Thursday, 30 September 2010

Before They Were Famous: Lady Jane Grey – Queen for Sale

Before They Were Famous: Lady Jane Grey – Queen for Sale by Caroline Corby (Walker Books)
PB RRP $14.95
ISBN 9781406312553
Reviewed by Heather Zubek

You think you know your history. I only knew Lady Jane Grey as a delightful fruity tea to enjoy with milk in the afternoon but after reading Caroline Corby’s book Lady Jane Grey – Queen for Sale I have new respect for my afternoon cuppa. The series Before They Were Famous tells the story of historical figures before they become famous. Other figures in the series include Boudica, Cleopatra, William the Conqueror, Julius Caesar and Pocahontas.

Lady Jane Grey: Queen for Sale is the story of a young Tudor girl destined to become Queen without her blessing. At just nine years old young Jane becomes part of a ‘get rich quick’ scheme by her conniving parents. She is actually sold to a variety of families and is destined to become queen through the marriage to a ‘sniveling ponce’. The reader learns so much of Britain at the time of Henry VIII and of the trickery and cruelty that was sometimes inflicted on innocent people. We begin to feel for Lady Jane and even though it is history we are still shocked at the conclusion of the story. This is not fiction so it’s not ‘happily ever after.’

Caroline Corby sets the scene well in her story and portrays her characters convincingly through thorough research. The series is described as ‘biographical adventures’ so it’s not known how much is actually factual. The author completes Lady Jane Grey – Queen for Sale with a series of notes. The Authors Notes looks at the research conducted and the Notes from the Past gives an insight into daily life during Tudor England. The book is recommended for readers aged 8 to 12 years however I would recommend it for mature 8 year old readers as the reality of life in Tudor England could be quite confronting.

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Henry Hoey Hobson

Henry Hoey Hobson by Christine Bongers (Random House)
HB RRP $16.95
ISBN 978-1-8647-1995-6
Reviewed by Oliver Phommavanh

Henry Hoey Hobson is a highly amusing novel for younger readers. Henry’s the new kid at Our Lady of Perpetual Succour. In fact, he’s the only boy in his grade. As if fitting in wasn’t hard enough, the rumour that Henry is a vampire effortlessly continues to grow.

Henry tries to prove the other kids wrong by making a splash in the school’s swimming carnival. But he has to keep his overbearing mother and creepy neighbours under control first.

Henry is a charming kid, an unlikely hero that readers can relate to, especially when he tries to make friends in various ways. There’s a great scene about Henry playing handball and he can’t keep up with the outrageous rules. Henry has an immense desire to be liked, which gets him into crazy situations.

Bongers does a great job in brewing up trouble for Henry. She has created some quirky characters with an enduring appeal. There’s a loving relationship between Henry and his mum that shines throughout the story.

Henry Hoey Hobson is an excellent example of how a kid at a new school can make the most of their talents, even when they’re unsure of what it is yet. It is recommended for ages 8 and up.

Tuesday, 28 September 2010


Heads by Matthew Van Fleet (Simon and Schuster)

HB RRP $24.99
ISBN 978-144240379-6
Reviewed by Peta Biggin

From sharp-toothed alligators to floppy-eared goats, dusty foxes and slurping pigs, Heads will take the youngest readers on a journey through the wonderful, sometimes messy world of animal heads.

This latest book from the creator of the New York Times bestseller Dog has interactive elements on every page: textured sections, pull and push tabs and pop-ups. Even the front cover has a push tab.

Each new page is packed with colourful illustrations and contains a rhyme focusing on a different part of the head.

Bite mouth, Shout mouth, Slobber mouth,
Nibble mouth, Chew mouth, Rude mouths,

What also impressed me was the number of different animals used throughout the book. There were the usual suspects – elephants, giraffes, rabbits – mixed in with animals not often seen in children’s books – axolotl, cabybara, cotton-top tamarin.

While the book itself is quite robust there are some movable parts that could be torn off the pages by an enthusiastic reader. It is something that parents should keep in mind, lest they find their little one chewing on an elephant’s head!

There is a lot to love about Heads and it would make a terrific edition to any youngster’s library.

Matthew Van Fleet has published several books for pre-school aged readers including: Dog, Cat, Tails and Alphabet. He lives with his family in upstate New York.

Monday, 27 September 2010

365 Awesome Aussie Jokes

365 Awesome Aussie Jokes (various contributors, illustrated by Louise O'Shea (Scholastic Australia)
PB RRP $9.99
ISBN 978-1-74169-6103
Reviewed by Vicki Stanton

Everyone loves a joke book and everyone will love this one with jokes suitable for all ages. There are knock, knock jokes; puns and riddles:

How does a snake hurry?
It gets a wriggle on.


What has four wheels and flies?
A garbage truck.

There is a joke for everyday of the year; great for kids to look up the joke for their birthday. Celebrity contributors include Australian cricketer Mitchell Johnson and actress Kate Ritchie. Black-and-white cartoonish illustrations add to the feel good vibe of the book.

But not only will you feel good from having a laugh, you will also feel good that all the royalties from sales of 365 Awesome Aussie Jokes will be donated by Scholastic to Camp Quality for their work in helping children and their families living with cancer through their recreational, educational and financial programs.

You can also send in your own Aussie joke for consideration for next year's joke book. Submit to

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Stunt Bunny: Showbiz Sensation

Stunt Bunny: Showbiz Sensation by Tamsyn Murray, illustrated by Lee Wildish (Simon and Schuster)

PB RRP $12.99
ISBN 978-184738727-1
Reviewed by Peta Biggin

From the moment the Wilsons bring their new pet home, it is obvious that she is no ordinary bunny – and certainly not deserving of the name Flopsy. After she escapes (the first of many), she is renamed Harriet Houdini and the name suitsher perfectly.

After winning the village pet show, Harriet is whisked into the world of show business and finds herself competing in a talent show. If she wins, she’ll be a national star but there are other pets with their eye on first place. Can Harriet compete with an opera singing Poodle? And who is the mysterious man who offers to buy her?

Stunt Bunny:Showbiz Sensation is a fast-paced and funny book from the author of the teen novels My So Called Afterlife and My So Called Haunting.

Harriet the bunny is curious, feisty and devoted to her young owner Susie, if not completely enamoured with Susie’s dad (who is nicknamed Evil Edward throughout the book). Her never-say-die attitude and irreverent sense of humour will ensure Harriet is a character that kids will instantly relate to.
With the added fun of Lee Wildish’s black and white illustrations, Stunt Bunny: Showbiz Sensation is a really enjoyable book that will appeal to any animal loving young reader.

