Thursday, 27 October 2016

The Creation

The Creation written and illustrated by David Miles (EK Books) HB RRP $14.99   ISBN 978-1-939629-55-5

Reviewed by Elizabeth Vercoe

If you like your Creation stories with ‘lift and look’ foam flaps, then this tiny offering may be just the ticket.

The Creation is a colourful foam board book which manages to distil into 10 simple pages what religious folk have grappled with for thousands of years – the first seven days of earth’s creation, as represented by the Christian bible.

Kudos to author and illustrator David Miles. The book is quite delightful, with interestingly shaped panel pieces to ‘pop out’ using tiny fingers (and only tiny fingers will do the job well, as I found out the hard way with my big fat damage-y ones!).

‘The creation took seven days, but your child will love this book forever.’

A bold claim which may or not have its basis in truth – however it is certain that the colour and simplicity of the book will appeal to small people.
If you are open to the authority of the biblical voice, then this is a delightful go-to book for sharing with a cuddle, or for quietly exploring alone.

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Noah’s Ark

Noah’s Ark written and illustrated by David Miles (EK Books) HB RRP $14.99 ISBN 978-1-939629-56-2

Reviewed by Elizabeth Vercoe

This ‘lift and look’ small, foam story book tells the biblical Noah’s Ark story in 10 simple pages. As a narrative, it is necessarily sparse. However the book itself is colourful with a substantial ‘feel factor’ which satisfies one of the fundamental requirements of the board book.

Lift off ‘panels’ which require a tiny finger to be poked into a tiny hole in order to extricate one foam picture in order to reveal another, are a lovely idea. 

Overall, the book lives up to the description of being a whimsical and fun rendering of the famous story. The pictures are engaging, happy and endearing.

Whilst I might question the use of ‘friendly’ to describe the broader story (spoiler alert – the original  involves a lot of drownings) – this particular short narrative DOES give a lovely and warm focus on only the happy parts of the Noah’s Ark story.

The surprise reveal of each hidden image brings great delight, and this is indeed a perfect quiet book or interactive experience for your child. 

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Ants ‘N’ Uncles

Ants ‘N’ Uncles written and illustrated by Clay Rice (EK Books) HB RRP $24.99 ISBN 978-1-942934-68-4

Reviewed by Elizabeth Vercoe

A 32-page hardcover picture book, Ants N Uncles will delight children of all ages, as well as adults who still have access to the child inside. With illustrations by internationally-recognised silhouette artist Clay Rice, the book pays homage to and faithfully utilises this distinctive illustration style.
Silhouette artistry and storytelling have been in the author’s family for eighty years. Clay’s grandfather, Carew Rice, travelled worldwide sharing his mesmerising cut-outs with delighted customers.

‘What happens when Uncle steps on an ant hill? The ants in his pants make him dance, of course, and his dancing skills become famous around the world…”

The rhyming, silly story with unique cut-outs combines to create a book with a very individualistic style and sensibility. Many of the illustrations have an ‘other worldly’ feel to them which is part of their charm. They are perhaps more of an acquired taste than their cartoon or computer-generated counterparts, but these silhouette images are interesting and pave the way for questions, curiosity and a deeper reader experience.

Both the text and illustrations offer a great deal to pore over and ponder. 
There is no doubt that this book has the potential to spark many conversations, particularly when shared between generations. 

Monday, 24 October 2016

Swarm: Zeroes 2

Swarm: Zeroes 2 by Scott Westerfeld, Margo Lanagan and Deborah Biancotti (Allen & Unwin) PB RRP $19.99
ISBN 9781925267242

Reviewed by Daniela Andrews

They are not heroes, but Zeroes – teenagers born in the year 2000, each with a special power. Swarm is the second novel in this exciting young adult trilogy. It is also the code name for a terrifying, super-powered teen intent on finding and killing other Zeroes.

Trying to put the ‘Summer of Suck’ behind them, the Zeroes have opened up an illegal nightclub together. Cleverly named the ‘Petri Dish’, it’s essentially a training arena where they can practise their powers. But their actions in the first novel didn’t go unnoticed. Two new Zeroes are in town, flaunting their sinister superpowers with little regard for civilians (‘dolls’). It turns out they are fleeing another Zero, an evil killer who will ‘chew up anyone who’s got a power’ … and they’ve deliberately diverted his attention to the club owners. Bullied as a child, Swarm is angry. His power can turn an ordinary crowd of people into a mob of zombies who will violently rip apart a victim at his will. He wants to kill every Zero bar one, whom he wants to join forces with instead.

Swarm is written by the same trio of authors who wrote Zeroes: Scott Westerfeld, (bestselling author of the Leviathan trilogies), Margo Lanagan (winner of four World Fantasy Awards), and Deborah Biancotti (Aurealis-shortlisted author).

