Saturday, 30 April 2011

Faerie Winter

Faerie Winter by Janni Lee Simner (Random House)
HB RRP $18.95
ISBN 978-1-7427-5068-2  
Reviewed by Oliver Phommavanh       

Faerie Winter is the sequel to Bones of Faerie. Simner created a post-apocalyptic world that is recovering from a devastating war between humans and the magical Faerie. Liza is one of many humans who have magic powers. She used to hide her powers of summoning but not anymore. Now she’s free to use them. She’s rescued her mother from the deadly wastelands of Faerie and banished her evil father.

Now her town is on the verge of a famine as Winter hits. Plants and trees show no sign of growing. Liza wants to care for her mother but she’ll discover that their protective relationship works both ways. Just as the title suggests, this is a dark story with loads of icy tension, especially between Liza and her mother. Liza’s yearning for answers about the war and time of Before. But there’s a reason why Liza’s mother has kept quiet about the past.

The townsfolk are still nervous about the kids who have magic, including wolf Matthew and animal talker Kyle. They all band together to face a deadly lady in the forest, who’s on the trail to hunt down Liza’s mother.
Simner grips you with her distinct narrative and eerily descriptions of a barren world. It’s recommended that you read Bones of Faerie to make better sense of the story. The restrained use of magic doesn’t restrict the violence; in fact it enhances the action scenes because no one’s overly powerful. It’ll take more than magic for Liza to save the day.
Faerie Winter isn’t a complete sequel, it doesn’t hint at solving anything vital. But it does raise some interesting quesions, in another book perhaps? Recommended for ages 12 and up.

Friday, 22 April 2011

The Boy Who Wasn't There

The Boy Who Wasn't There by Michael Panckridge (black dog books)
PB RRP $16.99
ISBN 9781742031835
Reviewed by Vicki Stanton

The Boy Who Wasn't There is the first book in a new series, The Book of Gabrielle. Gabrielle, or Gaby, has woken in a hospital and has no memory of her previous life and no connection to anyone or anything from her past. A voice speaks to her and says she will receive redemption by helping others. She arrives at her foster home and strange and terrifying occurrences happen. Swarms of moths, spiders and birds attack, frightening visions appear and she feels as though she is being suffocated in the night.

A mysterious boy also lives in the house and Gaby is unsure of her foster parents. Gaby's story is also interspersed with notes from another inhabitant of the house. The story moves along quickly and Panckridge writes simply but in a compelling fashion. The Boy Who Wasn't There is a real page-turner. Twists are around every corner and I loved how during the bird attack Gaby makes a connection with the birds and eventually has some control over them.

The Book of Gabrielle series is bound to be a winner and will attract both girl and boy readers keen to discover Gaby's story as well as solve the mystery within each title.

Thursday, 21 April 2011

The Smartest Dog of All

The Smartest Dog of All by Ian Horrocks, illustrated by Sue deGennaro (Omnibus Books for Scholastic Australia)
PB RRP $11.99
ISBN 9781862918108
Reviewed by Vicki Stanton

Another gem from the treasure box called the Mates series.The Smartest Dog of All is a humorous and enjoyable story of a boy and his dog Wit or Whitlam when he is in trouble. Wit is a very demanding dog. In fact, he could be considered jealous and trouble ensues if Wit feels like he has been forgotten.

Wit is very clever, so clever he should be allowed to attend school, and so clever that when his owner receives Dog Training for Beginners for his birthday that Wit rips the book to bits. The boy is devastated but during the night his parents tape and glue the book back together. Wit does the tricks from the books so easily that the boy reckons that Wit has learnt to read. 'He just hadn't learned to turn the pages.' I laughed out loud at that line!

Humorous references to the political differences of opinion between Dad and Grandpop regarding Gough Whitlam and, later in the book, to Robert Menzies provide an additional layer to the text. There is also a note from author Ian Horrocks regarding Australia's prime ministers, the national sport of running down politicians and the importance of having an opinion.

Sue deGennaro's full colour illustrations are a highlight of the book. The personality of Wit is vividly bought to life. A warning - every young reader is bound to want a dog just like Wit. He is adorable!