Tamsyn Murray lives in London with her husband, daughter and several pets. When she isn’t at work or writing, Tamsyn enjoys messing about on stage. Shows she has starred in include Hello Dolly!, Kiss Me Kate and Anything Goes. Occasionally, she auditions for Britain’s Got Talent. The next Harriet Houdini book, Stunt Bunny: Tour Trouble, is due to be released in 2011.

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Side by Side: In the Beginning

AFL Grand Final day! One of the great days of the year and this review is an apt start to proceedings, even more so since Collingwood is one of the contenders for the 2010 AFL premiership flag.

Side by Side: In the Beginning by N. McMullin, illustrated by Ainsley Walters (One Day Hill)
PB RRP $19.95
ISBN 978-0-9807948-0-9
Reviewed by Vicki Stanton

It is said that Melbournians have a Sherrin for a soul. Side by Side: In the Beginning gives an insight as to why.

Side by Side is a chapter book of the early years of Collingwood Football Club, arguably the most famous of all the Australian Rules football clubs, and one of the original founders of the Victorian Football League.

In 1916, eight-year-old Charlie climbs on the roof of a friend's cottage with his father to watch his first ever football match. As the game is played, Charlie's father inducts him into the history of Collingwood and some of its great players.

Along the way, the reasons for the tribal loyalties and hatreds (which are still firmly entrenched within Australian Rules)  as well as some social history of early twentieth century Melbourne, are revealed. There is a glossary of terms and Australian colloquiallisms that some readers may not have heard as well as historical facts about Collingwood and some of its remarkable players from formaton until 1926.

The design of Side by Side is outstanding. The cover is like an old leather photo album and each double spread is edged in black-and-white, the colours of the Collingwood Magpies. Some pages are presented scrapbook style with memorabilia and photographs. Others include Ainsley Walters' bold and colourful illustrations of Melbourne and football matches.

Collingwood fans will love this book but even if you hate Collingwood (as it is almost compulsory to do if you don't barrack for them) footy fans will find much of interest about their game in Side by Side.

Friday, 24 September 2010


Stranded by Jan Ramage, illustrated by Mark Wilson (black dog books)
HB RRP $24.99
ISBN 978-1-74203-097-5
Reviewed by Vicki Stanton

Stranded is a beautifully presented picture book based on actual events, the succesful rescue of over 100 whales beached at Busselton, Western Australia.

While beach fishing Ben sees 'a swell of black shapes, all heading for shore'. He alerts his father and soon the wildlife officer and over a thousand people are on the beach attempting to keep the whales alive and to herd them out to sea.

Stranded has more text than most picture books but never seems text-heavy. It is written simply and evocatively, drawing the reader in to the emotion and seriousness of the situation. Concepts of environmental protection and community involvement have been explored without didactism as the key to this book's success is the focus on one boy, Ben, and one whale calf.

Ramage's text and Mark Wilson's illustrations combine wonderfully. Wilson captures the colours of the sky and the sea in a range of moods as well as the feelings of Ben as he fights to save the calf and eventually has to be dragged out of a stormy sea by his father. My favourite spread is a large illustration of the beach full of people, whales and frenetic activity contrasted with a smaller text box picture of Ben supporting the calf and willing it to live on the opposite page. Endpapers also feature scenes of the whales and the sea. This is a beautiful book that will be treasured.

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Sam and Albert Go To Sea; Finding Sheeko; The Strange Car; The Prodigal Ute

Sam and Albert Go To Sea by Louise Elliott (Wombat Books)
PB RRP $7.95
ISBN 9781921633089

Finding Sheeko by Marion Wall (Wombat Books)
PB RRP $6.95
ISBN 9781921633133

The Strange Car by Paul Clark,
illustrated by Graham Preston (Wombat Books)
PB RRP $5.95

The Prodigal Ute by Paul Clark,                                           
illustrated by Graham Preston (Wombat Books)
PB RRP $5.95

All books reviewed by Elizabeth Quinn

Publishing newcomer Wombat Books has produced a series of four titles marketed as Wombat Joeys – Early Readers for Little Wombats. Two of the four (The Prodigal Ute and The Strange Car) form a sub-series called The Car Park Parables, using cars as characters in tales from the New Testament. A third (Finding Sheeko) tells the story of a baby orangutan who, while searching for his lost mother, becomes disoriented and is finally rescued by carers at an orangutan orphanage.

The illustrations (especially those of the parables) enhance the storylines, and the depiction of Jesus as a jeans-wearing, short-haired, beardless Everyman in The Strange Car is refreshing, and helps to lighten up the subject matter.

The fourth title in the series, Sam and Albert Go to Sea, is the tale of an old man of the sea and his cat. The illustrations are simple but appealing, depicting a barefoot, wild-haired elderly gent and a cat whose expressive face registers his gradual loss of patience with his land-locked sailor friend.

“YOU ARE A SAILOR AND I AM A SHIP’S CAT, SO WE HAVE TO GO TO SEA!” are Sam’s final words after a week of excuses. And go to sea they do, with much fun had by all. Sam and Albert Go to Sea is a tale of friendship, told simply. The Wombat Joey series shows great promise for future endeavours.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Kumiko and the Dragon’s Secret

Kumiko and the Dragon’s Secret written and illustrated by Briony Stewart
PB RRP $16.95
Early to Middle Primary
Reviewed by Jo Burnell

Briony’s sequel to Kumiko the Dragon hooked me in from the first page. With an economy of words, the dragon world filled my mind. Yellow lamp eyes blinked and a scaly tail dangled outside my window while a sensitive dragon swam like smoke above my head.

From an annoying little sister to Obaasan’s tea party, everything was easy to visualise. A bit too easy. I could handle the idea of shadow catchers pinning people down by their silhouettes, but the thought of their ability to absorb the power of dragon life from a child gave me the chills.

Briony Stewart’s black and white etchings together with her carefully crafted words weave a powerful product – one that left me dreaming of dragons and shadow catchers for quite some time after Kumiko and the Dragon’s Secret found pride of place on my bookshelf.

I have only one small note of warning: Kumiko and the Dragon’s Secret is perfect for the adventurous middle reader, but not for one inclined to nightmares.

