Thursday, 31 March 2011

Going Solo

Going Solo by Sue Lawson (black dog books)
PB RRP $7.99
ISBN 9781742031682
Reviewed by Vicki Stanton

Going Solo is the third title in the Diva series for younger readers by award-winning author Sue Lawson. The hero of the story Mickey Farrell is continuing on her quest to win the Dream Diva competition. Along the way she makes friends and encounters the best and the worst in people. I love how Mickey considers others and although Dream Diva is her ultimate goal she is not prepared to step on others to achieve it.

Going Solo has all the zip and fun of the previous two books in the series. In fact, with each book, I like the characters even more. It is wonderful that a book for newly competent readers or reluctant readers incorporates character development as well as fast action and snappy dialogue.

Going Solo is the perfect book for young fans of Australian Idol and similar shows and is great value at $7.99.  I expect that the shelves of many younger readers will include the whole series.

Monday, 28 March 2011

The Golden Day

The Golden Day by Ursula Dubosarsky (Allen and Unwin)
PB RRP $19.99
ISBN 9781742374710
Reviewed by Nean McKenzie

Set in Sydney in the late 1960s, The Golden Day is about a class at a private girl's school whose teacher goes missing on an excursion. Reminiscent of Picnic at Hanging Rock, this is written for a younger audience of late primary to early secondary age. The teacher's disappearance and the girls' silence creates an aftermath of drama and mystery. This lasts until the very last page — and beyond.

The writing is characteristically poetic and original. An underlying humour is present in phrases like 'Every play lunch Georgina bought a pineapple doughnut at the tuckshop, which she ate in great gulps like a dog'. Miss Renshaw, the teacher, is described as 'tall, noble and strong. Her hair was red and springy. She was like a lion.' Icara, is described as 'far-flung' by her teacher, who then writes it on the board in yellow chalk.

The characters are around ten years old, but the story illustrates an awareness of issues beyond their years. Cubby sees chilling words written on an empty blackboard 'Not now, not ever' as the eleven girls sit in their classroom waiting for their teacher to return. She is also aware of something between Icara's father, the judge, and 'fit to be loved' Amanda, although it is not put in so many words.

The most striking aspect of this book is the mood. The first chapter begins with a class discussion of the hanging of Ronald Ryan and finishes with the phrase 'Wait for me' foreshadowing forthcoming events. The last part of the book jumps forward to 1975 as four of the girls have finished their last school exam. Just when it seems there will be an explanation of what really happened there is a twist, leaving the reader with an uneasy feeling. Is anything really as it seems?

Friday, 25 March 2011

Moonshadow 3: The Twilight War

Moonshadow 3: The Twilight War by Simon Higgins (Random House)
PB RRP $16.95
ISBN 978-1-8647-1977-2
Reviewed by Oliver Phommavanh

Moonshadow returns in his most deadly mission yet in The Twilight War. It is a novel for younger readers that focuses on Grey Light Order, a clan of samurai caught up in a feud with the Fuma Clan.

Fans would have noticed Moonshadow’s friend Snowhawk, an ex-member of the Fuma Clan is now accepted by the Grey Light Order, but there are still lingering doubts. Is Snowhawk really a double agent? 

The Fuma Clan attack the Grey Light Order’s headquarters and snatch Snowhawk, but no one knows for sure if she was kidnapped or willingly left with them. Moonshadow is determined to find out the truth. He is sent to track Snowhawk down and see which side she’s really on.

Higgins’s expertise in Japanese martial arts and ancient history adds an extra layer to this exciting story. Like with other books in the series, there’s a glossary with Japanese terms. I’d recommend it to anyone who is learning about Japan at school or just interested in Japanese culture. The action is relentless as Higgins gives detailed descriptions of all the moves and strategies. It’s like reading a manga without the pictures, though it’s easy to really picture this like it’s an anime adaptation.

The characters have their quirky personalities. I loved reading more about Groundspider as he accompanies Moonshadow on the mission. He’s a dependable guy with a wicked sense of humour. He supplies most of the lighter moments in a tense story. Regular favourites also return but essentially this is all about Moonshadow.  

The Twilight War sets things up for another heart-thumping book. You don’t need to read the previous books. However, I’m sure new fans will want to read them all after this latest instalment. Highly recommended for ages 9 and up.  