The sequel has a far more supernatural feel than the first novel. In Zeroes, their major enemies were people. In Swarm, their enemy has a superpower. The prequel spent a lot of time exploring the characters and their powers, without moving far from the action. Swarm successfully does the same. Much has changed for the characters since the previous summer and their mental states are not ignored. (Kelsie, for example, is mourning her father and suffering from a post-traumatic stress disorder.) The connection between the two novels is strong and, as a result, the characters have grown. Their powers have grown also … the sequel allows them to explore the darker sides of their powers, how to invert their powers, and how to ‘level up’. It will be interesting to see where the authors take the story in the next book!

Sunday, 23 October 2016

One Minute till Bedtime

One Minute till Bedtime edited by Ken Nesbitt illustrated by Christoph Niemann’s (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers) HB RRP US$14.99 AU $39.99
ISBN 9780316341219

Reviewed by Dianne Bates

This is a 176 page substantial compilation of new poems for children by over 130 poets including Americans Jane Yolen, Jack Prelutsky, Jon Scieszka, Mary Ann Hoberman, and Lemony Snicket. It is compiled by former US Children’s Poet Laureate Nesbitt, himself a frequent contributor, and consists of “60-second” poems designed to send children ‘off to sleep.’
Presented with over 140 new poems by many of today’s most prominent children’s poets including Australians such as Edel Wignell, Meredith Costain, Janeen Brian and Mark Carthew, readers are treated to lyric nighttime reflections on topics as disparate as relationships with favorite pets or grandparents, beloved “toasty, warm jammies,” post-dinner activities, and reflections on the moon. There is also plenty of nonsense verse sure to inspire wild dreaming “on the road to morning.” These pithy poetic observations and New York Times illustrator and award-winning artist Christoph Niemann’s engaging and witty illustrations present a collection for the average child -- poems are mostly simple and entertaining rather than challenging or educational. The target market for readers is children aged 5 to 9 years.
Here are links to the book on IndieBound, B&N, and Amazon:

Saturday, 22 October 2016

Here Comes Trouble

Here Comes Trouble by Dianne Bates (Dragon Tales Publishing) PB RRP $14.95 ISBN: 9780992523961

Reviewed by Jade Harmer

In Here Comes Trouble, Dianne Bates draws from her real-life experiences as a foster carer to share the plight of nine-year old protagonist, Sam.
All but written off as a trouble-maker by adults and peers alike, the future for Sam looks bleak. He battles loneliness, boredom, sometimes even hunger, all the while yearning for the love and affection of his parents who are busy fighting their own all-consuming battle, drug addiction.

Sam and his siblings stumble through life from day-to-day, and despite Sam’s best intentions, he more often than not finds himself in situations that live up to his ‘trouble-maker’ image. A chance meeting with foster carers who live nearby ultimately leads Sam and his siblings to the understanding and unconditional love they deserve.

This story is a pleasure to read, tackling tough and confronting issues in a sensitive, caring way. Bates never judges Sam or his family, but builds empathy for their situation and gives insight into the enormous impact the simplest acts of kindness can have on a child’s future.

A new-found sense of belonging and self-worth means the world for Sam, and allows those around him to discover just how much he has to offer in return.

Suitable reading for children aged eight years and up and a valuable read for adults.

Friday, 21 October 2016

All of Us Together

All of Us Together by Bill Condon (About Kids Books) PB RRP $14.99
ISBN: 978-0-9946428-0-6

Reviewed by Jenny Mounfield

About Kids Books couldn’t have chosen a better story—or author—for its debut. All of Us Together is an emotional and informative time-travelling treat to 1930s Australia, as seen through the eyes of young Daniel O’Casey.

It is the time of the Great Depression and Daniel’s dad is out of work. While this may mean little more than the absence of a few extra treats to today’s kids, for those living in distant times it could literally mean the difference between life and death. When Daniel’s father leaves home on his bicycle to look for work, Daniel can’t even imagine that he will never see his beloved father again.

Life for the O’Casey’s becomes increasingly harder (despite Daniel’s misguided efforts to make a few shillings to help out). With family worries distracting him at school, it isn’t long before he feels the sting of Brother James’ cane; but nothing can dim his optimism and zeal for life for very long.

Life for Daniel and his sisters couldn’t be more different to the technological time of plenty that kids enjoy today. However, some things never change, and it is these core elements that readers will connect with: fear of losing a loved one, the importance of family and friendship, bullying, and backyard cricket to name a few.

Bill Condon has a rare ability to infuse characters with authenticity and vitality, which makes everything he writes impossible to put down. While initially I wasn’t particularly interested in reading a story about the Great Depression, I quickly became invested in Daniel’s family—so much so that I keep catching myself wondering how they’re getting on, as though they’re all out there somewhere. I defy anyone to tell me that isn’t magic.

Jenny Mounfield is the author of four novels, and several short stories for children. She lives in Brisbane with her husband, daughter, and a psychotic Jack Russell-cross named, Leo.