Jo Burnell is passionate about hooking reluctant and struggling readers into the world of books. Her current project for teenagers looks at Juveniles in the Old Melbourne Gaol in the 1850s. Facts, Fictional Play Scripts and Faction recreate gaol life in early Melbourne in short easy read chapters.

Tuesday, 21 September 2010


Z by Michael Thomas Ford (Random House)

HB RRP $19.95
ISBN 978-1-8647-1822-5
Reviewed by Oliver Phommavanh

Z is a novel for teenagers that combine two awesome things, video games and zombies. Josh is a highly skilled player in a game where he fights zombies and saves humans in various situations. It’s a controversial game because the world has just recovered from an actual zombie virus that almost wiped humanity off the map. Josh even had family who were destroyed as zombies, yet he still thinks they’re a fantasy.

All this changes when he meets the mysterious Charlie. Charlie introduces Josh to an underground league where you can play the game for real. That means real weapons, locations and...zombies?

Z is a relentless thriller, with loads of zombie-blasting action (both in-game and real-life). Despite the violence, Ford handles the gruesome detail with discretion so it’s no graphic bloodbath scenes. Readers will enjoy the gaming strategies that Josh’s team uses to battle the cunning zombies.

There is some drug use in the book. Josh takes some Z, a drug that warps his mind and makes him think like a zombie, enhancing his gaming experience. However, this scene focuses more on what it means to behave like a zombie than anything else.

Z is a wonderful story that brings video games to life in more ways than one. It’s recommended for ages 12 and up.

Monday, 20 September 2010

Edsel Grizzler Book 2: Rescue Mission

Edsel Grizzler Book 2: Rescue Mission by James Roy (UQP)
PB RRP $16.95
ISBN: 9780702238444
Reviewed by Jo Burnell

Edsel Grizzler Book 1 had me glued to the page. I couldn’t wait to see how my many questions were resolved in Book 2, but there’s always a problem with intriguing reads like this. Your questions may be answered, but they draw you deeper into the mystery and expose more unanswered questions.

In Book 1, Edsel returned from Verdana, the land of lost things because of Jacq’s sacrifice. Now Edsel is on a mission to rescue Jacq. When he finds her, he provides updates on all that has happened in her absence. This switching between worlds through conversation and flashback works well.

James Roy creates three dimensional worlds. I watched the steam rise as the retreating train left Widen and could almost breathe the despair in a sadly changed Verdana.

If you enjoyed Edsel Grizzler Book 1, you’ll be waiting for Book 2 like I was and you won’t be disappointed. On the scale of light to dark, Edsel’s tales are more dark than light. There’s not a lot to make you smile, but plenty of intrigue instead. Lives are at stake. Does Jacq hold the key to set things right – again? Who would have guessed that Ben would turn out the way he has? Is there any other way to save the children?

You guessed it. Some questions won’t be answered until Book 3.

Jo Burnell is passionate about hooking reluctant and struggling readers into the world of books. Her current project for teenagers looks at Juveniles in the Old Melbourne Gaol in the 1850s. Facts, Fictional Play Scripts and Faction recreate gaol life in early Melbourne in short easy read chapters.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Dog Ear Café

Dog Ear Café by Andrew Stojanovski (Hybrid Publishing)
PB RRP $34.95
ISBN 978192166506
Reviewed by Vicki Stanton

I feel like stopping people in the street to tell them that they MUST read Dog Ear Café. It is essential reading for all young adult and adult Australians. Dog Ear Cafe is a powerful recount of Andrew Stojanovski’s time in the central Australian community of Yuendumu where the battle raged to save the community’s youth from a petrol-sniffing culture. Young people were becoming brain-damaged and dying. Along with Walpiri community elders, Stojanovski established the Mt Theo Petrol Sniffing Program which in eight years defeated petrol-sniffing.

However, it was not an easy eight years. How Stojanovski stuck it out, I don’t know. At times his life was threatened and his marriage teetered. Many other good men and women gave their all but were finally exhausted and left.

One of the great strengths of this book is it is written from the heart and with humour but does not gloss over the harsh realities of life in these communities. Stojanovski has a genuine love and understanding of the Walpiri people gained through being open to their ideas and ways. Dog Ear Cafe is by no means an academic text but Stojanovski (an anthropology graduate) gives his theory on how, with all best intentions, many Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people misunderstand each other. Notions of work and saving, kinship and obligation are vastly different in Western and Indigenous culture. Stojanovski explains the ramifications of these differences on how programs run and their effectiveness.

The success of the Mt. Theo Program was due to both Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians stepping outside their cultural boundaries, commitment and the building of close relationships. Stojanovski founded the Mt Theo Program with Peggy Nampijimpa Brown and Johnny Hooker Creek (all three were awarded Order of Australia medals in 2005). These two Indigenous leaders put themselves at great personal risk by looking after other clans' children. If something had happened to those youths, they may have been subject to the traditional notion of payback.

Dog Ear Café includes a glossary of many Walpiri words and terms; a list of people and their cultural identity; a list of places; bibliography; maps; and many colour and black-and-white photographs.

Please, please, please do yourself and our nation a favour by reading Dog Ear Cafe. This book most certainly should be in every high school, university and public library. It is a story of overcoming culture clash, and inspiration by people, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous, who cared too much to give up.

Saturday, 18 September 2010

The Very Itchy Bear

The Very Itchy Bear by Nick Bland (Scholastic Press)

HB RRP $15.99
ISBN 978-1-74169-651-6
Reviewed by Vicki Stanton

The Very Itchy Bear is a simply told story of friendship and how we shouldn’t let first impressions cloud our judgement about someone else or their intentions. Bear is minding his own business, sitting on a log reading a book, when Flea arrives and says ‘Hello!’ However, Flea does this by ‘biting high and biting low’.

Understandably, Bear itches like crazy. He jumps about and rolls around, ending up in the sea. Eventually, Bear dislodges Flea but finds that now he is alone, he is frightened. More than this, he becomes concerned for the welfare of Flea and rescues him from a hungry bird. The book ends with the two safely back on dry land and Bear reading to Flea.

The text is rhyming and somewhat reminded me of the classic Dr Seuss’ stories with very simple short sentences which tell the tale succinctly and with humour. The illustrations are bold and colourful, perfectly portraying Bear’s personality. The reader feels Bear’s surprise at being bitten, sympathises with his itchiness and then Bland skilfully switches from the humour to Bear’s uncertainty as the two float out to sea. The final illustration of the two friends reading together as the sunsets is a powerful and satisfying conclusion.