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

To Die For

To Die For by Mark Svendsen (Random House)
PB RRP $16.95
ISBN 978-1-8647-1931-4
Reviewed by Oliver Phommavanh

To Die For is a novel for teenage readers that takes you deep into the world of Christos, a fishing nut. His fourteenth birthday present is a chance to take his dad’s dory out for a trip. It turns out to be Christos’s longest night of his life when his dory gets caught in a reef and he faces a shark that constantly stalks him. Christos is trapped as he works out a strategy to ward off the shark and escape.

This is an interesting narrative, mainly because there is only Christos for most of the story. Svendsen has cleverly inserted other characters through voices and flashbacks in his head. Even the dory becomes a mini character. Christos also talks to himself and this internal dialogue carries the story along. There are heaps of italics to represent his thought processes. Once you get used to this style, it’ll read at a rapid pace.

Svendsen captures the voice of an independent teenager well. He wants to make his parents proud, get the girl of his dreams and revels in his little freedom. When his life is in danger, you get a real sense of what is really important to him. Svendsen tackles the fishing terms with ease, so readers will learn a thing or two.  

To Die For is a great story of self-discovery and survival. Recommended for ages 13 and up.  

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Aliens in Underpants Save the World

Aliens in Underpants Save the World by Claire Freedman, illustrated by Ben Cort (Simon and Schuster)
HB RRP $14.99
ISBN 978-184738969-5
Reviewed by Peta Biggin

Aliens in underpants are back.  This time, the aliens are on a mission to save the world.  A huge meteorite is heading towards Earth and the aliens’ supply of underpants is under threat.  If the aliens are going to save the planet and protect their beloved underpants, they’re going to have to act fast.  Can they do it?  Can they save the day? 

From the creators of the bestselling Aliens in Underpants comes this new adventure featuring some unlikely heroes…in underpants.  The book finds the aliens in the position of needing to save the world (and all the underpants) from a giant meteor.  With quick thinking, they gather all the pants they can – including a pair of polka dotted bloomers – which they stitch together.  The result is an enormous pair of pants that the aliens stretch across the planet to bounce the meteor back into space.

Written in rhyme, the prose seems to bounce along making this a great read-aloud book for preschoolers. 

                             Aliens love underpants,
                             It’s lucky that they do,
                             For pants helped save our universe,
                             Sounds crazy, but it’s true!

Ben Cort’s illustrations are wonderful; full of colour, life and detail.  The aliens come in all sorts of sizes, shapes and colours; as well as being featured in some rather garish underwear.  There are plenty of small details providing lots to see on each page: graffiti on the spaceships; hiding aliens; and underpants appearing as flags, balloons and on bumper stickers. 

Aliens in Underpants Save the World is light-hearted; a bit silly; and, above all, a really fun story. 

Claire Freedman has written many children’s books including Aliens Love Underpants, Squabble and Squawk and Follow That Bear If You Dare!  She lives in Essex with her family.  Ben Cort has illustrated for many picture books including Aliens Love Underpants, The Shark in the Dark and Muddle Jungle.  He lives in Bedfordshire with his family.

Monday, 21 March 2011

First Light

First Light by Rebecca Stead (Text)
PB RRP $16.95
ISBN 9781921758256
Reviewed by Nean McKenzie.

Set on the ice in Greenland, this is the story of two teenagers, Peter and Thea, who come from very different places. Peter is visiting from New York with his glaciologist father on a scientific expedition. Thea lives beneath the ice in a land that never sees the sun. As the story progresses the lives of Peter and Thea intersect and secrets are explained. This is fantasy fiction suitable for older primary or younger secondary school students.

Thea lives in Gracehope, underneath an arctic glacier. Her ancestors retreated here after being hunted, generations ago. Ingenious inventions enable the population to breathe, build houses and eat. They skate everywhere and each person has a dog as a companion. Thea longs to go up to the surface, also a dream of her late mother.

Peter has just started noticing strange visual sensations, followed by a headache. His mother also gets headaches, and is withdrawn for periods of time. Although he doesn't understand, Peter knows that his parents are searching for something. As the visual disturbances increase, Peter finds himself more and more drawn towards finding out about his mother.  

The highlight of this book is Gracehope, a vividly imagined world with its own unique customs and people. The tie-in to the 'real' world is global warming which is a topical subject. However sometimes the explanations by Peter's parents can be quite expositional. The point of view swaps smoothly between chapters from Peter to Thea, eventually combining when they meet. The preface, with a vital clue to the secret, immediately sets the scene in fantasy.    

