Wednesday, 17 October 2018

The Tales of Mr Walker


The Tales of Mr Walker by Jess Black, illustrated by Sara Acton (Puffin Books) HB RRP $24.99 ISBN 9780143793076

Reviewed by Dianne Bates

Sub-titled ‘a hotel dog with a nose for adventure’, this is a beautifully designed and presented book which would suit children aged 8 to 11 years who enjoy chapter books. There are four mini books between the covers: Mr Walker at the Park, Mr Walker and the Mystery Guest, Mr Walker and the Garden Surprise and Mr Walker Finds a Home.

At the start of the first story, Mr Walker, a golden Labrador dog, is being driven by Tracy to the Park Hyatt Hotel where he is to take up the position of Guide Dog ambassador of a park. The dog has no idea what an ambassador is, but he is welcomed to the hotel first by Thomas then by Henry Reeves whose family lives in a hotel apartment and who befriend him.

All four books are told from Mr Walker’s point of view as he gets to know guests – all wealthy and privileged, some famous -- and embarks upon adventures within the hotel whose employees include Chef Remy, housekeeper Meraj and Omid on the front desk. Always eager to help, Mr Walker always identifies people by their smells, including a mysterious man who is discriminated against but who turns out to be quite different from what he first appears.

This is a gently-told story with much charm and no real dramas which is likely to appeal to readers who prefer a ‘quiet’ story. Mr Walker is lovable even though he acts in typical dog fashion at times which gets him into scrapes.

The watercolour illustrations fit the mood of the story while the text is in large font which makes for easy reading. Royalties from sales of this book go to Guide Dogs Victoria.

Tuesday, 16 October 2018

Dragon Apocalypse


Dragon Apocalypse by D.C. Green (Ford Street) PB RRP $18.99 ISBN: 9781925272680

Reviewed by Jeffery E Doherty

Dragon Apocalypse is the third book in D.C. Green's City of Monsters series. One of the quotes on the back of this book reads, “Nothing you've experienced will prepare you for this.” That is seriously true. And having not read the first two books in the series made it three times as true. In the first two chapters we meet a formidable ogre bodyguard, a harpie, a giant talking skunk and a vampire – and they are by no means even close to the strangest characters in the story. 

The heroes of this story are the Dead Gang and they have a mission to save the last Dragon, who has been poisoned and is hiding out on the Isle of Giants. They must reach the island and defeat two separate armies of monsters and cyborgs intent on the dragon’s demise. To make matters worse, the health of the dragon is linked to that of the world. So, the stakes for success are certainly high.

D.C. Green’s writing is fast paced, visual and eccentric, with a unique tapestry of slang dialogue and humour that takes some getting used to. But once you do, the story flows and the crazy-weird cast of characters come into their own. I would recommend reading the first two books in the series before attempting this book. I did end up enjoying this book much more than I thought I would. In the beginning I struggled to work out the story-line and the characters, but by midway through I had caught up and the story thundered by at a break-necked pace.

This series would suit readers from about ten years of age and up into the young adult market, especially those readers who like their stories fast and quite a bit weird.

Monday, 15 October 2018

Ho! Ho! Ho! There’s a Hippopotamus on Our Roof Eating Christmas Cake


Ho! Ho! Ho! There’s a Hippopotamus on Our Roof Eating Christmas Cake by Hazel Edwards, illustrated by Deborah Niland (Puffin Books) HB RRP $19.99 ISBN 978 0143790679
Reviewed by Dianne Bates

Australian author Hazel Edwards had a best-seller, There’s a Hippopotamus on Our Roof Eating Cake, in 2005 and since then she has produced various incantations of the book which is targeted at pre-schoolers. Now here’s the latest with the oversized pink hippo complete with a Santa hat getting ready for Christmas.

A curly blonde-haired boy is told by his father that there’s a man fixing roof tiles, but the boy knows the truth – there’s a hippopotamus up there getting ready – as is he – for Christmas. The hippo is making a cake and icing it, then he’s making a list for Santa (just like the boy). Before long the hippo is dancing a cake dance. 

At the same time that the boy and his family are decorating their Christmas tree, the hippo on the roof has a disaster – he accidentally sits on his Christmas tree ‘with his big wobbly bottom'! However, hippo is clever, and fixes it so it looks as good as new. Niland’s full-page, colourful illustration on this page shows a tree resplendent with goodies such as carrots, apples, cherries and cakes (donuts and lamingtons, of course!)