This book is perfect to encourage young children to discuss friendship and how we may misconstrue people’s actions towards us just as Bear misconstrued Flea’s bite as an attack rather than the greeting that was intended. The Very Itchy Bear encourages us to evaluate our relationships. Bear’s feeling of loneliness outweighed his annoyance at Flea, and Flea recognised that Bear does not like being bitten. The two come to work out their differences and their friendship develops.

I highly recommend The Very Itchy Bear and it is exceptional value at $15.99 for a hardback copy.

Friday, 17 September 2010

Hazard River series: Shark Frenzy; Snake Surprise

Hazard River series: Shark Frenzy by JE Fison (Ford Street Publishing)
PB RRP $12.95
ISBN 9781921665110
Reviewed by Jenny Mounfield

While holidaying on the banks of Hazard River (a name that doesn’t exactly inspire relaxation), brothers, Jack and Ben, and friend Lachlan find a dead shark minus its fins. This might very well be the work of pirates—or perhaps the unfortunate beastie was molested by a giant squid. Whatever the cause, the boys are determined to get to the bottom of it.

And so, off the intrepid trio goes, sailing into the moonlight, dodging sandbanks and soldier crabs—and maybe, just maybe, pirates. But it is only the next day after the discovery of another finless shark and with knowledgeable, well-travelled Mimi onboard that the mystery stands a chance of being solved.

Snake Surprise by JE Fison
ISBN 9781921665127
(Other details as above)

In book two in the Hazard River series we find the kids holed up playing board games one rainy day when they spot an untethered houseboat surging down the river on a collision course with Mimi’s parents’ yacht. What else can the flummoxed foursome do but spring into action?

Convinced the boat’s owner has been poisoned by a rotten-toothed glass eye-wearing villain and that there is treasure to be found, Ben insists on searching the abandoned craft. They find is a note bearing the words: HELP ME and what follows is more mystery, mayhem and, as its title suggests, a snake.

While 10 year old narrator Jack comes across as being a little too mature at times--and some of his expressions are truly corny—he is a character readers will relate to. So, too, are his dead critter collector brother, Ben, daredevil Lachlan and level-headed Mimi. Written in a light, humorous style with covers that are bright and busy, short chapters, snappy dialogue and plenty of action, these books with attract even the most reluctant reader. With two more titles to come: Tiger Terror and Bat Attack, I can see this series being popular with action-seeking kids 7+.

Jenny Mounfield is the author of three novels for kids, her most recent title being: The Ice-cream Man (Ford St). She has been reviewing for Buzz Words since ’06.

Thursday, 16 September 2010


Trash by Andy Mulligan (Random House)

HB RRP $24.95
ISBN 978-0-3856-1902-8
Reviewed by Oliver Phommavanh

Trash is a touching and heartfelt novel for older readers. It’s set in a fictional slum city, where three boys Raphael, Gardo and Rat live on a rubbish dump.

If you’ve seen Slumdog Millionaire then you’re halfway there. Mulligan’s own experiences of living in developing countries shine through in the descriptions, they’re painstaking really detailed. Readers will be captivated with how these boys trawl through the trash to make a living. It sets the scene perfectly for the boys, when they stumble upon a bag with money and a few secrets that the authorities are desperate to keep under wraps. The boys suddenly find themselves in danger, starting a heart-pumping mission that sends them across the city.

There are multiple narrators, between the three boys and even includes other ‘special guests’ who tell the story for a chapter or two. There is no confusion and the different perspectives offer fresh insights into a story that has deeper layers. There’s also a mystery that the street-savvy boys have to solve before they get caught by the police. I was amazed with how they stay ahead of the authorities. It’s got a thrilling pace that doesn’t slow down.

Trash will be an adventure that will crossover seamlessly into the adult world. At the core, it’s a tale of friendship and a determination to change their destiny. It’s recommended for 12 years and up.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

I Love My Grandpa; I Love Grandma

I Love My Grandpa and I Love Grandma written and illustrated by Anna Walker (Scholastic)
HB RRP $12.99
Recommended for 1+ years
Reviewed by Dawn Meredith

How adorable are these books! I fell in love with Ollie when I reviewed Anna’s previous books in the series, such as I Love My Mum, but there is something even more charming and nostalgic about I Love My Grandpa and its twin book I Love My Grandma. I do like the way the wording of each title suggests belonging, which is so important for the young child. This book reinforces the lovely bond between child and grandparents, those marvellous people with life experience and, lets face it, a little less angst!

In I Love My Grandpa, Ollie explores and shares Grandpa’s day with various activities such as gardening, going for walks, admiring the wonderful creatures of nature, such as frogs and chooks and ducks. Not once do they sit down in front of the TV or computer. Hooray!

But what I love best is to hug Grandpa tight.
He tickles my ears and kisses me goodnight.

I Love My Grandma explores preparing and enjoying a picnic indoors, playing and singing all afternoon. Then while Ollie has a bath with lots of lovely bubbles Grandma sits and knits. Too cute! Ollie loves the way Grandma calls him her ‘cuddly bear’.

But what I love best is to snuggles up close
beside my grandma, who loves me the most.

These gentle stories are heart warming and hey, what’s wrong with that? There ought to be more quiet times with children, to sit and share a book, or wander through the garden. Children come across sometimes as if they want nothing but excitement, but we all know that they need bonding times too. This series provides just such an opportunity. I will now step down from my soapbox!

The soft water colours add a wistful twist that reminds us of our own best childhood memories and the simple rhyming scheme suits the subject matter perfectly. I would like to add that these books make great beginning reader books too. The hardcover 17.5cmx16cm format is a nice size and the cover illustrations are very sweet.

More information about Anna’s other books can be found at

Dawn Meredith is a May Gibbs Fellow and writes from the Blue Mountains. Visit her blog for more info:  

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Puggle's Problem

Puggle's Problem by Aleesah Darlison, illustrated by Sandra Temple (Wombat Books)
HB RRP $17.95
ISBN 978 1 921633 07 2
Reviewed by Vicki Stanton

Poor Pipp. He is a plump and healthy baby echidna-a puggle-but he 'was the only puggle in the whole bush whose spines hadn't come in yet'. Tired of waiting, Pipp heads off to ask his bush friends for advice but to no avail. Finally, he heads back home and the comfort of Mum who assures him that his spines will come in the end but 'in the meantime, you're so much easier to hug!'

