Monday, 27 November 2017

Phantom Spies

Phantom Spies by Dawn Meredith, illustrated by Jae Tanaka (Shining Press) PB RRP $9.50   ISBN – 13: 978-1530305506  ISBN – 101530305500

Reviewed by Wendy Haynes

Meet Oliver and his family the Snatchers. The Snatchers aren’t your ordinary family their cat burglars. By night they infiltrate mansions and steal anything of value. Oliver’s job is to use his computer skills to cut the alarms. He is always nervous and worried that one day they will get caught and end up in gaol. His sister Vera is light on her feet and does acrobatics to get passed the infra-red security beams, while their mum plans the mission, and dad is expert at cracking safes.

This chapter book would appeal to 7-9 year olds, and, with varying sentence length, is action-packed, told in the third person, and deals with making decisions, and knowing right from wrong. Oliver’s best friend is the family Robot Roger: he is the only one he can really confide in about his concerns for his family, and he can’t tell his friends at school. He pleads with his family to stop but no one will listen.

After being caught on their last job they are offered work for a secret government agency PHANTOM, as spies. But, at the government headquarters, Roger is taken from Oliver, and reclaimed as a counter terrorism cyborg. The government has plans for the Snatcher family and prepares them for their first mission. Meanwhile the sinister Professor Withers has secretly altered Roger with his new program. When Roger returns to the family, he is not the same: he is no longer friendly toward Oliver or the rest of the family and is unpredictable.

This book is a page turner and will leave the reading wanting more.

Saturday, 25 November 2017

Fergus the Farting Dragon

Fergus the Farting Dragon by Monique Mulligan, illustrated by Veronica Rooke (Serenity Kids) PB RRP $12.99    ISBN 978-0-9954104-3-5

Reviewed by Stacey Gladman

In life there are adversities and challenges around every corner: the real challenge is how we deal with them. Fergus the Farting Dragon introduces the reader to a sweet little dragon named Fergus, with rather a smelly little problem. 

Young Fergus the dragon was dropped on the head as a wee little dragon, and it soon becomes clear not all is well with Fergus. Unlike the other dragons, Fergus can’t breathe fire – he only snorts. Fergus’s uncle tries to teach him to create fire, but rather than coming out of his mouth, he notices smoke coming from his bum!

Fergus is mocked and teased by the older dragons, much to the dismay of Fergus who continues to try and breathe fire. However, Fergus does have one skill the older dragons don’t have - he can produce the most horrendous smells from his bum, with a fart even worse than a “sweaty old sock”. 

One day a cheeky young knight in a fire-proof suit manages to steal one of the dragons golden eggs much to the dismay and embarrassment of all the dragons. Protected from fire, the dragons have no hope of getting their treasure back, or do they? Fergus, knowing his skills are different comes up with a plan to retrieve the egg. But will it work? 

Fergus the Farting Dragon is a funny story which utilises lots of fart words which I think will appeal to children as they giggle their way through the story. But it also has the key messages of embracing one’s differences and figuring out a way to make them work for you in the end, much like Fergus did. 

The picture book is beautifully illustrated with colourful imagery that grabs the readers attention - both young and old alike. I also enjoyed have key words and phrases highlighted in colourful text as well, it added to the story in a number of sections to emphasise key parts. 

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Circle in a Spiral

Circle in a Spiral by Stefan Nicholson (Self-published) PB RRP $24.00 from ISBN 9780980460452

Reviewed by Janet Kershaw

This 56,000 word psychological thriller with its focus on climate change, robotics and the survival of the human race is aimed at the adolescent fiction market. Author and composer Stefan Nicholson has published seven books to date and a CD of original music: he is also the inventor of Symbolic Art Notation, a complete language in pictures.

The book’s cover is from abstract artwork by the author and while it is interesting and colourful, it does not serve the book well, giving no indication of what genre the book is or what is its subject matter. Inside there is a list of contents with chapter headings. Unfortunately the print type is very small which might be off-putting to some readers.

The first page, however, immediately engages the reader’s attention with fast-paced writing as a sister and her small brother, Lodi and Modnar, having attempted to raid the Xylon auto-farm for food and weapons, race to escape a fire. Before long they meet a being called Amgine who alerts them to the destruction of planet Earth caused by man. However, Lodi and Modnar are not the real names of the children: when they return to their home, they are known as Sarah and Max Robertson.

It is Sarah’s quest to fix the problem which affects the universe: she needs to find the ‘Krel Key’, a complex sequence of algorithms which prevent humanoids (developed by scientists and the military to become super-beings) from using their machines from destruction.  Of course, as in any quest dystopian fantasy Sarah’s quest is never going to be easy. Two universe sentinels, Amgine (see above) and Retibra try to use humans and others to stabilise the universe, but one of the sentinels becomes corrupt as does one of the human collaborators. Sarah, who is na├»ve in many ways, has a massive job to right wrongs in a world where everyone, including Life/Death Algorisms have their own interpretations of survival.