First Light is about having the courage to search for important things. It will be enjoyed by young adults who like to stretch their imaginations. 

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Dangerously Placed

Dangerously Placed by Nansi Kunze (Random House)
PB RRP $17.95
ISBN 978-1-8647-1882-9
Reviewed by Oliver Phommavanh

Dangerously Placed is a novel for teenage readers about friends who do work experience in various places. The main character Alex Thaler lands a dream placement in Virk, a company that has a ‘virtual’ office. Workers wear a Virtual Reality suit and enter this computer-generated environment, mingling with employees from all over the globe. Alex wants to extend her stay in this technologically advanced company with a graduate position. But she gets more than she bargains for, when her fiery boss is virtually murdered and actually dies in real life.

Alex is a likeable lead character. As she moves up and down the prime suspect list, she’s determined to find the killer herself with the help of her goofy friends. They’re a hoot, joking around when times get tough.  
I also really enjoyed the technological aspects of the novel, working in a virtual office sounds like fun but this ‘not too distant future’ side is never really explored. The novel switches from thriller to romance effortlessly, so it’s a frisky read from start to finish. There are two love interests thrown into the mix, though the tension fades halfway. Still, readers will like Alex’s romantic reactions.
Dangerously Placed is an amusing story that mix-mashes genres. It’s hard to say if strictly romance or thriller fans will like it, but I think they should give it a go. Recommended for ages 13 and up.          

Saturday, 19 March 2011

The Great Rabbit Rescue

The Great Rabbit Rescue by Katie Davies and illustrated by Hannah Shaw (Simon and Schuster)
PB RRP $12.99
ISBN 978-184738596-3
Reviewed by Peta Biggin

Joe has gone to live with his dad and he’s had to leave behind his beloved pet rabbit.  His best friends, Anna and Suzanne, try to look after it for him but when the rabbit becomes ill they are convinced it’s because it is missing Joe.  Now that Joe has become sick as well, the girls are certain that both he and the rabbit are going to die.  So they decide to embark on a rescue mission, trying to get across town to Joe’s dad’s house to reunite the rabbit and its owner.  But, will they be in time?

The Great Rabbit Rescue is a very funny story told from the perspective of nine year old Anna.  Reading this book reminded me of many a conversation with children of the same age as our heroine.  There is a rambling quality to the narrative that brings an authenticity, without diluting the story.

Anna is a lovely character: curious, adventurous and loyal.  I found it difficult not to get caught up in her perspective of life and the world around her.  The overall tale is peppered with the little details that children find important and adults overlook: that rabbits need constant guarding from the neighbourhood cats; the finer points of walkie-talkie etiquette; whether a dictionary can be saved after it has been dropped in the toilet.

Apart from the humour, the thing about this book that really appealed to me was the wonderful sense of loyalty between the friends.  Despite their misguided motivations, the girls act out of a genuine desire to do the right thing for Joe.

Even though the main characters are girls, I would think that boys would find this just as enjoyable as girls.  Anna and Suzanne are quite tomboyish: they enjoy their secret club and bicycle stunts.  The book does appear quite long at over 200 pages, however the font is quite large and there are lots of wonderful black and white illustrations spread throughout to break up the pages.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading The Great Rabbit Rescue and would recommend it for any budding young rescuer.

Katie Davies has written for The Spectator and The Idler; and written and performed various sketches for the Radio 4 comedy show, One.  Her first children’s book The Great Hamster Massacre was published in 2010.  She lives in North London with her husband and baby daughter.  Hannah Shaw is a writer-illustrator who has created many picture and chapter books.  Some titles include: The Sleep Sheep, School for Bandits, How to Catch a Criminal (written by Dominic Barker) and Ghaddar the Ghoul (written by Sonia Nimr).  She currently lives in Gloucestershire with her husband.  

Friday, 18 March 2011

Fromelles: Australia's Bloodiest Day at War

Fromelles: Australia's Bloodiest Day at War by Carole Wilkinson (black dog books)
PB RRP $18.99
ISBN 9781742031767
Reviewed by Vicki Stanton

I knew this book was going to be a fantastic read from the moment I opened it and read the quotation from Jose Narosky: In war, there are no unwounded soldiers. On the facing page is the poignant portrait of a young soldier, Private Charles Henry Brear, and a woman. Brear was killed in the carnage that was the Battle of Fromelles on 19 July 1916.

