Wednesday, 24 October 2018

The Bogan Mondrian


The Bogan Mondrian by Steven Herrick, (UQP)  PB RRP $19.95  ISBN: 9780702259982

Reviewed by Pauline Hosking

Luke, a Year Eleven student from ‘the wrong side of the tracks’, becomes a catalyst for helping Charlotte, a girl from a wealthy family, address the domestic violence occurring in her home. Steven Herrick chose these backgrounds deliberately because, as he says, domestic violence ‘is an issue that affects people from all classes, races and religions.’

Luke’s father has recently died from cancer. Trying to come to terms with the loss, Luke sleepwalks through each day, wagging school and compulsively taking photos. When he discovers the truth about Charlotte’s home life, he realises that his own life could be worse. Much worse.

This is a powerful story, told by Luke in first-person prose, celebrating courage, compassion and friendship. It is set in Katoomba and the background and characters are clearly Australian.

The book raises questions about what it means to be a man and a father in today’s society.  On the surface Charlotte’s father is a charming, successful business man. His darker side is hinted at, not described in great detail. By contrast, Luke’s father was a gambler, a drinker and smoker -  a rough diamond who adored his family. Luke himself displays unexpected strength and kindness as does his friend, basketball-obsessed Blake.

Steven Herrick is better known for his verse-novels like The Simple Gift. The poet in Herrick is obvious as he doesn’t waste a word and uses some beautiful, evocative images. Although the subject is serious there are many moments of humour between Luke and his mother, and between Luke and a neighbour who’s teaching him to swear in Italian.

The resolution is believable and will have readers cheering. The Bogan Mondrian is highly recommended, especially for boys from Year 8 upwards.

The title might confuse some readers. Here’s the explanation: Charlotte has painted her bedroom walls in squares like a Mondrian painting, turning the room into her retreat from the world. At the end of the book Luke (the bogan) paints his room exactly the same. This time it’s not a retreat, it’s a celebration.

Tuesday, 23 October 2018

Buzz Words Achievements


Pamela Rushby is happy to announce that her novel, Lizzie and Margaret Rose (Omnibus/Scholastic, a 2017 CBCA Notable book) has won the NSW Society of Women Writers award for a children's book for 2018.  

The story is set London in 1940. Bombs are falling, and 10-year-old Margaret Rose survives a deadly raid, but her family home is destroyed. In faraway Townsville in Queensland, her aunt is ready to take her in, although her 11-year-old cousin Lizzie is not so sure. But first there is a long and dangerous voyage to a strange country, also at war. Margaret Rose knows it's not going to be easy, and Lizzie is not about to make it any easier. 

Pamela has had a long and distinguished writing career in the areas of advertising, journalism, screenwriting and children's books. Having worked as a writer and producer of educational television, audio and multimedia for the Queensland Department of Education, Pamela is now a full-time freelance writer.

                                                             ***


Little Book Press is to publish two of Janeen Brian’s picture books: I am this Big and Look Baby! (the latter illustrated by Renee Treml) while Janeen's poem, ‘The Dilemma of a Dachshund’ will be published by the School Magazine. You can read more about Janeen at www.janeenbrian.com

                                                                      ***

Dingo by Claire Saxby, illustrated by Tannya Harricks, and published by Walker Books Australia, has received a certificate of commendation in the Illustrated Children's Book category of the 2018 Royal Zoological Society of New South Wales's Whitley Awards!

The Whitley Awards are presented annually for outstanding publications that contain a significant amount of information relating to the fauna of the Australasian region, and are a tribute to Gilbert Whitley, an eminent Australian ichthyologist.
Claire Saxby is an award-winning and bestselling picture book author. Two of her previous Nature Storybooks, Big Red Kangaroo (2013) and Emu (2014), both illustrated by Graham Byrne, have won numerous awards, including the Royal Zoological Society of NSW’s Whitley Award. Big Red Kangaroo was a 2014 CBCA Notable Book, and won the CBCA Crichton Award for illustration, and Emu was short-listed for 2015 CBCA Eve Pownall Award and won the Environment Award for Children's Literature. Claire lives in Melbourne, where she works part-time in a bookshop. Her latest book is Koala, illustrated by Julie Vivas.