The presentation of the book is another strength of the Mates series. Illustrations adorn every page, contributing to and breaking up the text. Newly competent or reluctant readers will be drawn to this format which is the perfect step from picture books for younger children to chapter books.

I can't rate this book or the series highly enough.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

A Penny in Time

A Penny in Time by Anna Bartlett, illustrated by Susy Boyer (IPKidz)
PB RRP $17.00, eBook $10.00
ISBN 9781921479489        
Reviewed by Margaret Warner 
Learning about history can be fun, as Yared unexpectedly discovers. He is unhappy when his parents leave him at his Nanna’s house while they take a holiday to sort out problems in their marriage. Although he tries to fit in with his Nanna’s brisk requests and strict routines he is unsettled and fearful of what might happen if his parents decide to separate.To make matters worse, he has a relief teacher who focuses unwanted attention on him when she asks about his ancestors as the class is studying family history. When he asserts that he is Australian although he was born in Ethiopia and adopted by Australian parents, she says that he isn’t.

That afternoon when Yared finds a box of old coins on his nanna’s dressing table, he thinks that he has found a treasure. It is a treasure, but not the kind that he expects. The 1911 penny that catches his eye becomes the focus of a nightly story told by his nanna. The stories surrounding the different owners of the penny span Australian history from Federation through to the 70s. The tales not only bring Yared and his grandmother closer but they also give Yared a feeling of belonging when his grandmother entrusts the penny to him. He knows that other children have held the same penny and ‘lost it, found it, dropped it, picked it up, spent it, saved it, thrown it and held it tightly’. Now it is his.

This book would suit students in upper primary and is a great way to make history more personal and engaging.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Lyli Meets the Stone-Muncher

Lyli Meets the Stone-Muncher written and illustrated by Célinne Eimann (IP Kidz)
HB $26.00, eBook $13.00
ISBN 9781921479991
Reviewed by Margaret Warner

Children are naturally inquisitive and it is this inquisitiveness that motivates Lyli to search for a hidden, secret tunnel through the mountain to find out what lies on the other side.

When Lyli and her cat, Tyki go exploring and stumble on the entrance to the tunnel they are not sure what to expect. Legend says that the Green Stone-Muncher that will gobble up anything, created the secret tunnel.

However, when the child and the monster meet they are both in for a surprise. Monsters are usually portrayed in children’s books as scary creatures but in this one the monster is definitely friendly and helpful. Fear turns to friendship and as a result everyone in the town benefits, as does the monster.

As the narrative unfolds, the beautiful watercolour illustrations combined with collage connect the reader with the changing setting and Lyli’s emotions. The visual representation of the monster is particularly interesting as is the contrast of dark and pastel shades to accentuate the changing emotions and settings.

This gentle story is about inquisitiveness, adventure and friendship.

Monday, 18 April 2011

Christina’s Matilda

Christina’s Matilda by Edel Wignell, illustrated by Elizabeth Botté (IP Kidz)
HB $26.00, eBook $13,00
ISBN 9781921479878
Reviewed by Margaret Warner

Who was Christina Macpherson and what was her connection to the famous ‘Waltzing Matilda’?

The front endpaper reveals to the reader the historical nature of the story. The paper resembles an old, faded book and the maps orient the reader to places that are significant. As you turn the pages of this beautifully presented book, the story of Christina Macpherson’s life slowly unfolds. The illustrations are beautifully detailed combining paintings and drawings, maps, photos, posters and programs, letters and sheet music.

In 1895 while Banjo Paterson was visiting Christina’s brother, Christina played a marching tune that she had heard the previous year and Banjo Paterson composed words to go with the tune. Significantly, the song was neither copyrighted nor published at that time. However, when the song was published several years later to promote Billy Tea, a few words were changed and the musical arrangement was credited to Marie Cowan. She did not claim to have arranged the tune, but at that time Christina’s contribution was not known. It took many years before the historian and bush balladist, Richard Magoffin discovered Christina’s contribution to this famous Australian song.

Reading the story of Christina’s Matilda is like looking through an old scrapbook, faded with time with sepia coloured pages with beautiful borders; pages that are filled with personal memorabilia that tell a fascinating story and shed light on the origins of ‘Waltzing Matilda’.