All Australians should know of the Battle of Fromelles. It is our nation's biggest disaster with 5533 casualties in under 24 hours. It was the first battle that Australian troops participated in on the Western Front. Yet until recently very little was known about the battle. This was not by accident. The operation was such a disaster that the army downplayed the event until the efforts of Melbourne high school teacher Lambis Englezos brought it world-wide attention.

As with all the titles in the excellent Drum series, there is a timeline, text-boxes, primary source quotations, photographs, maps, a glossary, index and bibliography. Wilkinson covers the lead-up to the battle with Australia's entry into World War One, the Gallipoli campaign, training in Egypt, the commanders, battalions involved, and weapons of the Allies and the Germans. The actual battle manoeuvres are covered in detail and a discussion on what went wrong. Particularly pleasing is the inclusion of the French and German perspective in this history, essential for a full understanding of the battle and the war and its repercussions not only for the soldiers but the people that lived and worked alongside the war everyday.

A stand-out feature of Fromelles, one which makes the book so compelling and able to connect with readers, is the combination of non-fiction and fiction. Fictional diary entries from Australian and German combatants highlight the emotion, beliefs and actions of ordinary men called upon to participate in extraordinary events. This is history told at its finest.

Lest we forget.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

A Long Walk to Water

A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park (UQP)
PB RRP $16.95
ISBN: 9780702238703
Reviewed by Jo Burnell

How do you let children experience the devastation of war without overwhelming them? Is it possible to be immersed in the realities of desert life when you’ve never had to go thirsty? Linda Sue Park masterfully combines facts with a spellbinding yarn to achieve both these goals. Although her two main characters are fictional, their stories are a blend of many real life experiences.

Salva and Nya live in the same land, 23 years apart. Their stories are carefully juxtaposed, with moments of high drama triggering the switch between stories. It takes a unique skill to draw the reader on at such critical points, rather than put them off reading altogether. Linda Sue Park is such a master.

Salva is told to run as war visits his homeland in 1985. Being a boy forces his flight. It’s the only way he can avoid being enlisted as a child soldier. However, Salva doesn’t know what has happened to his family and he can’t return to find out. His journey takes him from Southern Sudan across desert, over a great river to Ethiopia and, years later, back through the same lands and into Kenya. Starvation and exhaustion hem him in on one side, while strangers with guns threaten on the other.

Because she is a girl, Nya’s fate in 2008 is to fetch water every day. Her daily journey across thorns and rocky paths takes hours each way. There is no chance for learning other skills. The family needs her water to survive.

Page by page, Salva’s and Nya’s worlds draw closer until they finally meet in real time. Salva returns to his homeland with an amazing gift, thus freeing Nya to dream of a different world.

A Long Walk to Water is one of the most captivating books I have ever read. The dramatic story structure melds difficult facts and horrific details into a palatable, easy read for children. A Long Walk to Water is sure to find a permanent place in school and home libraries alike. If there is only one book you read this year, let it be A Long Walk to Water.
Jo Burnell is passionate about hooking reluctant and struggling readers into the world of books. Her current project looks at Juveniles in Jail today which aims to open doors to the Juvenile Justice System through a combination of Facts, Fictional Play Scripts and Faction. 

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Dress Rehearsal

Dress Rehearsal by Zoe Thurner (Fremantle Press)
PB RRP $19.95
ISBN 9-781-921-696-671
Reviewed by Neridah McMullin

Dress Rehearsal is a fast moving, tumultuous and lively read for Young Adult fiction readers.

Lara is our protagonist and at first she’s seems to be the anti-hero. She is obviously smart and strong willed, but initially seems to lack substance and her social motives seem contrite. But this is not the case at all. Lara is honest and true to herself. She is very funny and self-effacing, I found myself laughing out a loud a couple of times with some of the things she says. I have teenagers and I can see exactly where Lara is at. Zoe has captured this so clearly and I’m sure this will be accessible and engaging to teenage readers.

Lara is self conscious and confused. She questions everything around her and I think she’s very brave despite the fact she feels in limbo with herself, her mum and dad, her friends and in fact, the entire universe. It’s a turbulent and confronting story but its not teenage angst; it is an emotionally intelligent story.

