Sunday 21 July 2024

The Fairfleet Affair

The Fairfleet Affair by K. H Saxton (Union Square Kids) ISBN: 9781454950134 RRP $16.99

Reviewed by Melissa Wray

Missing millionaire. Secret Clues. Historical artefacts. Four suspects. Two tenacious detectives. This book has the perfect mix for a mystery that needs to be solved! Each clue links to the next one and will keep the reader guessing about how they are all connected and what each clue means. Because no sooner is one clue solved than another one demands to be uncovered to ensure all the clues blend together.

When Dr. Alistair Fairfleet disappears, it soon becomes clear this is not a normal missing person case. Not only do four people (soon to become suspects) each receive a letter about the disappearance, so to do Asha and Alex of A&A Detective Agency. These two twelve-year-old sleuths must use their wit and knowledge of the Fairfleet Institute, as well as their significant investigative skills, as they decode clues and interview the suspects likely to be behind the disappearance.

Saxton weaves an intricate web of mystery as each character involved solves specific clues through their own personal knowledge to try and help solve the mystery. However, each suspect has some kind of motive. Along with a little help from Asha and Alex who are very good at their detective work, these motives are slowly revealed as the story unfolds.

Alex and Asha work well together, and it was enjoyable to get to know each character and their personality as they both committed to solving the disappearance. They are mature for their age and Saxton creates a good balance between including adult support and having the young detectives use their strengths to interpret the clues.

There are terrific turns and tantalising twists until the story arrives at the dramatic conclusion. So, who is responsible for the kidnapping of the eccentric director of the Fairfield Institute? You will just have to read this delightful mystery to find out!

This book is a fabulous blend of action, mystery, friendship and perseverance. The Fairfleet Affair is suitable for a 12+ years readership.

Saturday 20 July 2024

A is for Ability

A is for Ability: An alphabet with a difference, because we are all different,
(Lothian Children’s Books) Sarah Rose with Alley Pascoe & Beck Feiner PB HB RRP $24.99 9780734423023

Reviewed by Karen Hendriks

Sarah Rose is a three-time Paralympian swimmer, medal-winner, and disability advocate.

I was born with dwarfism and I’m proud to be a little person. It’s okay to say ‘dwarf’, ‘little person,’ and person of ‘short stature,’ but it is most respectful to use people’s names. You can call me Sarah, Sar or legend!

Alley Pascoe is a journalist, editor, and co-writer. She is the former Features Editor of Marie Claire magazine and has written for the Australian Women’s Weekly, Gourmet Traveller, Qantas magazine, Stellar, Body+Soul, Primer and Women’s Agenda.

Beck Feiner is an illustrator, designer, and author whose illustrations shine a spotlight on social issues. Her creative style has evolved from her graphic design and art director experience in the advertising industry. Her first book Aussie Legends Alphabet has received nation-wide recognition.

Sarah Rose and Alley Pascoe have created a big-hearted guide to disability with a touch of humour. The text gives insight into life for people with disabilities and the difficulties they encounter. The use of the alphabet is a brilliant way to learn about disability. The information is shared in a reader friendly voice. We can change the style of jeans we wear, but we can’t change the genes we are born with. Genetic disorders – such as cystic fibrosis, Huntington’s disease and Downs Syndrome – are health conditions caused by a difference in someone’s DNA. Questioning is used to spark curiosity, which is followed by the facts that give an understanding. Did you know the human brain can generate enough power to run a lightbulb? Because Sarah has a disability, this book is both authentic and real. Creating understanding leads to more inclusivity and this book is a wonderful tool to use.

Beck Feiner has her own unique and recognisable award-winning illustration style. Her use of bright bold coloured artwork is eye-catching.. She has cleverly included the Auslan sign for each letter of the alphabet. Children love learning how to sign and this adds another layer of depth to the book. Bright blues, pinks, yellows, oranges, greens and blues sing out at you. The endpapers are joyful with butterflies, rainbows, hearts, stars, bubbles, watermelon, music notes, flowers, balloon dogs, bubbles, and triangles. The cover is bright and captivating. Each spread is full of detail and is a celebration of disability.


