Saturday, 27 November 2021

Lion Is That You?

 


Lion Is That You? by Moira Court (Freemantle Press) ISBN 9781760991241 RRP $24.99 

Reviewed by Claire Stuckey

Are there really lions in Australia? This delightful picture book answers this question with a clue on the first double page spread. A clever look and reveal story we see parts of Australian animals hidden in various landscapes all created from prints and/or collage techniques. Each animal is revealed on the next page with another clue hidden within.

There are so many great features in this picture book, children will love guessing the animals, looking for “bones” of ancient creatures and listening to the beautiful language. An introduction to the concept of camouflage, the reader seeks out and identifies the fauna of Australia which adds even more enjoyment to this title. The text is well developed with language that encourages intonation, using alliteration and rhyme which means adults will love reading aloud to one child or a group. This fabulous book will be enjoyed by families, in childcare centres, libraries and in the classroom. I loved Moira Court’s last picture book Dog Park: this title adds to her clever and creative body of work.

 As I finished my review reading with my 4-year-old granddaughter, she insisted that she MUST have this book at home to read again with her daddy tonight!

Highly recommended for ages 3-6 years.

Friday, 26 November 2021

The Boy and the Elephant

The Boy and the Elephant by Freya Blackwood (HarperCollins) RRP HB $24.99

ISBN 9781460759998

Reviewed by Kylie Buckley

The Boy and the Elephant is a stunning wordless picture book from the multi-award-winning author/illustrator Freya Blackwood. The images tell a beautiful story of a little boy who lives in a bustling city, where everyone around him seems to be consumed by constant busyness. Fortunately, he finds a place of daily solace in the vacant lot next to his apartment where tall trees grow. Within this rare and quiet space in nature the boy finds peace and friendship. However, one day he discovers that the trees are earmarked for logging, and all could be lost.

The Boy and the Elephant includes exquisite artwork on every page, the high standard we have come to expect from Blackwood. The tactile cover and tranquil endpapers set the scene for this visual delight. The illustrations have been created using pencil and oil paints on watercolour paper. A predominately cool toned green and blue colour palette has been used, creating a beautiful sense of calm. The book comprises a variety of page layouts including: single and double-page spreads along with vignettes and picture sequences that create a reading path and convey a sense of time. Angles are used to create a sense of space, and at times fragility.

The Boy and the Elephant is a gorgeous story about mindfulness, imagination and the environment, highly recommended for readers aged 4 years and older. New details in the illustrations will be discovered each time the book is read and meaningful discussion is likely to stem from the variety of inferences that the audience makes. The Boy and the Elephant is a masterpiece in the promotion of visual literacy.

Thursday, 25 November 2021

The Midnight Girls


The Midnight Girls
by Alicia Jasinska (Penguin Random House) PB RRP $19.99 ISBN 9781760894733

Reviewed by Kathleen Grace

In a snow-covered kingdom, two wicked rivals secretly compete for the heart of a prince, only to discover they might be falling for one another. Zosia and Marynka are drawn to each other the moment they meet – until they discover they both have their sights set on the same thing – to literally take the prince’s heart from his chest as part of a deed. If one consumes a pure heart, she’ll gain immeasurable power. Marynka plans to take the prince’s heart back to her patron to prove herself, while Zosia is determined to take his heart and its power for itself.

Their ambition turns into a magical contest, even as their attraction to one another grows. But their attempts on the prince’s life draws the attention of the city that would die for him, and their escalating rivalry might cost them not only their love for each other, but both their lives.

The Midnight Girls is a stunningly, clearly written YA page-turner with unique Polish folktale elements draw from the author’s heritage, woven into a richly imagined story with strong female protagonists and friendships and a developing lesbian romance undercurrent to it all.

Wednesday, 24 November 2021

The Last Kids on Earth and the Doomsday Race

The Last Kids on Earth and the Doomsday Race by Max Brallier, illustrated by Douglas Holgate (HarperCollins) PB RRP $14.99 ISBN: 9780008491338

 Reviewed by Dannielle Viera

 In the seventh book of the bestselling The Last Kids on Earth series, Jack Sullivan and his friends are on their way to the strange Tower when a ginormous centipede called the Mallusc sucks them up. But rather than becoming monster food, they find themselves in the world’s biggest mall, which is attached to the centipede’s back. It is a city of sorts, populated by thousands of different monsters, which is ruled over by a giant rat and the kids’ nemesis, Evie Snark. Can Jack take on Evie and the rat to become mayor of Mallusc City, and save the residents when the terrifying Thrull attacks the Mallusc?

 Max Brallier’s story starts at full throttle, and barely takes its foot off the gas. Kids aged eight and over will be mesmerised by the thrills and spills, monsters and zombies, as Jack tackles the challenges of wresting leadership from his foes. Humour pings across the fast-paced pages, ensuring that even the most reluctant of readers will enjoy this energetic adventure. It is helpful if youngsters have read the previous books, as this will orientate them in the complex Last Kids universe.

 A freelance comic book artist, Douglas Holgate uses his exceptional drawing skill to add an extra layer of madcap mayhem to the story. The dynamic black-and-white illustrations are brimming with eye-catching detail, while speech bubbles pop up periodically to give the characters a strong voice at important moments.

 Featuring a brilliant blend of text and images whirling across the pages, The Last Kids on Earth and the Doomsday Race is sure to be a favourite with middle-grade readers who adore action and absurdity. They’ll return to the book again and again, determined to catch every last joke and reference that speeds by on each spread.

