Sunday, 4 October 2015


Sheeza by Clancy Tucker (Morris Publishing Australia)
PB RRP $18.00 including postage E-book$3.00
(Overseas $21.00 including postage)
ISBN 9780646935843

Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

Danny has an artificial limb and wears glasses. He’s the perfect target for bullies and ‘Mad Dog’ Fletcher is out to get him. Danny can’t play sport so longs to have a dog.  Towards this end, he has been doing odd jobs for the lovely oldies in his area, and saving every penny.

He doesn’t want any dog, he wants a Kelpie, to train and enter into the sheep dog trials at the Agricultural Show. He has read every book he could find, and watched every video available in preparation for the moment he gets the go-ahead from his parents.

Joey is Danny’s best friend, confidant, and protector when things get rough. Joey is optimistic, lovable and daring. He balances Danny’s smart and responsible side well which makes for a perfect friendship.

When Danny sees the physically-challenged pup in the pet shop, he knows it’s the one. They bond immediately and training the pup, which he names Sheeza, is a breeze. They end up winning the sheep dog trials at Wanganui.

It’s when Sheeza is stolen that everyone joins the hunt to find her. Who could have taken her? Where can she be and will she ever be found? Posters, Current Affair programs, truckies with two-way radios across Australia and an informed public, set out to find and reunite the dog with the boy.

This is Clancy Tucker’s second novella. He’s a writer who loves to get his teeth into difficult themes and always manages to weave several issues into one story.

A well-researched book, Sheeza incorporates detailed information about working dogs, their training and habits. I loved this story. It kept me reading without stopping until the end. As usual, there are fantastic characters - humans and animals, bad versus good in people, and problems that are overcome due to a tight community and strong friendships. To never give up is a powerful message that flows through all the issues addressed.

Saturday, 3 October 2015

Dear Dad, I Want To Be Just Like You

Dear Dad, I Want To Be Just Like You by Ed Allen, illustrated by Simon Williams (Scholastic Australia)
HB RRP $16.99
ISBN 978-1-76015-349-6

Reviewed by Jenny Heslop

This sweet book is a tribute to fathers everywhere. Told in letter form, baby animals tell Dad just what they love about him and although each letter is specific to the animal writing it, each could apply to human Dads as well.
Dear Dad, Thanks for looking after us when we were little and Mum was away. You said we were the most important thing in the world to you. Remember when Percy got lost in the crowd? You never gave up until we found him. Now that Mum’s back maybe you can teach us how to fish? Love Percy and Penny.
This is, of course, a letter to a penguin Dad.
The illustrations are lovely, bold, bright and very appealing with expressive, cute animals on every page. The playfulness and cheeky humour expressed on these pages show close and loving bonds between children and their fathers.  This humour is in both pictures and text.
Some letters are on the page, some under flaps and some can be removed from envelopes, making this a fun and interactive read. I’m sure this will get young readers thinking about what skills, abilities and traits they love and admire in their own father. There is a blank ‘letter’ at the end encouraging children to create their own Dear Dad letter.
This new edition of popular picture book Dear Dad, I Want To Be Just Like You, comes out in time for Father’s Day and is Ed Allen’s companion book to Dear Mum, I Love You, released earlier in the year. Look out for the crocodiles; I think they’re my favourite!

Friday, 2 October 2015

My Dad is a Giraffe

My Dad is a Giraffe by Stephen Michael King (Scholastic Press)
HB RRP $16.99
ISBN 978-1-74362-594-1

Reviewed by Jenny Heslop

All Dads are different. Maybe your Dad is tall, and gentle, and fun. Maybe your Dad is a giraffe.
My Dad is a Giraffe, an imaginative and whimsical story about a boy and his Dad, is a new picture book from well loved Australian author Stephen Michael King.  His illustrations, some simple, some more detailed, have small surprises for those who look closely. They are colourful, but not bright, giving the book a gentle feel. Full of quiet humour, the pictures clearly show the bond between child and parent and the joy they have in each other’s company.
The text is simple and varied. Some pages have a few sentences on them, some have only a few words, but all roll off the tongue beautifully. My Dad protects me, listens to my fears and helps me feel brave.
This is a picture book where words and pictures make perfect sense together. Or you could look just at the pictures, or listen to the words only.
This is a lovely tribute to Dads. Most children – and parents – will relate to the concepts within the story and the imagination through which they are delivered. Wonderful to read out loud, it is a book which should stand the test of many bedtime repetitions.

Thursday, 1 October 2015

.Herbert Peabody and the Incredible Beehive

Herbert Peabody and the Incredible Beehive by Bianca C Ross, illustrated by Tabitha Emma Bray (Farinet Pty Ltd) HB RRP $18.95 ISBN 9780987595515

Reviewed by Dianne Bates

The first obvious thing about this self-published book is that it is beautifully presented, not just as a hardback but with a jacket cover; the quality of the paper and the book design are impeccable. On the fly pages, too, is something I loved as a child – a map of Huffleton and Mulberry Tree Farm which feature in the story.

This is the second story in the Herbert Peabody series, the first being Herbert Peabody and His Extraordinary Vegetable Patch. The author, a small-time farmer with an extensive marketing background in food companies, decided to create the series when she observed that children do not always understand where their food comes from. 

The book’s main character, Herbert, is a fruit and veggie farmer from Mulberry Tree Farm.  In his veggie patch Herbie discovers Bee who is in search of a place to build her hive. He grants her permission to check out his farm and then drives off to meet up with his nieces and nephew Henrietta, Clementine and Digby at the footie.

While chasing an errant ball, Herbie comes across the haunted Huffelton House where The Voice That Belongs to Nobody – a mean creature – lives. There is a mystery associated with the house and Herbie is determined to resolve it. When he discovers that his new neighbour, Bee, is having trouble finding enough pollen to supply her family’s hive, he also decides to lend a hand to find her more flowers.