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Just a Girl

Just a Girl by Jane Caro (UQP)
PB RRP $19.95
Reviewed by Jo Burnell

I never had the patience for European History at school. All those kings chopping off people’s heads put me off, but Just a Girl is not a history text. Elizabeth’s voice seduced me from the first page. Unable to sleep on the night before her coronation, she begins her memoirs. Chatting directly to me on the page, she leads me into her world. 

Important moments in her life spring to life as I walk beside her. I’m touched by those who remained faithful, even under threat of torture and possible execution. The swaying loyalties of courtiers and politicians become understandable in the knowledge of the dangers of the times.

When you are a potential heir to the throne in the 1500s and your father has a habit of ordering the execution of his loved ones, there’s not much chance of a normal childhood. Things get even more precarious when your half-sister receives the crown and fears your influence as an adversary.

I was enthralled by the gossip and personal conflicts, but it was the poor hapless Elizabeth managing to keep herself alive despite suffering physical and emotional neglect that kept me glued to the page. Can you imagine the possibility of living and dying relying on the whim of an estranged half-sister?

What do you do if your stepmother’s handsome husband makes romantic or physical overtures? Being 16 and longing for love leaves you vulnerable. The result could be disastrous. Even if some scenarios are only conjectures, they are juicy conjectures indeed.

Although about 50 pages too long for my flighty attention, Just a Girl was a satisfying read. I know more about these times than the best intentioned teacher could ever have taught me.

If you love journeying into a foreign world and witnessing the unimaginable, then Just a Girl is for you. Even if you are not usually into history, give Just a Girl a try. You are sure to enjoy the ride.

Saturday, 16 April 2011

i Love You Book

i Love You Book by Libby Hathorn, illustrated by Heath McKenzie (IP KIdz)
HB RRP $26.00
ISBN 9781921479892
Reviewed by Margaret Warner

This tribute to ‘the book’ was inspired by Libby Hathorn’s visit to Papua New Guinea where she visited a high school in Gorokan several years ago. Several of the students’ parents were learning to read and performed a ‘book drama’ for the assembly, called I Love You Book about the joys of reading.

The picture book i Love You Book celebrates every aspect of the absolute joy of ‘the book’: the look, the smell, the sound, the feel, the emotions, and the delights that capture the imagination on every page. Heath McKenzie’s vibrant illustrations take the reader into an array of imaginative scenes that will remind readers of every memorable book they have ever read.

This delightful book will deliver something special for readers and writers of all ages.

Friday, 15 April 2011


Thyla by Kate Gordon (Random House)
HB RRP $17.95
ISBN 978-1-8647-1881-2
Reviewed by Oliver Phommavanh

Thyla is a novel for teenagers and essentially an Aussie paranormal story, cut from the same cloth as Twilight but without the melancholy romance.

Tessa is a girl, found in the Tasmanian bush, without any memories. She’s taken care of by a policewoman, Connolly and placed into a boarding school. Connolly lost her own daughter in the bush, so it’s an emotional time for both her and Tessa.

Gordon does a wonderful job in drip-feeding information as the narrator Tessa regains her memory. Seasoned readers will be able to pick up on the clues straight away. It quickly becomes obvious that Tessa is not from this time and there’s a little humour as she learns how to adapt and cope with things like cars and stereo speakers. So Tessa is a freak and she gets churned through the gossip machine and social hierarchy. She also has to re-discover her own original state with animal instincts that take over her life. 
Gordon comes up with a convincing tale that weaves Australian colonial history into the mix. It’s a refreshing take from other paranormal novels, where readers just have to assume that these ‘creatures’ exist. The last third of the novel may just be a set up for the sequel, but it’s an intriguing one nonetheless.

Thyla is a great novel that will please paranormal fans. It’s recommended for ages 13 and up.       

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Long Live Us!