The rest of the book has the boy and the hippo on the roof preparing for the big day (gingerbread, card-making, wrapping gifts, stringing fairy lights) until finally the boy’s family all dress in Santa suits (as does the hippo). On Christmas eve there’s Carols by Candlelight, and of course stockings and food for Santa and his reindeer. When Christmas Day arrives, there is happiness and discovery for everyone.

This is a joyous, even scrumptious book with page after page of bright illustrations that reward the reader with multiple readings. It will especially appeal to any child who is super-excited as he or she anticipates all that Christmas Day will bring, and who is involved with family in preparing for the big day. The text is easy to read with large font and simple sentences. Certainly this is a great book for a small child’s Christmas stocking!



Sunday, 14 October 2018

Billie


Billie by Nicole Godwin, illustrated by Demelsa Haughton (Tusk Books)
HB RRP $24.99 ISBN 9780994531414

Reviewed by Brook Tayla

The author’s intent is very clear in this book – to show the beauty of the natural world in which all animals should live happily and peacefully, compared to the hardships that they actually face every day because of humans.

‘Billie’ presents readers with many scenarios that underwater sea creatures face.  The protagonist is Billie, a bottlenose dolphin, who just wants to spend her days playing joyfully in the surf, but instead, sets about helping animals affected by human intervention.  She does things like free animals from nets and releasing them from fishing lines. 

There is something new to discuss on each page, even after multiple readings – Demelsa Haughton’s illustrations are part of the reason for this.  Although the illustrations are bold and clear, they are layered with extra visual information.  The colour palette used is beautifully calming and maintains a sense of peace that everything is under control. (Even if as adults we know the truth is problematic)

Nicole Godwin is both an author and an animal activist. She is on a mission to save the animals suffering that we currently have on the planet and she is doing this by writing books that start the conversation with children.  Her books introduce children to facts and encourages them, as not only readers, but as people, to think differently about all creatures in the hope of a better more conscious future. Her mission statement reads:

                     ‘We create children’s books that give a voice to those who
                     yelp, roar, moo, oink and trumpet.’

There is a double-page spread at the back of the book that gives readers facts about dolphins and the hardships faced by creatures living in the ocean – a lot of food for thought.

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.


Saturday, 13 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: it is, after all, 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 accomplishments. 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.

Friday, 12 October 2018

The Book of Answers


The Book of Answers by A.L. Tait (Hachette Australia) PB RRP $14.99     ISBN: 9780734417695

Reviewed by Jeffery E Doherty

The Book of Answers is the second book in the gripping Ateban Cipher by A.L. Tait. It follows on from the first book in the series, The Book of Secrets.

Gabe and his companions must journey across the country to a remote mountain citadel to learn the secrets of the mysterious book he has been tasked to protect. They also need to find a way to rescue Merry and Gwyn's father from the executioner and to help their new friend, Eddie - Crown Prince Edward - to help prove he is the true prince. However, the king is gravely ill and the traitors who have put a look-a-like in Eddie’s place are hot on their heels and hunting them every step of the way.  

The remote fortress of Hayden's Mont does bring answers to Gabe and his companions, but not to the questions they were seeking. The stakes for the main characters have risen dramatically from the events in the first book and the group must re-evaluate their priorities in their life or death race to foil the traitors.

The Book of Answers is an excellent second addition to the Ateban Cipher series and is sure to be a hit with both girls and boys who love a great adventure story. The mix of female and male lead characters makes the story more interesting. Gwyn's stubborn confidence and young Midge's mysterious connection with animals, compliment Gabe and Eddie's determination. The companions will all have to build their trust and work together if they are to succeed in their quest.  This book is full of adventure and intrigue and would ideally suit readers 8-12 years old.   

Thursday, 11 October 2018

Australia Illustrated


Australia Illustrated by Tania McCartney (EK Books) PB RRP $32.99 ISBN: 9781925335880

By Anne Helen Donnelly

The book starts out with three adjectives to aptly describe our nation: big, beautiful and diverse. The messages in this book are primarily conveyed through bright and quirky illustrations. It lists all things uniquely Australian, and all the things we love about our home, from a child’s focus.

After the bold introductory statement, the book goes onto show native and endangered Australian animals, iconic and bush foods, precious rocks, sport we love and play, swim wear, slang (one of my favourite pages, as after 38 years in Australia, I’m proud to say I am familiar with all of them), various weather around our continent and famous Aussies.  

Each state is then explored, starting with New South Wales. There are landmarks, popular attractions, famous eats and all things each state is best known for and their pride and joys. One of my favourite pages is the Great Barrier Reef page, with different schools of stunning fish intermingling – just like the real thing!

An engaging visual reference guide to all things Australian. Great for natives as well as those wanting to take a glimpse into our culture. Recommended for ages 4 – 8 year olds.