Monday, 22 October 2018

Max Booth Future Sleuth: Stamp Safari


Max Booth Future Sleuth: Stamp Safari by Cameron Macintosh, illustrated by Dave Atze (Big Sky Publishing) PB RRP $12.99 ISBN 9781925675368

Reviewed by Kylie Buckley

Max Booth and his trusty robo-dog Oscar are back for another sleuthing adventure. Stamp Safari is the third book in this futuristic series for young readers.

The year is 2424 and the world is a very different place. There are floating skyburbs as well as the usual ground level suburbs and zoom tubes with aircells that transport people back and forth. Zip coasters move people around the city by looping over buildings and underneath bridges. Max Booth lives on Skyburb 6. Since his escape from the Home for Unclaimed Urchins, he secretly lives in the storeroom of the Bluggsville Museum. Max helps his friend Jessie to identify ancient objects for display in the museum, to earn a little cash.

Max and Jessie become intrigued by a tiny rectangular piece of paper that has a pattern cut into its edges. It has a picture on one side and is sticky on the other.   Unfortunately, the Great Solar Flare of 2037 destroyed the old Internet and its contents, and this patch of paper is too old to easily identify. So, Max sets off with his resourceful beagle-bot Oscar in search of clues to find the origin of this rare and fragile piece of paper.

It isn’t long before Max and Oscar get themselves into trouble and hopes fade for identifying the piece of paper. Max gets captured by Captain Selby (the leader of the Unclaimed Urchins Recapture Squad) and is separated from his beloved Oscar. Max needs to try every trick in the book if he is to safely return to the museum with his dog and the patch of paper.

This humorous book would appeal to children 7+ years old who are beginning their chapter book journey. Atze’s monochrome cartoon vignettes are scattered throughout the book to help young minds visualise the futuristic world that Macintosh has created. If you’re keen for more sleuthing fun after you’ve read this book, make sure you check out the other two books in this series: Tape Escape and Selfie Search.

Sunday, 21 October 2018

His Name was Walter


His Name was Walter by Emily Rodda (Angus and Robertson/Harper Collins) PB RRP $22.99 ISBN 978146071203

Reviewed by Nean McKenzie

This middle grade fiction book is about a group of kids in a haunted house — what could be better? The reader is led from a story into another story, which at first seems like a fairy tale, but as it goes on, seems more and more real. Emily Rodda, writer of more than fifty books, expertly crafts a tale that moves between the past and the future, and fantasy and reality. His Name was Walter is an adventure, a mystery and a coming of age story, all in one.

The story is from the point of view of Colin, who is new at his school and on an excursion. The bus breaks down in bad weather and four students (and their teacher Mrs Fiori) take shelter in an old mansion nearby. There are creepy stories about the house, but there's nowhere else to go. Colin discovers a book called His Name was Walter and Mrs Fiori encourages the children to read it.
The story of Walter describes an orphan boy who grows up in a beehive and his journey to a town far away where he meets a girl called Sparrow. Colin and the quiet Tara, who is aware of unseen things, are completely drawn in. Grace, a pretty, impatient girl, feels scared for unexplained reasons in certain rooms in the house. Cynical Lucas seems oblivious to it all. But as Walter's tale goes on, the spirits in the house seem to be trying to prevent it from being told.

There are moments of genuine scariness in this story. The power goes off. There's a mysterious locked room. But the scariest is the idea of a 'story' being real. The children realise there was a real town, a real mansion, and that is where they are this night. They must draw on the courage and work together to get through the story, right to the end.

This book is structured so well. I was initially confused as to why Walter would be surrounded by animals who act like people, but this is explained. The characters of the school children are believable without stereotypes and all develop in their own way.

My Name is Walter is a fast-paced and entertaining read for upper primary children.







Saturday, 20 October 2018

Zenobia


Zenobia by Morten Dürr and Lars Horneman (UQP) ISBN 9780702260254 HB RRP $19.95

Reviewed by Nean McKenzie

This graphic novel is about a young girl who is a refugee from Syria and her dangerous journey away from the war in her country. Through evocative pictures and minimal, well-chosen words, it is a gentle but tragic story that doesn’t shy away from reality. Created in Denmark, where it won a national illustration award, Zenobia deals with an important international issue. It will no doubt will be read by older children and adults around the world.