For an intelligent reader who enjoys fantasy and quest tales, and is able to navigate their way through a labyrinth of places, people, and events, this book is sure to be to their taste.

Thursday, 16 November 2017

Teens’ top 10 books of 2017

In the US, the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA), a division of the American Library Association, has announced the 2017 Teens’ Top 10 list of books nominated and voted on by teenagers across America. The top 10 books for 2017 are:
1.     Don’t Get Caught (Kurt Dinan, Sourcebooks)
2.     Scythe (Neal Shusterman, S&S US)
3.     The Sun is Also a Star (Nicola Yoon, Corgi)
4.     Lady Midnight (Cassandra Clare, S&S)
5.     This is Where it Ends (Marike Nijkamp, Sourcebooks)
6.     Heartless (Marissa Meyer, Pan)
7.     P S I Like You (Kasie West, Scholastic)
8.     Love & Gelato (Jenna Welch Evans, Walker Books)
9.     Genius: The Game (Leopoldo Gout, Square Fish US)
10.  If I Was Your Girl (Meredith Russo, Usborne).
Nominees for the Teens’ Top 10 were selected by members of book groups in 15 school and public libraries, with teenagers then being encouraged to vote online between 15 August and 14 October for their favourite titles.
For more information on the top 10, click here.

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Max Booth Future Sleuth: Selfie Search

Max Booth Future Sleuth: Selfie Search by Cameron Macintosh, illustrated by Dave Atze (Big Sky Publishing) PB RRP $12.99
ISBN 9781925520880

Reviewed by Kylie Buckley

Max Booth escaped from a ‘Home for Unclaimed Urchins’ a couple of years ago and now lives/hides with his trusty robo-dog Oscar in the storeroom at the Bluggsville City Museum, where his best friend Jessie works.

The year is 2424 and Max assists Jessie by identifying old objects that come to the Museum, and earns himself a little bit of cash in the process. With the help of his beagle-bot Oscar, Max is able to problem solve like a professional. While Oscar’s favourite thing to do is to chase robo-rats he is truly Max’s ‘robotic super assistant’. Who wouldn’t appreciate an assistant who can project images into the air, make good use of their 3D printer, and activate their in-built metal detector whenever the situation calls for it?

Jessie comes across an old object she needs help with and Max’s initial disinterest turns to excitement when he discovers there’s more than meets the eye. They search through the ‘old’ 2017 phone’s photographs to find an abundance of pictures of a man who ‘definitely liked looking at himself’. The photos include one of the man holding a skateboard ‘an ancient one, with actual wheels on the bottom.’  Max and Jessie soon discover this photograph holds the key to a missing piece of Bluggsville’s past and a potential fortune…. and so, their ‘Selfie Search’ adventure begins.

Selfie Search is the second in a series of futuristic, humorous, fun-filled chapter books, suitable for readers 7+ years old. The book is written in the first-person and is set 400+ years into the future. A larger font, plenty of white space and scattered monochrome cartoon drawings target an audience just starting their journey with chapter books.

The future looks bright with the splinternet, zip-coasters, hover-skates and gigapixel cameras and no doubt young readers will be keen to follow more Max Booth adventures. If they haven’t already, readers are encouraged to check out Book 1: Tape Escape and stay tuned for more books in the series.

Monday, 13 November 2017

There’s A Crocodile on the Golf Course by Rachel Barnett

Can you tell readers about your latest book? Is it your first?                                                                There’s a Crocodile on the Golf Course is my latest book, and my first picture book. The picture book was released in February 2017. The story follows Croco as he plays a round of golf and gets into all sorts of trouble. He’s not the greatest golfer and is a quite impatient and cranky but his friends are there and help to save the day. The story is set on the Alyangula Golf Course on Groote Eylandt, which is a very remote part of the Northern Territory. 

Why did you choose to self-publish?
Firstly, I think I was a little impatient! I did send my manuscript off to a couple of publishers, but could not help myself continuing with the project! I kept editing and drawing and by the time I heard back the manuscript was almost unrecognisable. Whilst I am not sure that the process to publication happened any more quickly, I felt that I was actively moving forward with the project with every new step.

The opportunity to publish through another publisher did arise towards the end, just as I was about to send to the printers, but I decided to see the process through. I was able to make decisions around design and illustrate the story myself and since this book was originally intended to be for my children as a memento of living on Groote Eylandt this was important as I wanted the illustrations to be reflective of the actual place.

I also like a challenge, which is lucky as self publishing was a huge learning curve for me. I knew very little before I started, but enjoyed learning and developing my skills in so many different areas.