Long Live Us! by Edel Wignell, illustrated by Peter Allert  (IP Kidz)
HB RRP $26.00, ebook $13.00
ISBN 9781921479465
Reviewed by Margaret Warner

Take one greedy troll, add a group of Goodies: three bears, three pigs, one princess and frog prince. Add a group of Baddies: Goldilocks, a hungry wolf, a wicked witch and add Jack’s giant for good measure. Mix them up in a fractured fairytale and you end up with a riotous tale told with quirky humour about Goodies and Baddies and crime and punishment. Readers will realise by the end of the tale that a story without baddies would simply be ‘dreary, deadly-dull’.

This is a wonderful read-aloud story that can be dramatised and thoroughly enjoyed by reader and listener. Readers will love the he rhyme and rhythm of the language…’The witch is a crone –all string and bone. But the Princess and her Guy will be yummy as pie.’

Peter Allert’s illustrations are vibrant and full of humour. They entice the reader to check for small details that reveal more about the characters and scenes.
Primary students who are already familiar with all the characters in the book will thoroughly enjoy their new and unexpected adventures.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

You Are My Special Baby

You Are My Special Baby by Carol Chataway & Danny Snell (Working Title Press)
HB RRP $24.95
ISBN: 978 1 921504 18 1
Reviewed by Jenny Mounfield

There is no greater bond than the bond between mother and child. In,You Are My Special Baby this is demonstrated with a selection of Aussie animals: dingo gives her baby kisses, koala gives hers a hug, and fruit bat will be there for her child even when things turn upside down.

Only seventy words from start to finish, this title relies heavily on its illustrations. Each animal is beautifully crafted and posed in such a way as to infuse the reader with a sense of togetherness and love. Muted background tones of pink, blue and green convey a sense of peace.

You Are My Special Baby is the perfect bedtime book to read to children from birth. With so few words young minds won’t have time to wander, and the text is simple enough to serve as an early reader for school-age kids.

With a background in education, Chataway has authored a number of books for children: The Perfect Pet (Working Title ‘04), Wings (Lothian ‘04) and Edwina Sparrow, Girl of Destiny (Lothian ’07).

Snell’s illustrative works include: Whose Tail is That? (written by Christine Nicholls), which earned him a Crichton Award short-listing, the bestselling Notable Book nominated, Bilby Moon (Margaret Spurling), and Emily Rodda’s, The Long Way Home.

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 for The Compulsive Reader since 2010. 

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Tiger Tames the Min Min

Tiger Tames the Min Min by David Reiter, illustrations by Chris Green and Monkeystack (IP Kidz)
PB RRP $16.95, eBook $9.95
ISBN 9781921479748
Reviewed by Margaret Warner

This is the third entertaining book in the Project Earth-Mend series. Once again Tiger the Cat, Wanda the blue-tongue lizard and Syd the crow join with the extra terrestrial, Tark from Planet Griffon who can shape change but usually takes the form of a frog, in their quest to save the Earth from The Great Danger. Along the way, the band of eco warriors is joined by a camel named Number 12, who has decided that his racing days are over.

Number 12 leads the group to central Australia to spread the word about how to save planet Earth and to search for the mysterious Min Min lights. They also have to seek out the influential but elusive Kangaroo who has the power to enlist other native animals in the campaign. While on their important mission, the little group is confronted by Mick, another extra terrestrial from the distant Planet Abell 2218, who is on his own secret and highly questionable mission on Earth.

The underlying messages about sustainability and saving the planet are artfully integrated into an entertaining sci-fi storyline with a hint of suspense. The humour is quirky and contemporary and often quite sophisticated and will really appeal to readers who ‘get it’, for example when they make contact with sand monitors in the desert…the geeky monitor who was already so good at YouTube that he had uplpoaded a short film about water conservation and collecting bush tucker in the desert that quickly became a best seller and was aired in the Birdsville Cinemaplex instead of the popcorn and soft drink ads for a week, shortly after achieves celebrity status when the film was seen by a film producer.

There are a number of references to people and events that may go ‘over the head’ of some readers but that won’t detract from the overall storyline or intended humour. Readers who loved the first two books in the Project Earth-Mend series will love this one too, which is suitable for upper primary readers. 

Monday, 11 April 2011

Burn Bright

Burn Bright by Marianne de Pierres (Random House)
HB RRP $18.95
ISBN 978-1-8647-1988-8
Reviewed by Oliver Phommavanh

Burn Bright is a novel for teenagers, a gothic and paranormal novel with clubbing overtones. Yep, welcome to Ixion, an island that is similar to Ibiza, full of raves, parties and music.