Puggle's Problem is the first release from Sydney children's author Aleesah Darlison and young children will delight in this reassuring tale. The book works on many levels. Puggle's Problem gently shows children that we all develop at different rates and while we may be skilled at some tasks there will always be somethings outside of our control. Sometimes all we can do is be patient and wait for changes and in the meantime we we will be accepted and valued for who we are now. Darlison uses the strategy of Pipp asking his friends Grunt the koala, Mumble the wombat, Bounder the kangaroo and Merry the kookaburra to show that we do not need to be like everyone else and what works for one does not necessarily work for another. We are all individuals.

Pipp's venture into the bush provides the perfect vehicle for accomplished wildlife artist Sandra Temple's illustrations. My favourite was of Pipp chewing on gum leaves on the advice of Grunt. Plenty of white space ensures that the focus of the illustrations is on the characters. Endpapers featuring ants add to the quality feel of this book.

Puggle's Problem is the perfect book to be shared by parent and child snuggled up together.

Monday, 13 September 2010


Zizzy written by Penny Matthews, illustrated by Danny Snell (Omnibus Books for Scholastic Aust)
HB large format RRP $26.99
Recommended for 3+ years
Reviewed by Dawn Meredith

Having just recently watched, transfixed, some youtube videos of baby sloths I eagerly opened this book to read about Zizzy. Sloths are dreamy and slow and have the most appealing eyes. They bring out the mothering instinct in everyone, men included!

Zizzy lives in a lush rainforest and spends a lot of time hanging upside down, snoozing and dreaming. One day he sees a patch of blue in the distance and wonders what it is. A green parrot tells him it is the sea and the place where the sun rises. She insists that Zizzy should check it out, but Zizzy is daunted by the journey. Sloths don’t travel far. “You don’t know what you can do until you try,” says the bird and offers to show him the way.

It takes Zizzy a very long time to travel through the rainforest and finally to see the ocean. Sloths have weak spaghetti-like legs that don’t support their weight on the ground. Eventually Zizzy gets to sit on the sand of a vast beach and watch the sun come up. The world turns to gold and a thought crystalises in his head. He makes his way back to the rainforest where he dreams he can do absolutely anything, even fly through in the air - with frogs!

I love Snell’s illustrations. He has captured the essence of sloth features and his rendition of the rainforest is deep, dark and mysterious with comical touches. Armadillos watch Zizzy come down from his trees. A frog sits on his head as he snoozes. An anteater watches his progress to the edge of the rainforest. Zizzy is the cuddliest thing on the planet!

Dawn Meredith is a May Gibbs Fellow for 2010 and writes from the Blue Mountains.

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Wild Stories

Wild Stories by Colin Thompson (Random House)

HB RRP $16.95
ISBN 978-1-8647-1826-3
Reviewed by Oliver Phommavanh

Wild Stories is an anthology of short stories for younger readers. Thompson might be known for his Floods series, but he’s written a few books about animals living around an old house. These books were only published in the UK, so readers will discover a new world of fun.

Thompson gives each animal a distinct human-like personality. There are hilarious interactions between different animals and objects, with influences of wry British humour. Crows reminiscing flat road kill could have been carved out of a Monty Python skit.

The descriptions will tickle readers’ senses. Thompson describes a male mosquito drinking pollen as strawberry jam, caramel pudding and black cherry ice cream all rolled into one. It’s one of many delightful lines in the book.

Thompson also manages to weave in some animal facts into his stories. For example, there’s a stubborn baby hedgehog that refuses to hibernate in Winter. Readers will learn why animals have to hibernate, laughing at the hedgehog’s attempts to stay awake. While most of the stories are quite funny, there are some touching ones here that show the circle of life in full effect.

Wild Stories is a wonderful collection that kids will enjoy reading and laughing out loud. It’s recommended for ages 8 and up.

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Little Red Ute Visits the Farm; Little Red Ute and The Dump Trucks

Little Red Ute Visits the Farm and Little Red Ute and The Dump Trucks written by Mitch Lewis, illustrated by Nahum Ziersch (Omnibus Books for Scholastic Aust)
PB RRP $9.99
Recommended for 3+ years
Reviewed by Dawn Meredith

Little Red Ute loves adventure. Where there’s excitement and someone needing help, he’s there, with his friend Green Wheelbarrow, who rides in the tray.

In this adventure he’s on the farm, helping Farmer White, who wants to get the barn wind proofed before winter. But the foreman isn’t sure Little Red can actually be much help, so he sends Little Red Ute on a tour of the farm, meeting other important machinery such as the tractor and the combine harvester. But wait, what’s that? Someone is dangling dangerously from the roof of the barn? Little Red Ute speeds away across the dirt to rescue the foreman.

Ziersch’s illustrations are vibrant, full of colour and action, with faces on each machine reminiscent of the ‘Bob the Builder’ and ‘Thomas the Tank Engine’ series. It’s appealing and the story neatly educates children about farm life, the animals that live there and the tasks to be done.

In Little Red Ute and The Dump Trucks our hero is dauntingly impressed by the huge trucks in his yard, who ferry huge loads and thunder past, ‘casting him in shadow’. Like a pesky puppy, Little Red Ute wants to help, but what can a tiny ute do to assist these monster trucks? The foreman angrily tells Little Red Ute to get out of the way.

But then, you guessed it, something goes wrong and the foreman needs his help. (Doesn’t that foreman ever learn?) A convoy of logging trucks has overturned and have no fuel left. Little Red Ute scurries back and forth to the depot to bring them fuel. He works tirelessly, just like the dump trucks and is rewarded with praise from the foreman and a toot from the school bus. Aw!

There are a couple of themes I like about these stories. One is children wanting to help and adults supposing they are ‘in the way’ and the other is children proving they can work just as hard when they are motivated.

Dawn Meredith is a May Gibbs Fellow for 2010 and writes from the Blue Mountains.

Friday, 10 September 2010

My Aussie Dad

My Aussie Dad by Yvonne Morrison, illustrated by Gus Gordon (Scholastic Australia)
HB RRP $15.99
ISBN 978 1 7416 9 228 0
Reviewed by Vicki Stanton

My Aussie Dad is a humorous rhyming picture book for young children with a feel good ending that will delight all.. On each double spread we meet a different dad doing the Aussie thing. There is the dad burning the chops at the barbie, the DYI dad and the beach cricket dad. Most of the dads are casual, laconic blokes but there is also a dad in a business suit and the stressed out camper. Australia's multicultural society is not ignored. Non-Anglo dads are also depicted in Gus Gordon's wonderful pencil and watercolour illustrations that extend the text with irony and humour.

