Tuesday, 30 November 2010
Monday, 29 November 2010
Saturday, 27 November 2010
Thursday, 25 November 2010
HB RRP $21.95 (PB RRP $16.95)
Reviewed by Vicki Stanton
Cats, Bats and Witches Hats is illustrator Michelle Dodd's debut as an author. At midnight, witches emerge from under the witches' hats on the road and create havoc with their magic brews until the sun begins to rise and they return to from whence they came.
Written in rhyme, the text plays cleverly on the terminology of the road: witches' hats, cats' eyes, road hog, zebra crossing, traffic jam and more. Children will be sure to enjoy the word play and will love the book being read aloud.
The illustrations are bold, colourful and humorous and make full use of each double spread. Each turn of the page provides a new surprise for the reader and I love the mayhem of the last spread which has the results of the witches' spells, such as a zebra, camel, bull and hog roaming the bush during the daylight hours once the witches have returned to their hidey-holes.
Cats, Bats and Witches Hats is wonderfully presented with illustrated endpapers and has a quality feel about it. This is Michele Dodd's first release following the loss of her home and studio in the tragic Black Saturday Bushfires in Victoria in February 2009.
Wednesday, 24 November 2010
Tuesday, 23 November 2010
PB RRP $14.99
Reviewed by Vicki Stanton
Dame Nellie Melba is the first title in the new Aussie Heroes series for younger readers. this is a fictionalised account of the life of Helen Porter, who became one of the greatest operatic singers the world has seen in Nellie Melba having taken on the moniker of Melba in deference to her love for her hometown.
In child-friendly language, this book explores Melba's family relationships particularly that with her father David Mitchell. In an era when society's only expectation for women was that they married and bore children, and that singing was considered a lowly profession, the strength of Nellie's character shines through. Nellie was an exceptionally talented singer but she needed more than that to succeed. She needed a strong will, courage and determination.
And she needed plenty of it. Another obstacle thrown in her way was the snobbery of the British and Europeans towards a 'colonial', including it seems Arthur Sullivan of he prominent musical duo Gilbert and Sullivan. It was also interesting to see that Australians suffered from tall poppy syndrome in colonial and federation times! While Nellie Melba was single-minded in pursuit of her career she was not self-absorbed. During World War One she worked tirelessly, holding fundraising concerts and entertaining troops.
Colourful illustrations are liberally sprinkled throughout to break up the text. A time line of Nellie Melba's life is also included at the end. A further three books in the series are due to be released in 2011: Sir Edward 'Weary' Dunlop, Fred Hollows and Mary MacKillop.
Monday, 22 November 2010
Sunday, 21 November 2010
Saturday, 20 November 2010
Friday, 19 November 2010
Thursday, 18 November 2010
Wednesday, 17 November 2010
PB RRP $19.99
Reviewed by Vicki Stanton
It's no wonder that Mercy is ready to become an international hit. Rebecca Lim draws the reader into the story immediately with economical prose and tells the story of Mercy, the fallen and amnesic archangel, with great clarity and a very definite youth voice. This is an angel with attitude!
Written in first person present tense, the reader only knows what Mercy knows, feeling her confusion as she inhabits the body of an insecure but brilliant choir girl Carmen Zappacosta. Mercy does not fully understand her powers and does not know why she must shift from body to body. Is it to help the person whose identity she assumes, others around her, or is there an ulterior objective altogether?
Carmen has been billeted with the Daley family whose daughter Lauren, also an exceptional singer, went missing two years previously and is assumed dead by all except her twin brother Ryan. Mercy believes Ryan and tries to help him find Lauren putting herself in danger. A mysterious sub-plot running through the book, and I am sure throughout the series, is the appearance of other archangels, particularly Luc.
Even if you don't normally read fantasy, you will enjoy Mercy. Look also for the release of the sequels Exile and Muse in 2011.
Tuesday, 16 November 2010
PB RRP $11.99
Reviewed by Vicki Stanton
Hanging Out is another title in the excellent Mates series for younger readers. Written by one of my favourite authors, the wonderful Catherine Bateson, Hanging Out explores the rivalry between cousins Ben and Weston, and between Melbourne and Sydney.
Bateson states in her author profile that she was born in Sydney and now lives in Melbourne. I have the reverse experience of being born in Melbourne and living near Sydney and can fully testify to the ferocity of the competition between the two cities.
Melbourne boy, Ben, had been in awe of Sydney when he visited cousin Weston but true to the inter-city rivalry Ben had boasted of bigger and better things at home. Ben is aghast when Weston is to visit him and thinks he will be shown up as a fraud after boasting about such things as snorkelling in Port Phillip Bay with sharks and taking a steam train everywhere.
While Weston doesn't swim with sharks, he does see the Penguin Parade as the fairy penguins come ashore in the evening; and goes for a ride on Puffing Billy among other adventures. Weston thinks that everything in Melbourne is awesome.