It’s a place of pleasure that doesn’t bode well with Retra. She’s a Seal-think highly conservative religious cult and you’re halfway there-who’s just escaped to track down her rebellious brother. She’s followed him to Ixion, where outcasts get to party all night literally because it lies in forever darkness.

But there’s got to be a catch right? Ixion are guarded by Ripers, and people on the island eventually ‘disappear’ as they get older. Sounds like the real-life clubbing scene then. Retra’s determination to find her brother gets her mixed up in the politics of the island. And its secrets are messy.

There’s a tinge of erotica through the descriptions, modesty is a sin on Ixion and Retra finds herself half-naked on more than one occasion. But it doesn’t go overboard. You really have to suspend belief to get into this nocturnal world. de Pierres makes it easy though, with solid suspense throughout. The story never stands still for long.

Retra’s nerdy and naïve personality works here because like the reader, she sees past the superficiality of parties and pleasure mantra of the island. Give Burn Bright a chance and you’ll be immersed in its dark world. It’s recommended for ages 13 and up.  

Saturday, 9 April 2011

Arlo and the Vortex

Arlo and the Vortex by Juliet Blair (IP Kidz)
PB RRP $16.95, eBook $9.95
ISBN 9781921479656
Reviewed by Margaret Warner

When Arlo’s friend, Kate asks him to meet her to do some rock climbing up a cliff on the beach at midnight, he is intrigued and nervous. What they see when they climb the cliff mesmerises then captures them as they are accidentally drawn into a vortex.

They emerge into a beachside settlement that they discover is the part of their home community that disappeared mysteriously without trace in the Cataclysm some years earlier, during a storm. Arlo and Kate are confronted by having to live in an isolated community that is surviving with limited resources. There are no mobile phones, no school as they know it, no shops, no junk food, no internet. Priorities are different and so are the rules of this community as they soon find out.

This fast-paced story explores many issues associated with authority, survival, relationships and independence and will keep the reader intrigued to the last page as dramatic events unfold. This book is suitable for readers aged 10 plus.

Friday, 8 April 2011

Head Spinners: six stories to twist your brain

Head Spinners: six stories to twist your brain by Thalia Kalkipsakis (Allen and Unwin)
PB RRP $15.99
ISBN 9781742373454
Reviewed by Nean McKenzie

Head Spinners is a collection of six short stories, each with a unique kind of twist. These fun tales are written for middle primary aged children who will relate to characters very much like themselves — to begin with anyway. Divided into short chapters, this page turner has humour, a bit of irony and a healthy dose of imagination.

Catchy titles include Tick-Tock Time Machine and Evil Eye. There are ghosts, out of body experiences, strange deformities of the body and things coming back to life. Sound interesting? There's certainly a lot in here to catch a kid's attention. The snappy writing and action packed chapters work together to sustain this attention until the twist is revealed at the end of the story. 

In each story there is a character (boy or girl) who seems quite normal, until something unusual arises. The character must then rise to the occasion in order to deal with this difficulty. Although adults are present in the stories it is the kids who are responsible for the turn of events. Ultimately, they learn something along the way.

The cover makes a statement with a dog wearing glasses in the  middle of a brightly coloured vortex. The tone of the writing is conversational and there's a smattering of science to make some of the situations seem more plausible. Suitable for both boys and girls, this combination of reality with a splash of fantasy will be a hit with even not-so-avid readers. 

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Tobias Blow

Tobias Blow by Zachary Jane and Rosalie Street (UQP)
HB RRP $24.95
Review by Jo Burnell

Move over Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny. Watch out, Tooth Fairy. You have competition. Tobias Blow doesn’t wait for teeth to fall out. He is busy all year round. Every time a strong wind blows, Tobias is riding the currents and depositing treasures for children to find. Now there is a reason to search the garden for the best of surprises: Nature’s Gifts.

Zachary Jane and Rosalie Street have joined forces to create the best sort of magical friend. His trail of evidence is everywhere, waiting to be found outside your door. Not only is the tale of Tobias Blow believable, but his name is part of the essence of nature. Tobias is as the wind ‘Blows’.

