Tuesday, 30 June 2015


Lulu by Georgie Donaghey illustrated by Ann-Marie Finn (Dragon Tales Publishing)
PB RRP: $17.95
ISBN 9780992523954

Reviewed by Yvonne Mes

Lulu is a bear with a creative soul needing to be expressed, so she moves from her icy lands to the big city lights. Here she is right at home dancing and singing and being adored by her fans until she realises how much she misses her friends back home. Luckily they know just what to do.

Written in rhyme that doesn’t miss a beat and beautifully illustrated, this adorable bear shows that you can have it all if only you reach for it.

Yvonne Mes is a children's writer and illustrator. Her picture books, Meet Sidney Nolan (Random House) and Oliver’s Grumbles (Dragon Tales Publishing) are scheduled for release in October 2015. www.yvonnemes.com

Monday, 29 June 2015

Barnabas the Bullyfrog

Barnabas the Bullyfrog written by Em Horsfield, Carol Heuchan and Yolande Bromet, illustrated by Glen Singleton (Little Steps Publishing)

PB RRP $16.95
ISBN: 9781925117202

Reviewed by Anne Hamilton

The illustrations in this book remind me of Quentin Blake’s work -- they’ve got that flavour and sense of style. But these are bigger and bolder and spread wider across the page.
This is a fun book that begins with a page introducing the characters. Great touch! There’s Max the boy, Maureen the kangaroo, Madge the emu, Arnold the koala, Dean the echidna, Gus the wombat, Borris the goanna, Nosh the nutmobile and of course Barnabas the Bullyfrog.
The story begins with Arnold reading his beemail and exclaiming, ‘No! The bullYfrog is back! He’s blaming bees-es for his sneezes, threatening to attack! He plans to bullYdoze the bees and drive them far out west; demands we meet him at the hive, if we know what is best.’
Yep, it’s rhyming verse again! Generally it scans quite well but it’s probably worthwhile for the adult reader to look it over once before attempting it because the rhythm only works when the emphasis is correctly placed.
Barnabas the BullYfrog is back and he plans to bullYdoze the bees because he’s blaming them for his sneezing. Nosh the nutmobile and his friends have been bullied before, so they rally to the defence of the bees. I’m sure kids will love the picture of Barnabas with his tongue trapped under one of Nosh’s wheels while Dean spreads honey along its length.

Barnabas changes his tune when his sneezes ease at the honey application.

With a mixture of themes on friendship, bullying and the benefits of bees, this is a book for more than one occasion. It is created by Macadamia House and is part of ‘The Nutmobile Series’.

Sunday, 28 June 2015

Polka Dot Float

Polka Dot Float written and illustrated by Maryanne O’Flynn (Little Steps Publishing)          PB RRP $16.95                                                                                                                                    ISBN: 9781925117356
Reviewed by Anne Hamilton

Simple illustrations executed in bright acrylics accompany this pleasant story about a group of Australian animals.

Polka Dot is an echidna who wants to swim. The black swan is rude and mocking even before Polka Dot makes it into the billabong. The frogs, however, do their best to show her how it’s done. But their efforts are in vain; all Polka Dot can do is float. Determined to succeed, she returns the following day to have another go. By this time, there’s an audience -- Kangaroo, Koala, Bilby and Wombat have all come to watch.

As Polka Dot is about to enter the water, she smells smoke. A fire is raging, heading towards the billabong. Suddenly Polka Dot’s talent is a serious advantage as the animals launch out into the deep, all clinging fast to their floating friend.

This is a book about determination and valuing unexpected talents, even if they don’t seem useful. It would suit pre-schooler and first grade readers.

Saturday, 27 June 2015

Samurai vs Ninja: The Battle for the Golden Egg

Samurai vs Ninja: The Battle for the Golden Egg by Nick Falk, illustrated by Tony Flowers (Random House)
PB RRP $9.00
ISBN 9780857986054

Reviewed by Jaquelyn Muller

If only the Samurai vs Ninja book series was around 30 years ago, then my brother may have spent more time reading about clumsy, fighting, farting ancient Japanese warriors and less time pretending to be one, and practicing the aforementioned unsavoury behaviour on me.

Nick Falk and Tony Flowers have created a striking, fast-paced, snort-inducing book series for early readers, six and up. Beginning with The Battle for the Golden Egg, readers are introduced to samurai leader, Kingyo-Sama and the head of the ninja, Buta-Sama, who are constantly battling each other in the most ridiculous and smelliest of ways. They also happen to be brothers, which will have an instant appeal to young readers who have spent many a day duelling with siblings over the last piece of pizza or the front seat of the car.

With a highly visual tone, Nick Falk has cleverly downplayed the battle sequences using unusual and hilarious ways to convey the frustration and competition between the two main characters. Paths of wasabi planted in underpants, stinky seafood careering over walls in moments of attack and tickling feet as a form of torture go hand in hand with nonsense name calling.

What this over-exaggerated phrasing creates is a wonderful procession of alliteration and tongue-twisters which is such a valuable reading tool for younger audiences. The use of Japanese terms and glossary at the back of the book also enrich the variety of the text and opportunities for learning.