Hanging Out is really just about that though - hanging out. While there maybe wonderful things to do and see everywhere you go, it is so much more enjoyable when there is someone to do and see all these things with. This is what the two boys come to realise in the end.
As with the other titles in the Mates series, the book is brilliantly presented and attractive to younger and reluctant readers. Adam Carruthers' coloured cartoon-like illustrations are full of life and fun. They are dotted throughout the book, breaking up the text. However, there is still plenty of white space so as not to overwhelm the reader. Variable fonts add to the quirkiness. I thoroughly enjoyed this story and highly recommend it.
Monday, 15 November 2010
Sunday, 14 November 2010
PB RRP $20 print; also e-book format on Amazon
Reviewed by Dr Stuart Jeanne Bramhall
f2m: the boy within is a sensitive, compelling fictional account of an 18 year old female-to-male transgender teenager and the emotional, social and physical challenges he faces in confronting transition. The writing style, which is extremely engaging, makes you inclined to keep reading once you start. I was especially impressed by the way it balances both the inner dialogue and lingo of turbulent late adolescence.
What I liked best about the novel was the authors' skill in portraying the subject as a multifaceted human being - a talented poet, composer and musician with clear political ideals and a distinct identity that is totally separate from social expectations that he identify with a specific gender role. In fact, it's almost as if he's caught in a time warp: he feels the normal drive of a late adolescent to pursue creative and career goals - yet owing to social stigma, he is unable to fully engage in either until he can physically conform to his self-identified gender. The main character is also quite unique in the closeness he feels towards his family and his extreme conscientiousness regarding family responsibilities.
I can see how this could be a very comforting guide for both teenagers and adults confronting a variety of gender identity issues - as well as their families. The authors cover all the bases involved in early transition - working through both positive and negative reactions of friends, family and employers; dealing with stigma and bullying; finding on-line and real-life support from other FTMs; making appropriate use of counselling; the medical and psychiatric assessments required to start hormone replacement and to get a surgery referral; and the physical and emotional side effects of starting hormones.
Most important of all, however, is the emphasis that there isn't just one acceptable way to transition from female to male. That the process involves a number of choice points, which is one reason why counseling is so helpful. Some FTMs opt not to take hormones. Some opt for breast removal surgery only and forgo genital reconstruction.
I sense the realistic, multifaceted characters - as well as the dramatic tension leading to the subject's decision to come out to various family members and their individual struggles to accept his decision - will also be quite appealing to mainstream readers. As a well-told story exploring one particular dimension of the human condition.
Further details: http://www.hazeledwards.com/page/f2mthe_boy_within.html
Saturday, 13 November 2010
Thursday, 11 November 2010
Wednesday, 10 November 2010
The Aussie Nutcracker by Heath McKenzie (black dog books)
HB RRP $14.99
Reviewed by Vicki Stanton
The Aussie Nutcracker is heath McKenzie's best book so far. Just in time for Christmas, McKenzie Australianises E.T.A. Hoffmann's classic story The Nutcracker and the Mouse King. Clara and Fritz become Clare and Felix and their magical godfather Herr Drosselmeyer is Uncle Don.
McKenzie stays true to the story but all the characters (apart from the mice) are depicted as Australian animals. Clare, Felix and Uncle Don are koalas, Felix's toy soldiers are a platypus, goanna, wombat and a possum, and the nutcracker is a giant red kangaroo. I loved the sugar glider cast as the Sugar Plum Fairy, ruler of the Land of Lollies.
McKenzie's illustrations are as bright, bold and colourful as always with the focus on the characters and the action. The snowy edging around the pages pays homage to the original tale. This book will be a sure Christmas hit, an ideal gift for children or to send to relatives and friends overseas. I highly recommend it.
Tuesday, 9 November 2010
Monday, 8 November 2010
Sunday, 7 November 2010
Saturday, 6 November 2010
Friday, 5 November 2010
Thursday, 4 November 2010
Phoebe Nash: Detective by Justin D’Ath (Laguna Bay)
PB RRP $14.95
Reviewed by Heather Zubek
This is the second in the series of adventure seeker Phoebe Nash. The first Phoebe Nash: Girl Warrior saw Phoebe and her family travelling through Africa. The second installment follows on from the first story with Phoebe looking forward to a visit from her African friend Sospeter. All the elements are there to get a young pre-teen reading – especially a young female pre-teen. Is Sospeter a boyfriend or not? Best friend dramas, Hanna Montana, make-up and of course the adventures of stolen sapphires and angry animal rights protestors. Author Justin D’Ath knows his audience and uses this knowledge effectively. Justin’s other series includes Extreme Adventures which has as its hero a young teenage boy. This new series is definitely aimed at young girls.
To really enjoy this second installment of Phoebe Nash, readers should read the first, Phoebe Nash: Girl Warrior. There are references to events in the first book that may confuse first time readers. Is it best to write each installment as a stand-alone? I don’t know the answer to this but I guess from a marketing standpoint having readers need to read the entire series is good business. Still, the second story is a great read and the fan base for the heroine should be growing. Suitable for competent readers aged 10+