Thursday, 27 August 2015

Time for Bed, Daddy

Time for Bed, Daddy by Dave Hackett (UQP)
HB RRP $24.95
ISBN 978-0-7022-5381-2

Reviewed by Elizabeth Kasmer

Time for Bed, Daddy is a humorous, fun filled picture book that turns the traditional bedtime routine on its head. Bright cartoon-like images and visual jokes follow a likeable and patient little girl with the monumental task of persuading her reluctant Daddy to -- go to bed!

Parents will smile knowingly as this resourceful little girl uses every trick in the book to coax Daddy through the nightly bedtime routine with bubble bath, jokes and horsey rides. Finally, there is a quick monster check under the bed, a story to be read and a bedtime song to be sung. But, just as the little girl thinks the job is complete, Daddy appears, and he’s out-of-bed!

This delightful story celebrates the special bond between dads and their kids and will appeal to both children and adults alike. Young children will love the role reversal aspect of the story and will no doubt be inspired to act out the story (which happened in my household with hilarious results).

Time for bed, Daddy is both written and illustrated by Dave Hackett (Cartoon Dave). Dave has appeared on Australian children’s television and is a popular speaker at conferences and literature festivals across the country.  For more information visit: www.cartoondave.com

Elizabeth Kasmer is a Sunshine Coast based writer of children’s and young adult fiction. www.elizabethkasmer.com



Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Frankie and Joely

Frankie and Joely by Nova Weetman (UQP)
HB RRP $19.95
ISBN 978-0-7022-5363-8

Reviewed by Elizabeth Kasmer

Set in a small Victorian country town during the week between Christmas and New Year, Joely invites best friend Frankie for a holiday at her Aunt and Uncle’s farm. Joely introduces Frankie to her country cousins, Thommo and Mack, who both begin to compete for the beautiful Frankie’s attention. Tensions rise further when local bad boy, Rory, decides to make a move on both girls. When it is revealed that Rory has been leading the girls on, without the other knowing, hidden jealousies threaten to shatter their friendship. 

The story is written in third person omniscient and told mainly from Frankie and Joely’s perspectives. The constant change in point of view gives a fascinating insight into the complicated dance between teenage girls as they explore the intense love they feel for each other along with equally strong feelings of annoyance, jealousy and competiveness. The rural town setting, the stifling heat, dust and flies add a believable and uncomfortable atmosphere to the story as these two girls attempt to navigate their personal problems.

Mother/daughter relationships are also explored with Frankie’s aloof and unreliable mother and Joely’s anxious and overprotective mum nicely contrasted with the warmth and tenderness of Joely’s Aunt Jill, whose kitchen and home cooking provide a refuge for the girls.

The novel gives interesting insights into both Frankie and Joely’s struggle for self-awareness in a world filled with boys, family problems and testing emotions. It also reminds older readers of the power and importance of first friendships. This is an honest and beautiful story about female relationships aimed at junior to middle teens.

On her webpage, Nova Weetman states her goal as a writer is to: “Write stories that snuck into a reader’s heart so they’d fall in love with them.” She has certainly achieved this with Frankie and Joely.

Elizabeth Kasmer is a Sunshine Coast based writer of children’s and young adult fiction. www.elizabethkasmer.com




Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Winell Road: Beneath the Surface

Winell Road: Beneath the Surface by Kate Foster (Jet Black Publishing)  PB RRP $32  ISBN:  9780994318725 

Reviewed by Elaine Harris

Although it is not the norm to introduce the reviewer before the book, in this instance I hope you will permit an exception.

I accepted the challenge to review Kate Foster’s debut novel simply because it was a challenge. Excepting Terry Pratchett and some early Jackie French, I have read little or no sci-fi – and they might be better described as fantasy and cross-over respectively, although labels can be misleading. In other words, apart from the UFO mentioned in the blurb, I had absolutely no idea what to expect.

Winell Road: Beneath the Surface is great fun, well-paced – you need those few thinking spaces provided – and full of the unexpected. There is a complex mystery to solve as well as a quest to fulfill. Not only that, but the action begins in the opening paragraph.