Zoe Thurner’s narrative voice is strong and clear and she does an extremely effective job in showing how Lara feels how and why she feels the way she does. She expresses this in language typical of this age group and as the story evolves, you can feel Lara and her friends growing up. You can feel the ‘clarification’.

Lara is in love and this comes with its own set of complications and consequences but it’s not ‘corny’ or ‘mushy’. It’s resolves itself naturally, almost in a typically stoic and ‘Australian’ way. But it’s refreshing and uplifting as well.

This story is written in a distinctive and engaging style and is to be thoroughly recommended to Young Adult readers. This Zoe Thurner’s first novel and I can’t wait to read her next book!

Neridah McMullin is the author of two books for children. Her next book is an 'aussie rules' story called 'Kick it to me!' that's being endorsed by the Australian Football League. Neridah loves family, footy, and doing yoga with her cat Carlos (who also loves footy)

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

The Floods: Lost

Lost (Floods) Lost (Floods) by Colin Thompson (Random House)
PB RRP $15.95
ISBN 978-1-8647-1946-8
Reviewed by Oliver Phommavanh

The Floods continue to ‘reign’ havoc in their latest adventure for younger readers and fans who have grown up with the kooky family. The Floods have returned to their homeland of Transylvania Waters, ready to rule once again. However, the country needs to be brought up to date with the latest technology and trends. For starters, Transylvania Waters doesn’t even have an official map. So Winchflat’s new wife Maldegard has been appointed as the new mapmaker.

However Maldegard and her assistant Edna discover that almost of the towns, streets and places don’t have a name at all. So they’ve become ‘namers’ too. The two ladies set up on a fabulous journey that will take them to weird and wacky places.

I'm not ashamed to admit that I read Flood series for the footnotes. They’ve become hilarious and largely irrelevant with every new book. Thompson has a blast, writing pockets of silly comments and observations that take you into his life. His commentary on Facebook and Twitter are priceless.

Of course, there is plenty of clever wordplay and humour in the main story, especially with Maldegard and Edna’s name choices. They meet some bumbling locals who don’t see the point in knowing where they are.
There’s a cool sub-plot that sees different groups trying to overthrow the Floods as the rulers of Transylvania Waters. Long term Thompson fans will love the little cameo from a classic character.

The Floods: Lost is another ripping read from Thompson and with the next book, Disasterchef in the works, there will be more laughs ahead. Recommended for ages 9 and up.      

Monday, 14 March 2011

The Staring Owl

The Staring Owl written and illustrated by Luke Edwards (Omnibus for Scholastic Australia
HB RRP $22.99 
ISBN 9781862919112
Reviewed by Dawn Meredith.

A singularly unique book, this volume grabs you straight away with its cover – an owl with huge, staring, golden eyes. The size of the book (208x135) is a very comfortable format and the matte finish works well with the glossy yellow eyes.

Owl is a born champion starer and finds it difficult to understand why people object to something he thinks is perfectly natural. In looking for employment he considers the Air Force, becoming a therapist or a spy, but each of these jobs has its limitations for someone who loves to stare, unblinking, for hours. The only sanctuary he finds is in the art gallery. Until one day…

Edwards’ style of illustration reminds me of Matisse. Heavy charcoal  lines, simple shapes, good solid composition. The only colour on each page is reserved for Owl’s staring eyes. I found by the time I reached the end of the story my eyes were wide open and my brows raised. Hilarious!

The writing is unpretentious, humorous and emotionally accessible for children:

          Unfortunately, most people aren’t used to being stared at. Owl’s piercing gaze could make them very uneasy. It was hard for Owl too. Everyone treated him like some kind of weirdo.

You get the feeling Owl knows what it’s like to be on the outer social rim, looking in, bewildered. Many children may relate to this feeling. I know I do! I did enjoy this book and I think its quirky subject matter make it fun to read.

Scholastic provide teacher’s notes written by Anita Jonsberg which can be downloaded here:

Dawn Meredith writes from the Blue Mountains. She was awarded a May Gibbs Writer’s fellowship in 2011. You can follow her exploits here:

Sunday, 13 March 2011


Paladin by Dave Luckett (Omnibus for Scholastic Australia) 
PB RRP $17.99 
ISBN 9781862918672
Reviewed by Dawn Meredith

Sam and Finny know each other from school, but in the other world, the dangerous world where the magic in dark forests is real, Sam is a natural born Paladin, champion of right, unafraid of wizards and bullies.