Children will have a reason to wander outside in search of treasures, far from electronic entertainment. They will also have a reason to smile when storms are at their scariest. It means that Tobias is especially busy.

Rosalie Street masterfully depicts the colours of sunset and hope, contrasting these with dark shades for the most ferocious storms. Throughout, Tobias brings his cheeky grin to brighten the darkness.

Tobias Blow will be a forever treasure on my shelf. I hope his tale takes off around the world, because he deserves a place in every home. 

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

The Sky Dreamer

The Sky Dreamer by Anne Morgan, illustrated by Céline Eimann (IP Kidz)
HB RRP $26.00, eBook $13.00
ISBN 9781921479977
Reviewed by Margaret Warner

In a very sensitive and gentle way, this book invites the reader to experience the journey of a child coping with grief after the death of a sibling.

On the night before Liam’s birthday he experiences a dream connection with his sister, Cassie as she arrives in her boat the Sky Dreamer, floating just outside his window above a silver ghost gum. Cassie welcomes her brother aboard and off they sail into many adventures while Cassie sews her brother a birthday present. As they journey through the sky, Cassie encourages Liam to learn to sail the Sky Dreamer by himself through the many hazards of thunder, lightning, meteorites, past distant planets and comets. Gradually he gains confidence to steer on his own and all the while his sister sews his birthday present. As daylight appears, Liam leaves the Sky Dreamer with his special birthday present, which will brighten his life.

Liam’s journey with Cassie in the Sky Dreamer is a beautiful analogy of a child’s journey through the grey times of the grief to very gradually learning to live without a sibling and once again experience the sunny, happy times. The dreamlike quality and changing colours of the beautiful illustrations reflect the emotions that Liam experiences as he learns to steer the Sky Dreamer. His stark, grey world of grief is mirrored in the grey tones of the background as he stares at the cloud formations in the sky. This contrasts with the changing colours in illustrations throughout the narrative, ending with the sunny colours of the final illustration.

This beautiful book very gently explores the process of loss and healing and would be very comforting to share with a child going through this process.

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Monster High: The Ghoul Next Door

Monster High: The Ghoul Next Door  by Lisi Harrison (Poppy/Little, Brown/Hachette)
PB RRP $16.99
ISBN 978-1-907410-64-2
Reviewed by Hilary Smillie

This is the second book in the highly inventive and amusing series, Monster High. The series is based on a concept by Mattel who supports the series with merchandise. Universal Pictures have signed to produce a feature film. More information can be discovered at  

Lisi Harrison weaves her exciting storyline and its theme of acceptance for everyone with her usual flair and imagination.  Using jealousy, envy and suspicion as her tools of conflict, she also includes ingredients all girls love – fashion, cosmetics, boys, lavish backdrops and the lure of being on-camera. Humour is very much evident (along with the latest teenage speak).

To date, the plan to get the normies to accept the monster RADs (Regular Attribute Dodgers) has failed. Brett Redding is in shock at the hospital after accidentally biting the head off Frankie Stein while kissing, thus revealing her monster status and sending panic among the normie students at Merston’s High Monster Dance. Now the police are out in force hunting Frankie and watching out for any other monsters that may be living in Salem, Oregon.

Cleo De Nile, an Egyptian mummy with queenly airs was not impressed when Deuce, the boy she covets, asked pretty Melody Carver, a normie, to the dance. She likes to be centre of attention, and her popularity has diminished since the arrival of Frankie and Melody at Merston. She approves of Frankie’s plan to try and gain the normies’ acceptance of monsters, but as the story unfolds, her jealousy of Melody creates serious problems.

Melody fears not only for Frankie, but for her boyfriend, Jackson Jekyll, who changes into D.J. Hyde when he overheats. Bekka Madden, her ex-best friend, is totally jealous of Frankie and the kiss she shared with Brett, Bekka’s boyfriend, and is threatening to expose a video of Jackson in mid-change. In desperation, Melody confides in her beautiful sister, Candace. To her surprise, Candace is sympathetic and decides the normies cause to support the RADs is to be called NUDI –Normies Uncool with Discriminating Idiots.