ABC Disability is a picture book that would make a perfect addition to any classroom. It is an interesting way to learn about disabilities or conditions. This thoughtful, informative book is suitable for 5- 9 years and is an ideal book for school libraries.


Friday 19 July 2024

Reading to Baby

Reading to Baby by Margaret Wild & Hannah Sommerville (Affirm Press) PB HB RRP $24.99 9781922930378

Reviewed by Karen Hendriks

Margaret Wild has won awards and written many books for children that have been published all around the world. She was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Children’s Book Council of Australia in 2022.

Hannah Sommerville creates captivating illustrations that are enchanting and whimsical.

When Dora is born, her doting brothers play and look after her as she grows. Peter is the brother who reads books to her. This turns out to be the greatest gift of all.

Margaret Wild has crafted a joyous, gentle story that takes the reader into the delightful world of childhood. The brothers' love and care for Dora shines on every page. Margaret Wild says so much with so few words. When Dora was born, her brothers were very excited. Four brothers bestow love upon Dora, each in their own special way. Love, laughter and the joy of childhood and reading books is celebrated. The repeated patterning used by Wild creates a strong story structure that brings out the unique personalities of each brother without telling just showing the reader. Alex pushed her in the pram. Liam played peek-a-boo with her. Bruno blew bubbles for her. And Peter read to her.

Wild gives the illustrator so much room to expressively create her visual storytelling. The text uses strong simple verbs that show the delight of babyhood and early childhood. Childhood really is a magical time and it’s celebrated wonderfully in this book. The ending returns full circle to the beginning and is clever and satisfying to the reader. Wild has magnificently crafted a book that showcases love and the power of the gift of reading.

Hannah Sommerville’s whimsical storytelling shines brightly in the cover, endpapers and on every spread. I love how she uses a growing vine in a heart shape on the cover. Inside the vine are whimsical bits from the story and placed at the bottom of the heart are Dora and Peter reading a book that glows. The baby-blue font and the yellowy background is soft just like a child. The beginning endpapers are new shoots waiting to grow and the back endpapers are a glorious, lush green of flourishing plants with hints of some lavender flowers.

I love how Sommerville uses lots of space in each spread to draw the eye to the illustration. This really supports the text and shows what’s important. Her expressive vignettes allow each brother and their activity with Dora to shine. The spreads when Peter reads to Dora are special and show the magical world of reading. And Peter read to her. Wild has given Sommerville the space she needed to make the story shine. When Dora reads to Peter his toy dragon becomes a mystical, magical dragon and the moment is savoured not rushed.

Reading to Baby is a picture book that would be a perfect gift for any new baby. It is suitable for 0 - 8 years and reads aloud beautifully. The book has appeal to children, parents, teachers, and librarians. I can see early childhood teachers loving this book as well as new parents. It really is a celebration of childhood and the importance of being played with and read to as a child.

Thursday 18 July 2024

Mr McGee and His Hat

Mr McGee and His Hat by Pamela Allen (Puffin Books) HB RRP $24.99 ISBN 9781761345050

New Zealander Pamela Allen, writer and illustrator, has over fifty classic stories for children, and here is her seventh book about Mr McGee. Like her other books, Allen’s artwork is distinctive with lots of white space on each page. And on each page, too, is rhyming verse to tell a simple story.

In this exciting new Mr McGee adventure – published in Allen’s 90th year – Mr McGee is sleeping under a tree when a sudden gust of wind sends him flying -- his hat, his cat, and ‘his bed went too’. When the wind stops, however, he can’t find his hat. ‘It wasn’t anywhere he could see.’ He searches high and low without success. But it’s only when he goes back to bed does the hat come to light. (Blame the cat!)

Here is a book ideal for children aged 4+ years.