Tricked into staying in the strange land of Westron, ruled by the Council of the Wise, Sam must fight their battles for them in order to return home to his mother, whom he is increasingly worried about. What confuses Sam is where he got his powers from. Evil is lurking everywhere in Westron. Sendings, dark beings of immense power and slobbering rage pop up when you least expect it. But where are they coming from and who is creating them? For what purpose?

When Finny, a powerful wizard herself, goes missing, Sam is assigned to experienced knight Sir Hugh to find her. In the real world, where her stepfather Jamie cruelly reigns, Finny’s natural magic is of no help to her. Now Sam has to fight for truth and justice in both worlds.

Dave Luckett is the award winning author of the Rhianna and Tenabran series and lives in Perth, W.A.

Dawn Meredith writes from the Blue Mountains and is a May Gibbs Fellow 2011. You can follow her exploits at 

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Space Scout: The Kid Kingdom

Space Scout: The Kid Kingdom by H. Badger, cover by M. Deeble, illustrated by D. Greulich (Hardie Grant Egmont)
PB RRP $9.95
ISBN 978-192175976-5
Reviewed by Lillian Rodrigues-Pang

Space Scout is a high action low word count series written to capture the imagination of reluctant readers. It places the reader in the future, when the earth is overcrowded and water is running out. Space scouts are specially trained individuals who venture into the universe in search of a new habitable planet for humans to move to. We travel through the universe with Kip, the youngest of the space scouts at 12 years old.

Kip is a likeable main character; presented with faults and strengths. His sidekick is a half human, half arctic wolf named Finbar. Together they complete Space Scout missions in a space ship with attitude.

This book – The Kid Kingdom has a very attractive premise, a planet with no parents. Kip travels to a planet that is ruled by a 12-year-old boy (his space double) and fun is the name of the game. The planet has a giant water bomb cannon, chocolate fountains that are free for all and allows kids to ride hover boards wherever they like. As you can imagine Kip is very attracted to this planet and the way the kids live.

No adults exist on the planet, the kids grow till the age of 13 and then they reverse age to become babies again – no death and no need for parents (and their rules). Kip’s adventure there is full of page turning games and mischief. It is up to Kip’s sidekick, Finbar to remain alert and recognise danger when it presents itself.

The book contains many wonderful ‘inventions’ such as the exploding matter cap worn when playing chasing. These caps explode the wearers matter into space, rendering them instantly invisible. The effects wear off in two minutes. When an invention is mentioned it is accompanied by an illustration. My son and daughter enjoyed the illustrations and ideas they presented a lot, as the book is jam-packed with wonderful futuristic inventions.

This book is fast paced, easy reading and a lot of fun. It contains a twist at the end and delightful imagery in the text. I recommend it for boys and girls and, in particular, advanced readers of a young age as the language and ideas are clean and fun.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Bindi Wildlife Adventures: Lost

Bindi Wildlife Adventures: Lost by Jess Black (Random House)
PB RRP $9.95
ISBN 978-1-8647-1854-6
Reviewed by Oliver Phommavanh

Bindi’s largely successful series continues with Lost, one of four new books in the Wildlife Adventure collection. Lost is an interesting story set in Kakadu. The Irwins travel to the national park to visit some old friends. DJ is an aboriginal kid keeps Bindi and her brother Robert amused with all sorts of facts.

When Bindi and DJ find a tourist who has lost her boyfriend, they’re involved in the search. Bindi spots a cockatoo that seems to be trying tell them something. Will the cockatoo lead them to the missing boyfriend or will they become lost themselves?

DJ’s a funny character, eager to show his friends around, even if he’s unsure himself. The book briefly deals with what happens when you’re too proud to admit that you’re wrong. The story flows along, as Bindi and DJ try to find their way back. The book comes with a neat animal file on the sulphur-crested cockatoo.