My first reaction was: is the language in this book clich├ęd? No. It might be considered so if it were a straightforward narrative; However, in spite of being written largely in the third person, what the author is doing here is telling the story through the thoughts, words and actions of the protagonist, Jack Mills. You hear his voice, think his thoughts and share his doubts and concerns. Many authors aspire to this technique, not all succeed.

Despite the “Encounter” on page one, Jack is bored, bored, bored! His parents are boring; ditto the neighbours, as is his little dead-end street. All of this changes when Roxy moves in next door and the Freogans (pronounced free-o-gans) come to call.
As the story unfolds, you discover that Mum is a fanatical gardener as well as a cook rivalled only by Letitia Cropley in “The Vicar of Dibley”, while Dad is a mad inventor whose weird contraptions never sell. Or are they? You also learn to trust no-one and that nothing is what it seems.

This book will work wonderfully read aloud in class. There are enough cliff-hanger chapter endings to keep them begging for more. It will also promote discussion about making snap judgments while providing plenty of scope for related art projects.
Then there is the wordplay. The vocabulary is rich and varied without being off-putting. Winell Road is an anagram and there are other word puzzles scattered throughout the book. The author’s love of philology and etymology shines through without being intrusive; you can follow up as much or as little of it as you choose.

Kate Foster plans two or three sequels to the novel. I wish her the very best of luck.



Monday, 24 August 2015

Shoctopus: Poems to Grip You by Harry Laing, illustrated by Clinton De Vere (Bunda Books, 2015)
PB RRP $20                                                                                                               
ISBN 9780980435023

Reviewed by Dianne Bates

Some time ago I was privileged to be entertained in my own home by Canberra poet, comic performer and creative writing teacher, Harry Laing, who recited a number of his quirky and humorous verse. The man is a natural performer! So it’s wonderful that he has now produced his first collection of children’s verse to accompany him as he tours schools and other venues with his show.

The cover of Shoctopus is bright and appealing and as one flicks through the 95 page book, it’s apparent that much thought has gone into making the book as child-friendly as possible. It’s attractively designed with frequent black and white illustrations. It’s also apparent that the collection has many different topics and poetic styles; dipping into it is a pleasure.
The first poem in the collection is ‘Dangerous Words’ made up of rhyming couplets with lines such as
‘Words can be MEAN, 
words run FERAL                                                                                             you play with words at your peril’

Laing has obviously played with words in all of his child-accessible poems. He tells poems from the point of view of a ‘Supertap’, a leech, a worm, and even a wheelie bin. There are raps such as ‘Billy Rap’, limericks, shape poems, a poem that looks like the forest it is about, even life stories (such a ‘Potato Story’), a prose poem and more. Quite a few of the poems are about animals – skink, Pobblebonk frog, a blowie (called Chloe) and an emu; and there are poems from the point of view of objects such as toothbrushes, tyres and trees. A few poems reflect children’s lives; one such poem is ‘It Doesn’t Make Sense’ about a kid falling out of bed.  My only quibble about the collections is that it would have been good to have read more child-narrated poems like this one.

The main message of Laing’s collection is that this poems in this collection are great for reciting aloud, and they ought to be read. There’s no doubt that they will be popular with most readers, even adult ones.

Price of Shoctopus is $20 plus $3 postage & packing available for purchase on Harry Laing’s website www.harrylaing.com.au. The poet is available for writing workshops and performances in schools and can be contacted at harrylaing@bigpond.com

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Keeper of the Crystals: Eve and the Runaway Unicorn

Keeper of the Crystals: Eve and the Runaway Unicorn by Jess Black (New Frontier Publishing)
PB RRP $ 14.99
ISBN 9780957988415

Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

Eve is staying at her Granny’s place in a town full of old people, with the exception of Oscar, who lives next door. ‘You are never to go into the attic!’ is Granny’s rule. Tell children not to do something and they will go straight and do it. Eve is bored and she and Oscar decide to explore the forbidden attic.

Eve takes the keys while Granny is sleeping and it’s in a locked metal trunk that she finds the crystal unicorn. The bright light generated by the unicorn is a portal into a strange and mysterious land. Eve and Oscar land on sand in the desert of Panthor near the Borderlands, and embark on the adventure of their life. Panthor is a land where animals and people live in harmony, and communicate through their thoughts.

