 2018

Ready. Set. Discover Logan


Ready. Set. Discover Logan by Karen Tyrrell, Illustrated by Aaron Pocock (Digital Future Press) PB RRP $18
ISBN 9780994302199

Reviewed by Wendy Haynes

Follow Yana as she discovers The City of Logan. This is a light-hearted picture book telling the story of Yana who has moved from her country and surrounding she knows so well, to a new country, Australia. Yana feels alone, everything is different, but with the help of Bunji, a local Indigenous boy Yana is taken on a tour of discovery. This tour highlights the many meeting places in The City of Logan, South of Queensland, bringing with it a better understanding of the rich Nature Reserves and cultural experiences available within the community. 

The essence of this book is about community, and the underlying message is one of friendship, acceptance, and merging of cultures. This story is aligned with Harmony Day, sponsored by The Logan City Council and winner of Art Queensland Grant.
It also recognises the First People of Australia and invites readers, particularly newcomers, to discover a new land, a new home, to enable them the feeling of belonging. Among other places, Yana explores Logan City Library, Riverdale Park, and Chung Tian Temple.

 Karen Tyrrell has created an avenue to help children adjust to what can be a difficult time, while Aaron Pocock has enhanced the story with a palette of inviting colours and delightful illustrations that would suit 6 – 8 year olds.

Wednesday, 21 March 2018

In the Dark


In the Dark by Carole Poustie (Celapene Press) PB RRP $16.95
ISBN 9781925572001

Reviewed by Kylie Buckley

Ish is a thirteen year old boy who spends his summer holidays with his mum and sister at his gran’s house ‘up near the Murray [his] favourite place in the world’. He and his older sister, Molly, have also planned to spend a week of their holidays with their father, who moved to Sydney after separating from their mother.

Ish’s plan of fishing every day on the Murray, with his dog Lucky, comes to an abrupt end shortly after arriving. He and his sister become grounded, after a careless accident, and must spend most of their days at the house. Soon after being grounded Ish finds himself in hot water again when he enters his gran’s forbidden old cellar and comes across a letter. The letter is not addressed to him, however, he chooses to open it and the contents immediately changes his world.

It seems that their parent’s separation has put a strain on everyone’s relationship. Molly is rude and disrespectful and has trouble relating to anyone. Ish is resentful towards his dad for moving away. The children’s mother and their gran also have trouble connecting at times. Will time with their father in Sydney help smooth things out? Or will the letter Ish found change relationships forever?

In the Dark is a middle fiction novel suited to those who like drama and suspense. It has themes of family, friendship, loss and dishonesty. The story is written in the first person by Ish, a nickname given to him at birth. Throughout the story Ish writes poetry, a passion he shared with his late grandfather. Not only does he use it as a way of expressing himself but it is also a way of keeping a beautiful connection to his grandfather. In the Dark is Carole’s second novel for children.




Saturday, 17 March 2018

Mackenzie Tanaya and the Faerie Key: An Epic Adventure for children


Mackenzie Tanaya and the Faerie Key: An Epic Adventure for children written and illustrated by Josh Reid (Fernhill Clockwork Story Factory) PB RRP $5.99

This is a slim (34 pp) book which is the first in a serial novel for readers aged 7 to 9 years. As the author says, Charles Dickens first published The Old Curiosity Shop as a weekly publication until all episodes were complete. Reid hopes to do the same thing, hoping that the finished novel manuscript will be taken by a publisher. As he progresses towards publication, he also hopes for readers to provide him with feedback.

The book starts with a double page spread of the five characters who appear in Episode #1; they are the hero, Mackenzie Tanaya, her Nanny and Poppy, Chess the family dog and best friend Annie who lives over the road. In the first chapter ‘Every Story has a Beginning’ we read that before this story begins, Lilith, the Dungbeetle Queen, is the Destroyer of Worlds. She has almost destroyed the world of Faerie. ‘Only the power of the Silver Tree saved them in those days, by locking the doors, and forging a golden key.’ Now, however, Faeries is once again in grave danger…

After the prologue, the story shifts to Fairy Meadow school which is where the reader meets school girl and protagonist Mackenzie and her BFF Annie, both aged ten. At home, where her grandparents live while Mum and Dad are at work, Mackenzie decides to explore her back garden with Chess. While there, she is knocked into shrubs when a chook flies at her. This is no ordinary part of the garden: it has a magic path. From it, she slides downwards. And this is where the first book in the series ends.

Reid has spent all this episode introducing the characters and setting of the story so there is very little action until right at the end. Now that Mackenzie is in an alien place, one assumes that the next book will be action-packed. Episode #2 is titled Cold, Wet, Muddy and Miserable. This book and the third are already published and can be obtained from www.MackenzieTanaya.com

The illustrations in the book are all paintings in thick, mostly primary colours. The picture of the chook attacking Mackenzie towards the end of the book is particularly effective.



Thursday, 15 March 2018

Missing


Missing by Sue Whiting (Walker Books Australia) PB RRP $17.99
ISBN 781760650032

Reviewed by Liz Ledden

‘In the dead of the night we run away.’ From the very beginning of new middle grade mystery Missing by Sue Whiting, we’re drawn into 12-year-old Mackenzie’s plight. Her bat biologist mother is missing – last seen on a field trip in Panama. And now, Mackenzie and her father are boarding a plane to try and find her.

The clever structure of this story sees each chapter veering between ‘Now’ and ‘Then’ as Mackenzie puts together the pieces of what may have happened. Mackenzie’s inner journey is one of denial and determination as she clings to the idea that her mother might still may be alive.

The writing is tight and compelling, with a strong and relatable voice in Mackenzie. The real places in the story, from the southern Sydney suburbs to the streets of Panama, are vividly brought to life. As you hurtle towards the end of the story (and yes, this is a book you’ll want to devour in one go), the tension and emotions intensify until the stunning final scene.

Based on the startling statistic that nearly 38,000 people are reported missing each year in Australia, Missing is a heartbreaking yet hope-filled exploration of the ones left behind.