Monday, 20 May 2019

Grace’s Mystery Seed

Grace’s Mystery Seed by Juliet Sampson and Karen Erasmus (Ford Street)
ISBN 9781925804218 PB RRP $16.95 PB $24.95 HB

Reviewed by Nean McKenzie

Grace’s Mystery Seed is a gentle tale about a girl called Grace and her elderly neighbour Mrs Marino. It does contain a mystery, and this keeps the reader turning the pages to discover what happens. Beautiful water colour and ink illustrations, by Karen Erasmus, fill every page with gardens and plants. This is a story about patience, and the value of waiting for something worthwhile to happen.  

 Grace is a little girl who is curious about gardens and Mrs Marino has the best one in the street. When Grace asks what kind of seed the parrot is eating, Mrs Marino helps Grace to plant it. Then they wait for it to come up. While the rest of Grace’s class have theories about what it could be, all Grace and her best friend Leo can do is wait. And no one is disappointed – the seed is an impressive sunflower, with plenty of seeds for all.

The inter-generational relationship between Grace and Mrs Marino is a highlight of this story. So are the illustrations, which have so much to look at. In many there are a cat walking along a fence and a dog on the other side. There are also chickens and parrots to spot. Karen Erasmus has illustrated several picture books including most recently The Flying Optometrist and Eva’s Imagination.

Previously published as an adult romance writer, this is Juliet Sampson’s first children's picture book. Grace's Mystery Seed is suitable for lower primary school students. It provides its readers with information about the natural world in the form of an engaging and enjoyable story.  

Saturday, 18 May 2019

Moon Fish

Moon Fish by Harry Laing with various illustrators (Ford Street Publishing) RRP $16.95 PB ISBN 9781925804256

Reviewed by Nean McKenzie

Moon Fish is the second book of poems for children written by comedic performer Harry Laing and illustrated by eighteen different artists, including well-known illustrators Shaun Tan, Leigh Hobbs and Mitch Vane. Named after one of the poems (illustrated by Lucia Masciullo), Moon Fish states its aim on the cover:  'Poems to make you laugh and think’. The variety of illustrations accentuate each poem's individuality with colour and style.

The poems are mostly quite silly, which should appeal to the readership of primary school children. And as I found, they are funnier when read aloud. It would work well as an audio book. Some of the poems rhyme, others are more of a rap style, while others use much of repetition. There’s an Australian theme, with poems about goannas, emus (or he-mus), magpies and even a Diprotodon. Some are about creepy crawlies like spiders, ants, termites and snails. There are also a couple about a ‘Yumbie’ and a ‘Grack’ whatever they are!

This is the sort of book where every reader can choose a favourite poem, as the different styles and illustrations make them all unique. The pictures add character and vibrance to the writing and the cut-out style of the title on the cover is also effective. The Swooper Mag poem (illustrated by Tony Flowers) – ‘I’m a mean mean bird, I’m a bad magpie’ was my personal highlight. Anyone who has been attacked by one of these birds in Springtime will appreciate it! 

Moon Fish is a book written to be appreciated by kids. Reminiscent of Spike Milligan’s silly verses (although less rhyming), it’s a bit of fun with some high quality pictures, ready to be read and enjoyed by ages six plus.

Friday, 17 May 2019


Congratulations to the Buzz Words compiler Dianne (Di) Bates who recently signed two book contracts. One is for a middle-grade novel (Mad, Bad Jason) with Austin Macauley in UK. The other is a picture book text, Big Boss, with Kathy and Peter Creamer of Australia’s Little Pink Dogs.

Di has published over 130 books for young readers but previously has only published one picture book, Big Bad Bruce, which is in the KOALA Hall of Fame.

Check out Little Pink Dogs on They are based in Armidale, NSW and have a terrific range of books.

Tuesday, 14 May 2019

Hayden’s Bedtime

Hayden’s Bedtime by Wendy Haynes, illustrated by Brett Curzon (Inprint Publishing) HB RRP $22.99 ISBN: 9780987643506

Reviewed by Dannielle Viera

Many children fret about the infamous monster under the bed, and Hayden is no different. He begs his dad to check not only under his bed, but also behind his door, inside his cupboard and in his drawer. To Hayden’s delight, his dad finds nothing more sinister than ‘a blue building block’ and ‘a very smelly sock’. After listening to a bedtime story, Hayden settles down easily because ‘the coast is clear’ and he has ‘nothing to fear’.