Wednesday 17 July 2024

L.O.L. G.O.A.T. Laughs Out Loud

L.O.L. G.O.A.T. Laughs Out Loud (G.O.A.T. #2) by Kate & Jol Temple. Illustrated by Rebel Challenger. Scholastic 2024. Hardback PB RRP $18.99. ISBN 9781760261153

Reviewed by Debra Williams

G.O.A.T. (short for Greatest of All Time) is reading a book when he comments LOL. Duck doesn’t understand, and Goat explains that he has made an LOL, otherwise known as Laughing Out Loud. Duck points out that Goat isn’t actually laughing, so Goat tries to explain what it’s about. Duck then comes up with several alliterations on the LOL theme to make Goat laugh. All efforts fall flat until Duck inadvertently creates an LOL moment when he is saying goodbye.

With bright illustrations, the alliterative text will be fun for young readers in the 5-7 age group.

Tuesday 16 July 2024

Courses for Writers

Kellie Nissen, an ex-teacher of 26 years and now an author coach and editor with Just Right Words, is now offering two online courses for writers:

·       Self-editing for Writers

·       Writing Awesome Teaching Notes (When You’re Not a Teacher)

Self-editing for Writers looks at what editing is and what professional editors do before delving into the three stages of editing: structural edits, copy/line edits and proofreading. Course participants will discover what is involved at each stage, what to look for and industry ‘tips and tricks’ and will put these into practice with their own writing. The course is designed to be modified to suit the needs of the group (and individual members), with plenty of feedback and support provided.

Cost: $500 (inc. GST)

Minimum number: 5 participants

Duration: 6 weeks, 3 hours a week

Delivery: via Zoom with some video content, all sessions recorded for participant review


Writing Awesome Teaching Notes (When You’re Not a Teacher) examines what teaching notes are and what their purpose is. We then look at the Australian Curriculum and spend some time practising how to navigate it – and understand it at the level needed for ensuring your teaching notes are curriculum aligned. The types of activities suitable for teaching notes will be discussed and participants will then design teaching notes and activities for their book(s) during the sessions with plenty of brainstorming, collaboration and feedback.

Cost: $500 (inc. GST)

Minimum number: 5 participants

Duration: 6 weeks, 3 hours a week

Delivery: via Zoom, with some video content, all sessions recorded for participant review


Contact: Kellie Nissen for more information or to book in

** For subscribers to Buzz Words, mention Buzz Words in your email and a 10% discount will be applied to your booking.

Signal Erased

Signal Erased  by Adele Jones (Rhiza Press) ISBN: 9781761111433 RRP $19.99

Reviewed by Melissa Wray

It must be said that the front cover of this book is exquisite! It is difficult to tell from the picture, but the detail is fantastic, and the embossed title and image is incredible. Amazing work by Carmen Dougherty and the design team at Rhiza Edge.

Signal Erased will have you hooked with its intrigue from the very beginning. So much so that it will be difficult for the reader to stop once they begin. Anna has a gift for singing, but she doesn’t realise how much of a gift until she alters a scientific experiment using song. The people involved will stop at nothing until they get what they want from her. Even if it means Anna’s very existence might disappear forever.

After being bridesmaid at her sister’s wedding, Anna accepts a lift from the popular and good-looking guy, Chase, from her school. But after some reckless driving, Anna finds herself making her way home alone, only to be kidnapped for a science experiment that leaves her invisible and unheard by those around her. Jones creates a realistic science fiction parallel within the storyline that continually raises the stakes for Anna before she disappears forever.

Anna’s situation becomes more complicated as she is forced to rely on Rennie, her new brother-in-law, who up until now has been relatively invisible to her. The connections between the characters in this story are very well written and enjoyable to read as they unfold. Not forced or rushed but caring and tender. Adding a lovely level of sensitivity to the high stake’s storyline.

You don’t need to understand anything about science fiction or frequency waves. This book will nevertheless keep you wondering about the outcome until the very end. Jones’s writing style is easy to read, humorous at times, and always well crafted to create a seamless flow throughout the story.

This book is a high-stakes, action story that also leans into relationships and being vulnerable. Signal Erased is suitable for a 12+ year readership.