Tuesday, 23 November 2021

Always

 

Always by Morris Gleitzman (Penguin Random House) RRP PB $19.99
ISBN 9780143793243

Reviewed by Kylie Buckley

Always is the long-awaited seventh and final book in the Felix series. In the first book, Once, we met Felix Salinger, a 10-year-old Jewish orphan living in Poland during World War II. In this last book, Always, we connect with Felix as a retired 87-year-old doctor living in Australia.

Wassim, a 10-year-old orphan living in Eastern Europe, is left a book and a letter by his late grandfather, Amon. The note acknowledges that life will be tough for the young mixed-race boy and states what to do if he ever needs help. The compelling contents of this letter becomes the catalyst for Wassim reaching out to Felix and Felix finding himself back in Eastern Europe after a 73-year hiatus.

This engaging final narrative alternates between Wassim and Felix’s points of view and leaves the reader with a lovely sense of closure on the series.

The Felix series of middle grade books are highly recommended for lovers of historical fiction. The series titles, in order of Felix’s life story are: Once, Then, After, Soon, Maybe, Now and Always. Interestingly, this is not the same order as the dates of publication. Now was initially meant to be the final book in a trilogy. However, Gleitzman discovered he had much more to reveal about Felix’s journey and Now eventually became book six in this series of seven.

Saturday, 20 November 2021

Nerd Herd Outfoxed

Nerd Herd Outfoxed by Nathan Luff & Chris Kennett (Scholastic Australia) PB $14.99 ISBN 978 1 760974626

Reviewed by Karen Hendriks

Barny the Lamb has been kidnapped and taken to the den of Mrs Fox. His best friends, Shaama Llama Ding Dong and Billy the Kid decide to save him. But will they make it in time before their friend is a lamb dinner?

 

This book is the third in the Nerd Herd series. Barny the Lamb, Shaama Llama Ding Dong and Billy the Kid are meek and mild, but together they’re a herd.

 

Nathan Liff has written a cool, fun read, that keeps the reader page turning and laughing. The humour instantly appeals and the dialogue cleverly shows the internal thoughts of the characters and their personalities without telling. The voice is strong, and the story is told through the eyes of Barny the sheep. The characters are distinct and well rounded.  The sentences pace the story much like a movie reel. They rise and fall with the action. The page turns keep the reader hooked. Please, after you. Liff has masterfully delivered a story that is deceptively simple but this is hard to achieve. ‘Foxy? Like a fox?’ I asked. ‘No, foxy is an expression, it means you look really attractive.’

 

As the plot develops and grows, the reader is kept guessing. Mrs Fox is sort of crazy and driven by her love for Mr Fox who has mysteriously disappeared. This creates another hook for the reader. Where is Mr Fox? The opening two sentences captivate.  Last, you heard of me, I’d been snatched by a fox and carried off into the night. It’s Ok. Also, the use of questioning develops humour and speaks closely to the reader encouraging them to think and use their imagination.  ‘Mrs Fox, how about we play hide-and-seek?’ I asked.

 

Chris Kennett has done it again, delivered comical illustrations that are cartoon -like, full of action and expression. They play with the words and add extra layers of meaning by showing not telling. The characters’ personalities shine much like they are on stage. I particularly like how the illustrations take the fear away for a child of this age reading the story because we all know foxes eat cute animals and Kennett has balanced this well in the story. There is just enough to feel Barny the lamb or the chickens could be eaten,  but then the silliness of it all brings the laughs. Onomatopoeia adds sound effects and dramatizes events and humour. The cheeky cover is a hit, and at a glance we can see all the characters and it is super easy to guess the villain and the problem.

Nerd Herd Outfoxed, is a book for 6-9 years that allows the reader to escape into a world of fun. It can be read as a standalone or as part of the series. This is a book that can be a bedtime read that a parent would also love. Many children will enjoy this story. 

Friday, 19 November 2021

Funny Kid: Prank Ninjas

Funny Kid: Prank Ninjas by Matt Stanton (ABC Books) ISBN 978 0 7333 4062 8 RRP $14.99 

Reviewed by Nean McKenzie

The latest of Matt Stanton’s Funny Kid series, Prank Ninjas is again about Max Walbut, his duck, and his friends in the town of Redhill. This time the focus is on pranking – specifically ninja pranking – which gets going right from the first page. Max fools all his friends in a cinema, which leads to taking sides. This leads to getting into trouble, then payback, which gets them into more trouble. They get caught by the Mayor Lopez who announces a dreaded Kid-Free Zone for the town. When they discover they’re not the only ones doing the pranking, the kids unite and plan one last elaborate prank to find the culprit.  

 

With Matt Stanton’s distinctive cartoon illustrations, the story goes at a cracking pace with lots of humour (including quite a bit of toilet humour). Max and his friends Hugo, Pip, Tyson, and Max’s frenemy Abby are on school holidays. After the prank in the cinema, Max’s friends retaliate, and they start a pranking war in Redhill Bargain Busters. Max enlists the help of Hugo (who has an annoying habit of reading all the time) to try to get hold of Abby’s journal. For some reason, Max suspects Abby is in love with him, and he reasons that if everyone else finds this out, she will be humiliated.

However, things go wrong when they run up against a cling film maze at the library and some swapped over toilet signs, that neither group is responsible for. By order of the mayor, all kids in Redhill must stay home unless accompanied by an adult. And it’s all Max and his friends’ fault. Or is it? Blamed for something they didn’t do, the kids all team up to discover the ninja behind the pranking and to finally make them pay.

Included at the end of the book, is the first chapter of another of the author’s books – The Odds. This is the tenth book in the Funny Kid series, suitable for children aged 8+ years.