Author Ross writes clearly and succinctly and children aged 7 to 9 years will doubtless enjoy her simple story-telling -- provided they are able to accept talking insects such as Worm, Ladybird and Bee. The book has a number of illustrations, some in black and white line, some in muted colour; they are all, like the narrative, simple and charming.

In the book’s Afterword, Ross tells of her concern about the crisis with bees; their populations are decreasing, and of course, without bees, food production as we know it will cease. The author deserves full credit for drawing the readers’ attention to this situation.

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

The Ogglies Go to School

The Ogglies Go to School by Erhard Dietl (Starfish Bay Children’s Books)
HB RRP $25.99
ISBN 9780994100719
PB RRP $14.99
ISBN 9780994100214

Reviewed by Leigh Roswen

The Ogglies Go to School is the second title in the Oggly series created by author/illustrator Erhard Dietl. The Ogglies are green creatures with big noses, horns and super-strength. The Oggly family live in a rubbish tip and love everything dirty and stinky. One day Oggly-Grandma takes the Oggly twins to school on their dragon, Firebottom (complete with rear-end exhaust pipe). When the human teacher is called away Oggly-Grandma is left to look after all the children. What ensues is a wonderful day of mud and mayhem. But how will the children clean up before Mrs Lucy returns? The Mud-Puddle Song forms part of the text and the music score is included on the last page.

The Ogglies Go to School is a quarto-sized book. On every large spread there are busy colourful cartoon-like illustrations. When children have looked at all the school-children and quirky Ogglies themselves there are still more creatures in the background to discover.

It is a little difficult to put an age-range to this story. The text itself is quite lengthy (over a thousand words) hence would suit an older independent readership of age 7-10. Also there is occasional bottom humour that this age range seems to love. However, younger children (aged 4-6) being read to by a willing and time-enabled adult will enjoy the funny pictures, and the setting which is more like a pre-school than a school.

The Ogglies are bound to become favourite characters. They are weird-looking but lovable, family-orientated but chaotic, fun-loving and happy. The Ogglies Go to School is a scrumptiously rebellious tale and an antidote to notions of cotton-woolling, over-scheduling and vanity.

Reviewer website:

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Alice in Wonderland

Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, retold by Joe Rhatigan & Charles Nurnberg, illustrated by Eric Puybaret (Koala Books for Scholastic)
HB RRP $24.99
ISBN 978-1-74276-141-1

Reviewed by Jenny Heslop

Alice is a bold girl with a curious nature. Intrigued by a white rabbit with a pocket watch, she follows him down his rabbit hole and finds herself in a magical land full of strange and wonderful creatures.

This modern retelling of Alice in Wonderland pares back the story into a simplified version appropriate to a picture book format. It captures Alice’s mood of careless casualness beautifully.
‘Alice was sitting by the river having an oh-so-ordinary afternoon, when a White Rabbit ran by.’

Rather than attempt to tell the whole story, we are given a slice of Alice’s adventures to follow. We meet the increasingly, urgently late White Rabbit, the Dodo, Mouse, Bill the Lizard and the blue caterpillar sitting on a giant mushroom. But no Cheshire Cat, Mad Hatter, or Queen and cards. Perhaps there are more books to come.

The vibrant, bold, luminescent and curious illustrations match the zany storyline well. The glossy pages glow with colour. Wide-eyed Alice is surrounded by, not only the creatures mentioned in the text, but also weird and wonderful insects, birds, monkeys. The strange environment of Wonderland is subtle, but if you pay close attention you can make out the faces in the trees and clouds, the appearance of a seal in the island in the lake of tears, and the carrot forest.

As in all good picture books, the text changes in font and size, becoming part of the page layout, emphasising the reading of certain words. 

Alice in Wonderland is a literary classic. Read and loved over the years by countless children and adults, this fun version is the 150th anniversary edition. Join Alice in her own bizarre world where she shrinks, grows and explores the wonders of an afternoon which turns out to be ‘not ordinary at all’.

Monday, 28 September 2015

The Bad Guys: Episode 1

The Bad Guys: Episode 1 by Aaron Blabey (Scholastic Press)
PB RRP $9.99
ISBN 978-1-76015-042-6

Reviewed by Jenny Heslop

Aaron Blabey is back. And this time he has created a junior chapter book/graphic novel which should be read by everyone between the ages of seven and ninety.

Mr Wolf is sick of being seen as the bad guy. So, along with his somewhat reluctant friends Mr Shark, Mr Snake and Mr Piranha, he sets out to prove to the world that he is a nice guy. And the best place to start is with rescuing a cat. But what if the cat does not want to be rescued by a gang of nice guys with really big teeth who surround the base of the tree? And can they survive Mr Piranha’s constantly bad gas? Can Mr Snake stop swallowing the wrong things? What did happen to Mr Shark’s hat? Are these characters really capable of being nice guys? This first episode of The Bad Guys answers most of these questions and many more in a laugh-aloud roller coaster adventure.

Chapter headings such as Cruising for Trouble set the tone for each chapter well, and the text and pictures work hand in hand to create the humour and characters of the story. The humour is dry and sarcastic and the four bad guys have very distinctive, individual personalities. The illustrations of the laid-back shark, a somewhat sly snake and an often car-sick piranha are fabulous. Mr Wolf experiences so many emotions throughout – frustration being a top contender - which are all depicted with a variety of facial expressions that will have the reader in stitches.

I really enjoyed this book. I laughed aloud so often that my family kept asking me what I was reading. Then they devoured it themselves when it was their turn. I hope the next instalment is out soon.