Endpapers with illustrations of dads and their essential equipment such as sauce, thongs and a footy add to the enjoyment of the book. There is also a framed space saved at the front endpaper for a picture of the book owner's dad. My Aussie Dad represents exceptional value and is ideal to be shared by fathers with their children.

Alice-Miranda on Holiday

Alice-Miranda on Holiday by Jacqueline Harvey (Random House)

HB RRP $15.95
ISBN 978-1-8647-1984-0
Reviewed by Oliver Phommavanh

The sweetest girl with hyphenated names, Alice-Miranda returns in this breezy novel for younger readers. Alice-Miranda has gone home for the school holidays with her best friend Jacinta.

The girls arrive at Highton Hall to much fanfare from her extended family. Well, almost everyone is happy. They meet a grumpy boy who doesn’t fall for Alice-Miranda’s charms. She finds herself involved in a mystery that involves a famous movie star, suspicious strangers and a grandma who has a family secret.

Readers will be enthralled to see how Alice-Miranda lives at home. Harvey has done a tremendous job in bringing a busy and lush country estate to life. It’s nice to see some boys such as Alice-Miranda’s cousin, Lucas in the story too. Alice-Miranda uses all her wits to outsmart the bad guys and her problem solving ways only add to her wonderful personality.

Harvey has thrown in some eccentric characters that make this novel a fun read. Alice-Miranda fans will love this sequel, a great adventure in a new setting. This novel is recommended for readers aged 7 and up.

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Ghost in the Machine

Ghost in the Machine by Patrick Carman (Scholastic Inc)
PB RRP $16.99
ISBN 1741695031
Reviewed by Dawn Meredith

Ghost in the Machine is the first of two books; it is a thriller story that blurs further the now indistinct line between book fiction and video. There is an uber-cool password protected website, which forms part of the storyline, supplementing a journal.

Ghost in the Machine tracks the current lives of Sarah Fincher and Ryan McCrae, who are trapped inside the mystery town of Skeleton Creek where there are no movie theatres but three churches. Sarah shoots video of everything she can while Ryan notes down all the clues in his journal.

It begins in a dark and dusty cellar with the prophetic words: ‘Remove this cryptix and suffer the consequence’. A dark, figure in a hat and coat appears above them and peers down in the gloom before slamming shut the heavy iron door. There is no phone signal and the air is getting thick. All they have now is each other. The video is eerie. Even I held my breath as the figure leaned down towards the camera. Was that a real skeleton face or a mask?

Snippets of video, messages passed in secret, scribbled names that don’t mean anything yet; it’s all a mystery. Has the ghost of Old Joe Bush followed Ryan home to write a message on his wall, or did Ryan write it himself and can’t remember? Somehow, everything leads back to the dredge and thirty million dollars of gold.

Each video chapter has a new password for access. I find this concept exciting! The suspense is palpable and the actors who play Sarah and Ryan do a great job. It combines modern kids’ love of video games with horror movies and adventure, but does it detract from the book itself?

With all the ‘live’ tension of the Blair Witch Project, the videos are definitely not for younger children. There is even a warning on YouTube.

Dawn Meredith writes from the Blue Mountains and is a recipient of a May Gibbs Fellowship for 2010.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

The David Beckham Academy: Captain Incredible

The David Beckham Academy: Captain Incredible by Emily Stead, illustrated by Adam Relf (Egmont)

PB RRP $12.95
ISBN 978-1-4052-5165-5
Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

At the David Beckham Academy in London, boys and girls go to learn about football (soccer), develop their skills while having fun, gain self-confidence, and learn team work.

The main characters in this sports story are Dan, VJ and Mia. Dan has won a competition and the prize was two days at the Academy. VJ is a dreamer, and all he dreams about in class is soccer. Mia is bossy and controlling, and is the Captain of her school team’s under- elevens, therefore feels it is her right to captain this team as well. All the arrivals share a common goal no matter what brought them to the same destination. They long to live their dream for two days as they take part in competition games against other teams. The ultimate reward is a trophy for the winners.

The Academy turns out to be larger than anything the children expected. They are given royal blue Academy uniform kits, and end up on the same team, Brazil. They are all shy with one another at the start. Their coach, Woody, loses no time and gets them all out on the field for a warm up in preparation for selection.

These children know their game. They live it and breathe it. For some, it is all they have of interest in their lives. This is the beginning of a great accomplishment for the group as they play under the colours of various countries and work their way to the trophy.

But it is hard work and many lessons must be learnt. There is no place for pride or self-gratification. Group effort is what propels them to the winner’s position and vanity is washed away. The importance of reporting an injury also comes home to each and every player when VJ injures his ankle and delays the reporting of it to his coach. There are rules that must be adhered to, and for some of the children, this doesn’t come easy.

These are inspiring stories for all children in the 7+ age group who have any interest at all in any sport, not only soccer. The ethical parts of playing group sports are accentuated, particularly that of team spirit, working together for a common goal and respecting the rules of the game as well as one another regardless of their position on the field.

The illustrations play a large roll in the communion of text and image. Although black and white, the pictures are alive on the page and follow the text closely to give an intimate view of the story.

David Beckham’s photo is on the front of every book in the series of which there are now six, and the covers are in a glossy finish with full colour pictures, with royal blue the dominant colour.

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

My Dad Thinks He’s Funny

My Dad Thinks He’s Funny by Katrina Germein, illustrated by Tom Jellett (black dog books)

HB RRP $24.99
ISBN 978-1-74203-121-7
Reviewed by Di Bates

Any child or parent reading this book will instantly recognised the way in which many adults wise crack. For instance, when a child says, ‘Dad, do you know what?’ Dad replies, ‘I don’t know What, but I know his brother.’ Or when a kid tells dad his finger hurts, dad replies, ‘Let’s chop it off.’ No doubt as you read this book, whoever you are, you’ll be nodding, smiling and say, ‘Yes, that’s right! That’s just how it is in our house.’ Smart aleck dad.

Australian writer Katrina Germein has a clever ear for dialogue and this book is full of gentle (and sometimes hilarious) family fun with a boy and his dad communicating – albeit not too seriously. My only problem with the story line is that it ends abruptly. Perhaps Dad saying something sensitive or loving at the end when his son is in bed might have been a more satisfactory ending rather than the much repeated refrain, ‘My Dad’s funny.’