Descriptions of the era, costumes, architecture and armour are cleverly enhanced by Tony Flowers’ comic styled illustrations that maintain the interest of the reader, in the way I remember The Adventures of Asterix

Nick Falk is the author of the Saurus Street and Billy is a Dragon book series’ and the picture book, Troggle the Troll. As a specialist in Japanese influenced illustration, Tony Flowers was awarded a prize from the Oshima Picture Book Museum in Toyama, Japan, for his hand made pop-up book Gaijin Holiday. He has also illustrated six books in the Nick Falk Saurus Street series.

The series continues with The Race for the Shogun’s Treasure and two more instalments are due for release in July 2015.

Friday, 26 June 2015


Juvie by Steve Watkins (Walker Books)
PB RRP $16.95
ISBN 9781406358629

Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

Sadie is part of a fragmented family. Her father lives alone shut away from the world in her grandmother’s house with his hoarded collection of newspapers. He neither speaks nor opens the door. Her mother works two jobs to make ends meet.

Her sister Carla, a single mother, lives a decadent life. When she becomes involved with drug dealers one night while drunk and out of it, her last chance of staying out of jail vanishes. She stands to lose her child as well. The thing is that Sadie is with her.

Sadie envisions her family life disintegrating entirely and her niece in care. There is only one decision that will save them all. That is to take the blame for Carla. But instead of community service for a first offence, she gets time in Juvie.

In Juvie, Sadie is allowed to have nothing at all. It makes her feels like she is nothing too. No one is what they seem. Can Sadie survive the choices she made?

Can this be the awakening that Carla needs to finally leave the drugs and drinking alone and improve hers and her daughter’s life? Or has Sadie’s sacrifice been for nothing.

This is a well-written book with an interesting storyline full of conflicts and challenges for its characters. We are the choices we make and this book is an example of exactly that. Strong prose and lots of action keep the pages turning. Themes of family unity, forgiveness, love and sacrifice are juxtaposed with those of irresponsible actions and their cost, to create a riveting read for young adults.

Thursday, 25 June 2015

Once Upon a Timeless Tale: The Twelve Dancing Princesses

Once Upon a Timeless Tale: The Twelve Dancing Princesses written by The Brothers Grimm (retold by Margrete Lamond), illustrated by Anna Walker (Little Hare Books/Hardie Grant Egmont)
HB RRP $12.95
ISBN 9781742974019

Reviewed by Liz Ledden

The Twelve Dancing Princesses is part of Little Hare Books’ new Once Upon a Timeless Tales series, introducing classic folk and fairy tales to a new generation of readers.

The tale centres on the mystery of a King who finds the party slippers belonging to his twelve princess daughters ripped to shreds each morning. The King is baffled, as the princesses are locked in a chamber overnight. He declares that the man who discovers what the princesses are getting up to can select one for a wife. A succession of boastful princes try their luck at observing the princesses all night, yet each fails, until a wounded soldier hobbles into town and is presented with an invisibility cloak and some helpful pointers from an old lady.

What happens next is a series of fantastical scenes, revealing the secret goings on of the princesses, beautifully illustrated by award-winning author/illustrator Anna Walker. The wordless double page spread on pages 12 and 13 of the princesses in their evening wear finery is truly enchanting.

Despite the current trend for fractured fairy tales, these versions stick closely to the original storyline. Old-fashioned language, like declaring someone a ‘silly goose’ is used, likely to charm the intended readership and perhaps evoke a giggle. The harshness of the fairy tales of old the in the form of heads being lopped off is also retained. This version ends on a more uplifting note than the original though, leaving the fate of the princes (that the princesses had been dancing with) open-ended rather than cursed.

This is a magical tale that will likely captivate 5 to 8 year old girls, and stays true enough to the Brothers Grimm original without being nightmare-inducing.

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

The Last Thirteen Book 12: 2

The Last Thirteen Book 12: 2 by James Phelan (Scholastic Australia)
PB RRP $14.99
ISBN 978-1-74283-195-4

Reviewed by Jenny Heslop

13 books. 13 nightmares. 1 destiny.
2 is the penultimate book in this adventure series about a group of children, the thirteen chosen Dreamers, who are prophesised to save the world.
As the world plunges further into chaos – nightmares plague the general population - the media attention on the Dreamers and UN protection makes it harder for Sam and his friends to do what they need to in order to ensure the Dreamers’ Gate stays hidden from Solaris, Stella and all those who would use it for power and dominance.
Sam and Eva leave Australia to search for Alex, the twelfth Dreamer, who is lost somewhere in Antarctica. With a powerful storm closing in, and Stella, Hans and rogue guardians searching as well, it is a dangerous version of hunting for a needle in a haystack.
But Alex has made an amazing discovery under the ice which will lead them closer to the end of the race. If only they can get out alive with betrayal all around.
This fast-paced series The Last Thirteen is an edge of your seat thrill ride with plenty of suspense, action and cliff-hangers. The series needs to be read in order, but these slim volumes are written for speedy reading and each will be consumed with pace. With only one to go, the conclusion is very close.