Hayden’s Bedtime is a charming book for children aged three to six years. Inspired by her grandson’s dread of going to bed, Wendy Haynes has created a cheerful and comforting story that chases kids’ concerns away. Fun rhymes ease the stress of getting reluctant youngsters to sleep, ensuring that the bedtime routine is enjoyable for all involved.

Brett Curzon’s sweet illustrations are bursting with bright pinks, deep blues and vivid oranges. They work well with the text, adding a unique layer of tenderness to the tale. The characterisation of the father is particularly appealing, with the bespectacled dad soon becoming an amusing yet reassuring influence throughout the pages.

The strength of Hayden’s Bedtime lies in the book’s ability to allay a child’s wildest worries about the night, replacing them with vibrant vignettes and happy dreams. The sleepy smile on Hayden’s face as his dad says ‘goodnight’ makes for a touching end to this enjoyable story.

Monday, 13 May 2019

Buzz Words: Lenny’s Book of Everything

Buzz Words: Lenny’s Book of Everything: Lenny’s Book of Everything by Karen Foxlee (A&U) PB RRP $19.99 ISBN 9781760528706 Reviewed by Kathleen Condon It is rare to...

Sunday, 12 May 2019

The Trytth Chronicles? in Shakespeare now!

The Trytth Chronicles? in Shakespeare now! by Goldie Alexander (A Five Senses Publication Anthology Edition) RRP $34.95  ISBN 9781760322601

Reviewed by Claire Stuckey

Miranda and her father Prospero live on a space station for many years with two non human creatures having been wrongly exiled from Naples2. We discover each character's role developing as a damaged spaceship approaches after a meteor storm. With the arrival of other humans including his corrupted bother Alfonso, Prospero tries to manipulate the meeting of Miranda with the young man Ferdinand. He underestimates the creature Caliban who he has harshly controlled in the past. His focus on the young distracts him further from observing the conniving but stupid lust for power by Stepheno and Pincolo.

Shakespeare's story The Tempest is followed more directly in this dystopian tale.  Although set on a spaceship, then on the planet of Trytth, we follow the main characters facing the trials and tribulations created by  the greed and anger of the Xrobb creatures. Guided and empowered by the friendship of the Trytth creatures the young couple survive and triumph while displaying love, courage and intelligence; positive traits that give authority to their survival and ultimate power in realising the return to leadership roles on Naples 2.

The Trytth, however friendly eventually ask them to leave with a strong message that their human characteristics have had major negative consequences on their own planets, a future that don't wish to share. Miranda's long-term intense education revealed in the opening scene causes her to question each episode in their adventures and concludes with her measured response to returning to human civilization. 

This story has many of the same characters as the original from which it is adapted. It provides a cautionary message as to the positive and negative traits of human beings. The setting makes an interesting read with in depth descriptions of the planet it's terrain, flora and fauna. A narrative to establish not only the setting, the dangers and advantages for the characters but also to provide back ground for the environmental message. A long but interesting adaptation of a play I have not seen, so this adaptation provided me with insight to this Shakespearean story.  

Friday, 10 May 2019

Squish Rabbit's Pet

Reviewed by Claire Stuckey

Squish rabbit is little, but he has lots and lots of big dreams. Many of his dreams include sharing fun with his friend Twitch.  But most of all Squish dreams about a pet puppy. Twitch comes to the rescue with a beautifully stitched cloth puppy but, pretend pets are just not the same. Finding a lonely egg Squish cares for the egg day and night waiting and playing patiently. Expecting a puppy Squish is surprised when Twitch explains there will be no puppy. After some thought Squish decides he will love his new pet whatever it is. 

This is another lovely, funny and thoughtful story in the Squish rabbit series. Katherine Battersby has combined a great theme so relevant to many children with messages of friendship, caring and acceptance. The illustrations once again in the series are simple but full of movement and feeling. A lovely picture book for preschoolers at home or for a group setting.