Beginning at the end, the reader is not lulled into a sense that this book has a happy conclusion. Rather, the story is about how Amina got there and who she was. There are three stories in one and they are depicted by different colours. Amina’s present at the start is full colour. When she remembers her mother back in Syria in the past, the illustrations are in shades of brown. And the story of Zenobia, a great warrior queen of Syria, is in purple and orange. The colour changes are very effective in indicating time, but also in changing the mood of the story.

The first words are after ten pages of pictures, which strengthens their impact. Then at the end of the story there is no need for words again – this is quite powerful.  The story of Zenobia, told by Amina's mother, helps to make the book a bit less bleak. Zenobia acts as a source of strength and comfort for Amina after the ship wreck, even when everything is going wrong. Also Amina's memories of playing hide and seek and cooking with her mother, are very touching.

For children learning about refugees Zenobia clearly depicts how people like Amina have no choice but to leave. And while it is a very hard topic, it is important for children to understand what is happening in the world. Still, some younger readers may find it upsetting.

This graphic novel is the ideal format to depict war and desperation in such a quiet but emotive manner. Zenobia is an important and haunting read for upper primary school upwards.

Friday, 19 October 2018

Twelve Angels Weeping


Twelve Angels Weeping by Dave Rudden, illustrated by Alexis Snell (Penguin Random House) HB RRP $29.99 ISBN: 9781405938273

Reviewed by Dannielle Viera

‘Every light casts a shadow. And every story needs a villain.’ During the Doctor’s travels to the limits of time and space in the TARDIS – a time machine that is ‘bright and blue and shining in the grim darkness’ – the renegade Time Lord has encountered a slew of adversaries. From the reptilian Silurians and Ice Warriors to the rhino-like Judoon, each race proudly displays its unique brand of brutality like a badge of honour.

Teen fans of the long-running television show Doctor Who will enjoy sinking their teeth into this collection of twelve thrilling tales. In a refreshing twist, each story focuses on a classic villain (rather than the Doctor) and expertly augments the expanded universe of the franchise. While it is helpful to be aware of the characters and the various guises of the Doctor when reading the stories, it is not essential – sci-fi buffs with no prior knowledge of the show will quickly become engrossed in the futuristic action.

Dave Rudden immerses himself brilliantly into the vast world of Doctor Who, intriguing readers with a Cyberman who sees a ghost girl; the origin of Strax the Sontaran, who later works alongside the Doctor; and a Zygon plan to turn a glorious glass city into shards that will grind ‘into the meat of the universe’. Humour and horror drip from the pages in equal measure, surprisingly tempered with a lot of heart. With a dozen battles between light and dark to savour, this is one book that teenagers won’t want to ‘Exterminate!’

Thursday, 18 October 2018

Just Flesh and Blood


Just Flesh and Blood by Jane Caro (UQP) PB RRP $19.95 ISBN 978 0702260018

Reviewed by Dianne Bates

Australian Jane Caro has won many national and international awards for her creative endeavours and has written numerous books including the prequels to this, her latest YA title in the Elizabeth 1 trilogy (Just a Girl and Just a Queen), both UQP titles.
In Just Flesh and Blood, she continues the life of Elizabeth, who endured a perilous childhood to take the throne as Queen of England. 

Now, four decades later, having withstood political upheavals, wars and plots against her life, she contemplates her successes and failures and ponders all she has relinquished – love, marriage and family – for power. As she is dying, Elizabeth recalls her first love, Robin Dudley, 1st Earl of Leicester who was her playmate and became her master of horse on her accession. (Many consider he was her one true love.) There are many more memories which makes this a slow-moving book, not one bristling with action: after all, it is Elizabeth’s final chapter.

As with all books which are well-researched, the book contains a bibliography for those who want to read more about the great queen’s life and accomplishment. Also, very helpful at the end of the book, is its Cast of Characters, with, in order of appearance, the names and birth and death dates as well as a short potted history of those who appear in the book which begins with the death of Elizabeth’s mother, Anne Boleyn, second wife of Henry V11, who was executed by him for treason and adultery.