Bindi’s latest book Lost will please fans with a great mix of facts and thrills. There’s also a wonderful conservation message that runs throughout every book. Recommended for ages 7 and up.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Jim Springman and the Realm of Glory

Jim Springman and the Realm of Glory by Joshua Wright (Scholastic Press)
PB RRP $17.99
ISBN 9781741695632
Reviewed by Dawn Meredith

Jim’s birthday is a disaster. His crazy scientist brother, Fletcher, has just invented a machine that alters reality, changing the world they live in. Suddenly all the worst imaginings of nightmares become true. The strange and unbelievable become everyday and Jim is derided as being responsible. His school disappears, the shops have morphed into witchcraft suppliers. In short, his home of Queen’s port is becoming the fantasy town created by his sister, Ingrid, in her book ‘The Realm of Glory’ – a book he absolutely loathes.

This book has an ‘Alice in Wonderland’ feel and the plot rolls along comfortably. Fortunately for Jim, his two new neighbours, Ruthie and her sister Josie are ’Realm of Glory’ fanatics. As the world becomes the book, the girls advise Jim on how to tackle the craziness that ensues. Is Mrs Abberdaber a child eating witch or just a slightly strange old lady? A goblin called Charles seems helpful, but will he betray them at the first opportunity? Will Zervilleer the firedrake blast them to ash? A fat sparrow the size of a Toyota circles the skies toting a banner from its tail advertising ‘10% off Invisibility Balm…’

It’s a race against time, as the world Jim knows as his own slowly changes permanently into the fantasy world of his sister’s weird imagination. Can he stop it and change it all back to normal or will they all be stuck in the fifth dimension forever? Will big brother Fletcher return home to help save his family?

This is Wright’s first book with Scholastic Press.

Dawn Meredith writes from the Blue Mountains and is a May Gibbs Fellow 2011. You can follow her exploits at 

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Piglet and Granny

Piglet and Granny by Margaret Wild & Stephen Michael King (Working Title Press)
PB RRP $14.95
ISBN 9781921504204

Reviewed by Jenny Mounfield

First released a couple of years ago in hardback, this companion to CBC Notable Award winners: Piglet and Mamma and Piglet and Papa is now available in the more affordable full colour paperback.

Piglet loves nothing more than hanging out with Granny. Whenever Granny visits they have the best fun. But one day Piglet waits and waits and there’s no sign of Granny. While Piglet performs a number of feats Granny taught her, such as wobbling along walls and rolling down hills, a number of curious friends pass by and ask Piglet what she is doing.  ‘I’m waiting for her to visit,’ is Piglet’s stock response. After much waiting, and playing, Granny does, of course, come, and when she does she has a surprise in store for Piglet.

It’s easy to see why Wild has won numerous awards for her books. With such linguistic treats as this she is set to win many more:

‘Although Granny was soft and squishy, she was as lively as a family of leaping frogs. And she had such good ideas for things to do.’

King is no stranger to awards either. Most recently, Pocket Dogs Go On Holiday (Margaret Wild), Perry Angel’s Suitcase and Applesauce and the Christmas Miracle (both by Glenda Millard) have all attracted attention. In Piglet and Granny his illustrations are as always a perfect accompaniment to Wild’s narrative. His use of muted colours and a gentle style lend a wonderful innocence to the text. And as in all good picture books, the illustrations add an extra layer to the tale: As Piglet rolls and wobbles and leaps about, a succession of other small animals mimic her in the background.

Piglet and Granny is a timeless story that explores the special bond between children and their grandparents. A true delight, its success lies in its simplicity. Already a favourite of many children and grandparents, Piglet and Granny is set to win over many more fans with its second release. Highly recommended. In 2009 Margaret Hamilton awarded Piglet and Granny five stars in Bookseller & Publisher.

Jenny Mounfield is the author of three novels for kids: Storm Born (Koala Books), The Black Bandit (Lothian) and the recently released, The Ice-cream Man (Ford Street Publishing). She lives in north Brisbane with her husband and three children.

Monday, 7 March 2011

Rising Star

Rising Star by Sue Lawson (black dog books)
PB RRP $7.99
ISBN 9781742031682
Reviewed by Vicki Stanton

Rising Star is the second title in the popular Diva series, re-released for 2011. Mickey Farrell has reached round two of the Diva competition and things are heating up. Mickey is a very likeable protagonist who is keen to win and fulfil her dream of becoming a singing star but, unlike some of her co-contestants, is always aware of supporting the other girls. She has been reunited with her friend Erin and her nemesis Coco. Tricks abound, and friendships falter and are put right.