Two other endearing features of this funny and engaging book are the design and the illustrations. To match the textual humour, Australian illustrator Tom Jellett has employed a cartoon style with lots of engaging design features. This includes the use of backgrounds which range from paper-bags to graph paper, corrugated paper to wall paper. As you open every page there’s a visual treat with the way in which the illustrations are placed and the illustrations themselves, which are full of unexpected fun. To add to this, the book designer has played around with text font, from small to large, from typeface to handwritten messages.

All in all, this book is going to capture a lot of attention and is likely to become not just a child’s favourite book, but also one which a parent will enjoy reading with his or her child. The reading level suits a child seven years and up, but the interest level is universal.

Monday, 6 September 2010

The Glasshouse

The Glasshouse by Paul Collins, illustrated by Jo Thompson (Ford Street Publishing)
HB RRP $26.95
ISBN 978-1-921665-04-2
Reviewed by Jenny Mounfield

Clara lives in a glasshouse where she grows perfect pumpkins that attract buyers from far and wide. Like her pumpkins, Clara’s life is perfect—until the day she spies a stranger peering through her doorway. Curious, Clara wipes the mist from a perfect pane and glimpses the outside world for the first time. She is shocked to see the hills all around littered with shattered glasshouses. And so, just as the serpent brought darkness into the Garden of Eden, this strange boy has struck a dark fear into Clara’s heart: What happened to the other glasshouses? What if the same fate awaits her?

Over the coming weeks Clara becomes more and more afraid of losing her perfect world. She scours her glasshouse for cracks, insects—the slightest indication that all is not well. As a result of her manic behaviour fewer and fewer buyers come to buy her pumpkins, and before long, Clara’s wonderful world falls apart. However, when the boy returns he offers Clara something she has never been offered before—friendship and belonging.

By far the star here—both narratively and illustratively—is Clara. Thompson’s depiction of this character is almost uncanny in its accuracy: her soulful eyes in particular speak volumes. So, too, Thompson’s attention to detail, use of colour and focus are right on the money.

The Glasshouse is one of those rare stories that offers poignant insight into the human heart. Its message is Zen-like: The world is in a constant state of flux; nothing stays the same. So, too, it poses the question: Is perfection, however fleeting, worth the fear of losing it? Paradoxically, Clara’s fear is her undoing, yet it is also her saviour. And there is so much more squirreled away between Collins’s words. How he managed to say so much with so few words is really quite a feat.

I recommend this book to readers of all ages—adults included. This story is not only ageless, it is timeless.

Jenny Mounfield is the author of three novels for kids, her most recent title being: The Ice-cream Man (Ford St). She has been reviewing for Buzz Words since ’06.

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Lennie's Ride

Lennie's Ride by Mary Small, illustrated by Marion Wilcocks (Small Endeavour Publishing)
PB RRP $15
ISBN 978-0-646-53194-6
Reviewed by Vicki Stanton

Lennie's Ride is the remarkable story of Lennie Gwyther, a nine-year-old farmer's son from Leongatha in Gippsland, Victoria, so excited about the opening of the Sydney Harbour Bridge he rode his pony, Ginger Mick, 600 miles to witness the event himself.

However, Lennie's Ride is more than a story of a boy. It is the story of his family, rural community life and the social history of Australia in the inter-war period. Lennie's feat is astounding. Allowing my own nine-year-old son to walk home from school (ten minutes and he doesn't even have to cross a road) is a leap of faith, let alone sending him off on a trek of this nature. Lennie's parents took that leap of faith. Stays with friends along the route were organised and as the fame of Lennie's journey grew, he certainly was not alone in his ride, being feted on his arrival in Canberra and Sydney among other places. The biggest testament to Lennie is that his parents felt safe in the knowledge that their son was capable of such a journey despite his youth.

Life on the Gwyther farm was not easy despite the ideal climate and soil. Lennie's father was a decorated returned serviceman from the trenches of Gallipoli and the Western Front. However, he also returned with injuries that would affect him for the rest of his life. Add to that the difficulties of the Great Depression. Lennie's parents relied extensively on him to help on the farm and, when his father broke his leg, Lennie worked the farm as well as any grown man.

1932 was a time of economic and social uncertainty and the excitement surrounding the Sydney Harbour Bridge was intense. It was an achievement of national significance and Lennie wanted to be a part of it. Lennie's interest in the bridge stemmed from his love of drawing, design and construction. As reward for all his hard work Lennie asked to be allowed to ride to Sydney for the opening. Hazards along the way included bushfires and Lennie's adventures in Sydney included entering the Easter Show.

Marion Wilcocks' black and white illustrations give us the feel of times past and complement the text beautifully. The book also includes numerous photographs of Lennie, the Gwyther family, and people and places of the 1930s and a brief section telling sister Beryl's story, and a facts section about the building of the bridge.

Lennie's Ride is recommended reading for Australians of all ages. It opens a window into a vastly different Australia in the not too distant past, it is a tale of the excitement surrounding the bridge opening, but most of all it tells of the wonders of a childhood fully lived and experienced.
Contact Mary Small for orders

Saturday, 4 September 2010

Grug Goes to Hospital

Grug Goes to Hospital by Ted Prior (Simon and Schuster)
PB RRP $4.99
ISBN 978-073181437-4
Reviewed by Peta Biggin

Grug loves to play. One day Grug was showing his friend Cara how he could swing off a rope when he fell. Cara rushes Grug to the Bush Hospital where she bandages him up and helps him feel better.

                      Grug was showing Cara how he could swing on a rope…
                            …when he fell heavily to the ground.

Such is the beginning of poor Grug’s next adventure. After the fall, he is taken to the Bush Hospital by his loyal friend Cara who then sets about mending all the bumps and bruises. He gets to spend time recovering, having visitors and drawing pictures to cheer up the other patients. When he is back on the path to good health, Grug leaves the hospital deciding that he needs to be a little more careful in the future.

As a long time fan, I was pleased to see another new release from Ted Prior; and Grug Goes to Hospital will be a welcome addition to any fan’s collection. As with all the other stories in this long running series the text is easy to read, the illustrations are wonderful and Grug is endearing.