Why did you choose Holus Bolus Books as your publisher?                                                                    Holus Bolus Books is my own publishing business. I started it to facilitate self publishing for this project and the next that are coming along. I am also starting to work with others who are interested in creating books, mostly for personal reasons rather than as commercial ventures.
More information about Holus Bolus Books can be found at

If you had your work assessed and/or edited privately, can you give details please?
I was lucky to have some very talented friends who edited my work and critiqued my design and illustration: these ranged from teachers to graphic designers. I also approached a number of authors I had distant connections with who were already established and asked their advice. I was very lucky to find such generosity of time and to have the opportunity to learn from them.

How long did it take from starting the publishing process to receipt of advance copies?
Overall the project took about two years! Each step of the process involved a new learning journey and the second time around this should mean that, whilst there will always be a lot to learn, the road to publication should be more direct. I do think it was necessary to have that time to reflect and improve the story and illustrations however, so would not want to rush the next project either. From sending the final files to the printer and receiving the advance copies was relatively quick -- a little over a month.

How many copies did you get printed?
I decided to print an initial run of 1000 copies through Tien Wah Press. Because I live in such a remote location, the shipping for me was and continues to be a large cost.
I have also set up a print on demand option through Ingram Spark; however I miss the glossy look of the paper in this version, which I think is so important to children’s books. Also things like not being able to print on the end-papers proved to be a limitation. I am printing my colouring book through them though and I love how these have come up.

Are you happy about the quality of paper, design and printing?
Yes, I am very happy with Tien Wah Press. They were very helpful and the quality is great. But I chose them because I had seen other favourite picture books printed through them that I loved.

How will you distribute copies?
My books are for sale via my website, I will also use an Adelaide based distributor and will sell direct to some independent bookstores. Watch this space!.

Saturday, 11 November 2017

Interview with Alison Reynolds

Can you tell readers about your book?

These are the latest two picture books in the Pickle and Bree’s Guide to Good Deeds series aimed at children 4- 8. They explore social etiquette and positive behaviour in a light, humorous way. The Playground Meanies is about bullying and The Big Snow Adventure tackles respecting rules.

Each book features a Handy Guide to Good Deeds on the last page, which can be used as a discussion point for adults and children.

What is the book’s history to publication?
The Five Mile
Press commissioned these books as part of an ongoing series. The editor approved my initial concepts after a bit of toing and froing.
                                                                                            Do you have an agent?
I don’t have an agent, but having a husband who is an accountant helps me a lot. He is a whizz at examining contracts and chasing up royalties.

Why did you choose Five Mile Press as your publisher?
I’ve worked with The Five Mile Press for many years and value highly my relationship with them. They’ve offered me many wonderful opportunities to write many different style books. They’re perfect match for somebody like me who enjoys a challenge.

How long did it take from submission of your manuscript to receipt of advance copies?The whole process from initial concept to being edited took about five months.

Which editor did you work with? Was there a lot of work that needed to be done to your manuscript? How was the editing experience for you?
I worked with the super talented Melissa Keil at The Five Mile Press. She manages to point out where the text can be improved with tact and perspicacity. There was not as much work needed as for the first two books, because I know the characters now. With Melissa, I feel we’re working together to make the books the best books they can be.

Who is the book’s illustrator? Why do you like her work?
Mikki Butterley is a brilliant illustrator who lives in the north of England. She comes from a background of creating cards, and her attention to detail is extraordinary. I adore her work for the sense of fun she captures. Whatever wild whacky idea I come up with in the text, Mikki seems to be able to match it up with a gorgeous illustration. I also love her colour palette.

Anything else you’d like to say about your publisher?
I would recommend The Five Mile Press to illustrators and other authors. They produce a range of different fabulous products, which makes it an exciting company to work with.

Have you written other books for children?
I’ve had over 70 books published, including board books, picture books, chapter books, choose-your-own-adventure style books and even a non-fiction adult book.  I work for different publishers, which helps me maintain a flow of work.

Do you belong to a writing group?
I’ve belonged to a few writing groups in the past. One group has transformed into a lunching group of close friends as I’m the only one who still writes on a full-time basis. I firmly believe writing groups can be excellent especially when you’re starting out, but you need to be in one that suits you. If you find you’re in a toxic writing group that makes you feel bad, belittled and if you’re the one who is doing all the work, run. I’m lucky enough to be working with editors who give me thoughtful, excellent feedback, so I’m not in a writing group at the moment.

I had a few outstanding writing tutors/mentors when I studied, for example Janey Runci, Sari Smith, Rachel Flynn and Marg McKenzie. 

What are you working on at the moment? 
I have an idea that I’m playing with for a series for 6- 8 year olds. I’m not at the stage of sending it out to publishers yet, but hope to be there soon. I’ve had a variety of books published, including picture books, board books, chapter books, middle grade books and even an adult non-fiction book.

Anything else you’d like to add?
To aspiring writers out there: never give up; never give up; never give up.
I would love you to check out my website at