Lawson writes in a very easy style and telling the story first-person, present tense draws the reader into the fast-paced action immediately. Primary school girls are bound to love the Diva series and will recognise many of the characters and are sure to relate to Mickey.

Friday, 4 March 2011

Mozzie and Midgie

Mozzie and Midgie by Doug MacLeod, illustrated by Sandy Okalyi (Working Title Press)
HB RRP $24.95 
ISBN: 978 1 92150431 0
Reviewed by Jenny Mounfield

Mozzie and Midgie are a pair of spoonbills living with their family on an island off the Queensland coast. One day a vain parrot tells them they’re nothing special because they’re only black and white, not brightly coloured like him. “‘Let’s find a way of making ourselves beautiful,’ said Mozzie, who was three minutes older than Midgie and full of good ideas.” And so begins Mozzie and Midgie’s hilarious beautification project.

When I first encountered Okalyi’s blocky illustrations I confess to not being particularly fussed. However, seeing how much humour she has managed to infuse in these very simple pictures has convinced me of her incredible talent. I laughed out loud as Mozzie and Midgie made skirts from leaves and elaborate—and really quite lovely—crowns from soldier crabs. As the story progresses the pair’s creations get more and more outlandish, until finally they realise that they are perfectly special just as they are.

Humorous and succinct, MacLeod’s narrative is a seamless addition to Okalyi’s illustrations:

‘Now we look beautiful,’ said Mozzie.     
‘No,’ said Midgie. ‘We look like spoonbills with butterflies coming out of our bottoms.’

Mozzie and Midgie is not only great fun, but it contains a wisdom that will impact on children and adults alike. Without hesitation I give this one five stars. Highly recommended!

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 and also contributes to The Compulsive Reader: 

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Angel Creek

Angel Creek by Sally Rippin (Text Publishing)
ISBN 9781921758058
PB RRP $16.95
Reviewed by Nean McKenzie

Angel Creek is a story about what happens to a girl named Jelly the summer before she starts secondary school. It's about magical discoveries, secrets from family and the awareness that growing up is just around the corner. This book should appeal to 8-12 year old girls as well as some boys of this age.

The story begins just before Christmas when Jelly and her cousins find a baby angel by the creek behind Jelly's new house. They decide to keep it and hide it, not telling anyone else. This is when things start to go wrong. Jelly's Nonna goes to hospital and then the baby cousin gets sick. Is this all just a coincidence or does it have something to do with the angel?

At the centre of the story is Jelly, an admirable character who isn't scared of much. She still climbs trees and scrapes her knees but she is aware of Spook, a boy who will be going to her new school. The story switches smoothly between the otherworldliness of the angel to Jelly's everyday life. There's a dramatic climax, then a satisfying ending that pleasingly doesn't feel the need to explain absolutely everything.  

With an ethereal cover (by WH Chong) and angel's wings at the start of each chapter, the supernatural theme is strong and appealing for young people this age. Angel Creek is an imaginative and assured move into writing for older children by Sally Rippin

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Marshall Armstrong is New to Our School

Marshall Armstrong is New to Our School by David Mackintosh (HarperCollins)
HB RRP $24.99
ISBN 9780007361410
Reviewed by Sharon McGuinness

Marshall Armstrong is new to our school. He is different to me... His things are different to mine”

David Mackintosh’s new picture book explores the viewpoint of a child who is unimpressed that he must sit next to the new student in class. Immediately, the unnamed child makes some assumptions about Marshall, based on what he looks like, his belongings and his behaviour at school and decides that:“Marshall Armstrong doesn't fit in at our school.”

Through Mackintosh’s quirky illustrations and engaging story, we understand how it feels to be different  - to stand out and not be accepted. Marshall may often be alone, but he does not appear to be lonely. He accepts his differences, even seeming to celebrate them. We develop the impression that Marshall is a strong character and he certainly does not conjure feelings of sympathy from the reader.

When Marshall invites the whole class to his birthday party, his classmate laments all the things he believes they won’t be allowed to do because Marshall eats different food, doesn’t play sport or has to stay in the shade. He expects everyone, especially himself will have a terrible time.This is the turning point in the book where Marshall is finally accepted for being himself.

Children and adults will all enjoy this latest book by Mackintosh, who has predominantly illustrated the work of others. I certainly hope he continues to write and illustrate as I believe this title will be an asset to any home or school library.