Before starting the Grug series in 1979, Ted Prior worked as a police officer and art teacher. He also worked in children’s TV and animation. Ted Prior created Grug while he was living on a small farm in northern New South Wales. He was inspired partly by reading to his two young children and partly by the surrounding Australian bush where Burrawangs are plentiful. You can become friends with Grug on Facebook, or check out the website

Friday, 3 September 2010


Merrow by Ananda Braxton-Smith (black dog books)
PB RRP $18.99
ISBN 9781742031361
Reviewed by Sandi Wooton

A skilful blend of myth, legend and superstition, Braxton-Smith has created a tale of exceptional beauty. This story will not only appeal to teenage girls, but to anyone who is interested in traditional folklore.

On Neen’s island, life can be as harsh and unpredictable as the changing landscape. Isolated from the villagers, eking out a meagre living on a remote part of the island with her aunt, Neen has been searching for the truth about her mother’s disappearance; if her mother really was a merrow (mermaid) as many people believed, perhaps she had returned to her home in the ocean?

From the beginning, we are tempted to believe in the folklore so prevalent on Neen’s island. Was Neen’s mother a merrow, or wasn’t she? Was the world inhabited by otherworldly beings, or just by ordinary creatures? This is a story of a girl finding it difficult to understand the world, struggling to find her place in it – it’s about the challenges she faces leaving her childhood behind. Teenage girls will identify with Neen as she discovers the truth about her mother’s disappearance on her journey to adulthood.

Superbly written, the language is quite descriptive and often poetic:

“I dreamt I swam again in the kelp forest. In tangled light and flowing undertow, a wrecked hull rocked white and skeletal in the long grass. Its keel, ribs and battens were marked all over with hands sinuous, like anemones, and right in its middle sat an ornate locked trunk. I opened it and the water around me filled at once with pearls, all floating upward. I grabbed at one as it rose and brought it to my face. I saw the kraken inside with all its hooked legs; another held a line of people with torches walking forever along undersea paths; another, a wailing changeling child. I woke up. I had a feeling of doom.”

I thoroughly enjoyed reading Merrow and would recommend the book as “a top pick” for children aged ten and above.

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Jaguar Warrior

Jaguar Warrior by Sandy Fussell (Walker Books)
PB RRP $14.99
ISBN 978-1-921529-29-0
Reviewed by Anke Seib

In Tenochtitlan, where clumsiness is paid for in blood, a young slave boy should not anger his captor. Yet, huddled in his box prior to being sacrificed to the Serpent-Sun god to end the dry season, Atl still plans to escape. When the pale lords raise their swords against the city, Atl’s master insists he return to his birthplace, Purépecha, to seek help for Tenochtitlan. Thus, Atl has his chance. But why carry a message to save the people who were going to kill him? On one hand there is no reason, on the other there are many.

The Spanish invasion of Mexica forms the backdrop for this story, Mexica being the civilisation we now term the Aztecs. Ichtaca, Atl’s master and temple priest, believes the boy’s successful mission is Tenochtitlan’s only chance of survival. The Captain of the Temple Guard, however, is furious at the boy’s release. He sets off to kill Atl and appease the Serpent-Sun god, believing that while the boy runs free, Mexica will fail. All Atl really wants is freedom. So begins a dramatic, action-packed story about choice, loyalty and integrity.

Before crossing his first hurdle, Atl unwillingly takes a companion, Lali, who is also running from someone. They fight like brother and sister but rely on each other for survival. When they rescue a slave from a jaguar attack and witness the cruelty of his master they do not hesitate to snatch his freedom too, including him in their journey. Each character is tied to the other, increasing their risk of capture, yet even they hide some truths from each other. A fourth member, Dog, joins the group and the race to alert Purépecha.

The book’s cover immediately draws one into an ancient past with its sense of mystery and foreboding. Totems carved in stone, fire burning behind hollow eyes and gold lacing the carvings is sure to appeal to boys, as will the story. I’d recommend it to readers aged ten to fourteen and am sure girls will also drink it up. Particularly appealing to me was the skilful use of alternating viewpoints, Atl’s told in first person to draw readers in, the Captain of the Temple Guard told in third, helping heighten the terrifying threat he poses.

Action is fast paced and snippets of history add an extra dimension. I loved being immersed in a culture of ancient people, their myths, legends, beliefs and rituals. I also admired how the protagonist and his companions were as real as any young figures in fiction set in our world: thoughtful, intelligent, resourceful and witty. Walker’s website provides excellent teaching notes and the book’s many facets will be enjoyed in class as well as by all who value a great read. It is further testament to Fussell’s growing list of awards.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Rebel Angels

Rebel Angels by Libba Bray (Simon and Schuster)

PB RRP $19.99
ISBN 978-073181455-8
Reviewed by Peta Biggin

With Christmas fast approaching, Gemma and her friends, Felicity and Anne, are ready to enjoy a break in London. It’s time for them to partake in the rich, social life on offer – balls, gowns and the attentions of handsome, young men. However, Gemma’s disturbing visions won’t allow her to relax. Soon the three friends are pulled into a dangerous quest to bind the magic within the Realms and protect it from the evil Circe. Little does she realise, but Gemma is still being followed by the mysterious Kartik; this time he has been given a deadly mission to fulfil that will threaten Gemma’s life. Can the friends discover the secret to binding the magic of the Realms in time to avoid disaster?

Originally published in 2007, Rebel Angels is the second instalment of the gothic Gemma Doyle Trilogy. After thoroughly enjoying A Great and Terrible Beauty, I was certainly looking forward to this next offering in the series. And I wasn’t disappointed – Rebel Angels is a strong follow-on from the first book. In addition to presenting the reader with an exciting adventure, we also learn a little more about the three girls at the centre of the story: their strengths, weaknesses and some dark family secrets.

It is a relentless journey for our main character Gemma. Not only does she find herself attempting to thwart the evil Circe from possessing the magic in the Realms; but she must deal with the reality of her father’s drug addiction and decide whether to accept or reject the attentions of the rich and handsome Simon Middleton. It is no surprise that by the end of the book, Gemma is a little wiser and more mature.

Similar to the first book, Rebel Angels also presents a commentary on life in Victorian society: social positioning, the role of women and the shallow attitudes of the aristocracy. Again, like the previous novel, there are some dark concepts introduced into the characters’ lives – drug addiction and the suggestion of incest.

Overall, I enjoyed reading Rebel Angels and found it a solid continuation of the series. I am looking forward to discovering Gemma’s future in the final instalment, The Sweet Far Thing.

Libba Bray is an American YA novelist whose other titles include Vacations from Hell and Going Bovine, amongst several others. She currently lives in New York with her family. According to her website, she has an artificial left eye as a result of a car accident when she was eighteen.