 Eve discovers that the imprint of the crystal unicorn stays on her palm. This has a significance that is revealed later in the story.

Greeted by Callie, one of the outliers, Eve is surprised to learn that her arrival was foretold in a prophecy. Her coming means the return of the unicorn, and freedom for the people from the king who has enslaved them.

The children go to the Lakes of Trapor in the heart of the Borderlands and into forbidden territory, to find the unicorn and overthrow the king. Will they succeed in their quest? Can they find a way to return home?

This fantasy adventure for the 7+ age groups is the beginning of a series where animals, people and other living things, live in harmony. Eve for some unrevealed reason is chosen as the Keeper of the Crystals. Each story has a new and challenging quest. It has mystery and intrigue, secrets and revelations. This book ends with a dangling teaser alluding to Granny and why the unicorn crystal was discovered in her attic. The next book, Keeper of the Crystals: Eve and the Fiery Phoenix, is also out now.




Friday, 21 August 2015

Silly Squid! Poems about the Sea

Silly Squid! Poems about the Sea by Janeen Brian, illustrated by Cheryll Johns (Omnibus book from Scholastic Australia)                       

HB RRP $24.99                                               

ISBN 9781742990965

Reviewed by Dianne Bates

What a handsome book of poems for children this is, so lovely that the publishers (rightly) thought to present it in hardback. Flipping through the pages is an absolute delight as the full-page illustrations are colourful and beautifully depicted. And too, the design of the book is very appealing with hand-written font for the poems and facts about the sea creatures depicted on every page typed around the borders.

Each poem is devoted to a single creature, such as a crab, a sea star, Leafy sea dragon, whale, squid and many more. The poet forms vary from poem to poem but all are jolly and enjoyable. In ‘Stingray’ for example, there are three repeating lines interspersed with a three line rhyming line. ‘Shark’ is presented as quatrains with rhymes on the second and fourth lines. Each one of the poems has a light, deft touch and none of them is a line too long. Most of them are narrated by the sea creature they describe with each poem giving (accurate) factual information. Here’s just one example, from the poem, ‘Jellyfish’:
‘…we come in different sizes                                                            and people call us ‘jellies’.                                                              We have no bones, nor heart nor brain –                                        not even jelly bellies!’

Faced with information like this, a curious child is likely to go off to an encyclopedia (or Google) to check out if the facts are true, and might thus find out even more about jellyfish.

Researching and finding poems from hundreds of poetry collections in order to compile an anthology a few years ago, I looked at a wide range – and of course have included Brian’s poems in my book, Our Home is Dirt by Sea (Walker Books Australia, 2016). This latest collection by Brian is probably one of the very best single poet collections I came across. It’s highly recommended for readers aged 7 years and up.

Thursday, 20 August 2015

Emotions in Motion

Emotions in Motion by Rose Stanley, illustrated by Lisa Allen (Starfish Bay Children’s Books)
PB RRP $14.99
ISBN 9780994100290

Reviewed by Leigh Owen


Emotions in Motion is a picture concept book suitable for sharing with 4-8 year olds. On each double page spread an emotion is assigned a colour, a face and a feeling. Rose Stanley’s descriptions of feelings are particularly insightful and imaginative: Confusion feels like walking in a maze of trees that all look the same.
Ten emotions, both positive and negative, are covered.

Lisa Allen’s illustrations are simple yet show some delightful details that children will love to spot (look out for the dragon).The sweet line-drawn characters clearly convey facial expressions and colour washes are either soft or vibrant, to complement each feeling.

There are exercises and discussion points in the back of the book; however, a more natural approach would be to talk about each concept as read. The use of the ‘colour wheel’ at the end of the book doesn’t seem to add value to the core topic of emotions. Also the colour for ‘Peace’ is somewhat inaccurate – that is, stated as bright, sky blue but more of pastel green in the main illustration and wheel. This might be confusing for children still learning their colours.

The value of this book lies it its capacity to promote discussion in which children can verbalise their own feelings and begin to understand the strange and sometimes overwhelming forces that are emotions.