Seemingly impossible hurdles are overcome with great panache, together with scenarios of deep suspicion between the RADs and the NUDIs. But a surprising truce takes place between Cleo and Melody.

The story ends with the RADs once more fleeing for cover, and a conundrum for Melody which ensures readers will wait impatiently for Book Three in the Monster High series, due out in 2012.  

Monday, 4 April 2011


Share by Anthea Simmons and Georgie Birkett (Random House)
HB RRP $12.95
ISBN 978-1-7427-5099-6
Reviewed by Oliver Phommavanh

Share is a bright and bubbly picture book for infants. It stars a big sister and her baby brother going through a day of playing. Whatever the big sister wants to touch, the baby brother wants to have as well. Mummy wants her to share, which she does, but baby brother has a different way of using her things. So the sister changes tack and applies Mummy’s sharing mantra to get back at both baby brother and Mummy. But she learns that sharing certain things with her baby brother can be a good thing.

There are delightful pencil-sketched illustrations by Birkett and the friendly font means kids will be reading this over and over again. It’s also a neat way to discuss sharing among siblings. Share is a charming picture book that kids will want to share around. It’s recommended for ages 4 and up.

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Where She Went

Where She Went by Gayle Forman (Random House)
PB RRP $24.95
ISBN 978-0-8575-3028-8
Reviewed by Oliver Phommavanh

Where She Went is a novel for teenagers and young adults. It’s a sequel to Forman’s If I Stay, which was about a high-achieving classical student Mia and her relationship with Adam, a jaded guitar player. After a turbulent accident rips Mia’s life apart, she leaves Adam to go to New York City.

Where She Went happens three years later and it’s from Adam’s point of view. He uses all his unresolved anger into writing songs for his band and they have blown up into one of the world’s biggest rock groups. Adam hogs the spotlight for all the wrong reasons and is a permanent fixture in the gossip magazines.
So Adam is in New York City, ready to embark on a massive world tour. He’s isolated from the other members who resent his overbearing rock god status. He feels trapped in the music industry bubble and is looking for a way out. He finds Mia instead. It starts out as an awkward catch up and turns into an enchanting night. Adam finally gets some answers but he’ll have to revisit his tormented past first.

Adam’s voice hooks you in straight away. Forman takes you knee-deep into the world of being in a rock group. Adam’s as insecure as any young adult thrown into the media machine. Adam’s self-deprecating humour shines but he’s utterly powerless against Mia. New York is a perfect backdrop for this story and you can make up your own soundtrack as you read. There’s a love of music that’s appreciated from both Adam and Mia that reaches out to the reader.

Where She Went is a haunting tale about meeting your ghost love and taking that second chance. Highly recommended for ages 15 and up.  

Saturday, 2 April 2011

Sir Edward 'Weary' Dunlop

Sir Edward 'Weary' Dunlop by Hazel Edwards, illustrated by Pat Reynolds (New Frontier Publishing)
PB RRP $14.95
ISBN 9781921042706
Reviewed by Vicki Stanton

Sir Edward 'Weary' Dunlop is the second title in New Frontier's Aussie Hero series. There is surely no other Australian who fits the title of Aussie Hero more than Weary Dunlop. Doctor, sportsman and war hero, he was renowned not only for his physical skills and medical expertise but as a man of great compassion, bravery and forgiveness.

Hazel Edwards has clearly detailed Weary's life from a child and through hard work gaining a university scholarship and then overseas to practise as a surgeon. With the outbreak of World War Two he joined the Medical Corps of the AIF resulting eventually in his capture by Japanese forces in 1942. His actions in the Japanese Prisoner of War camps and on the Burma Railway in saving men's lives from disease and brutality is indeed heroic. After the war he was active in veteran associations and building bridges between Australia and Asia, including Japan. After all that he had endured Weary Dunlop maintained his belief 'that all men are equal in the face of suffering and death'.

Pat Reynolds' colour illustrations complement the text throughout, and at times add a touch of humour. A timeline also provides an easy quick reference guide to key dates. Teachers' resources are available at

New Frontier is to be commended for introducing great Australians such as Weary Dunlop to primary school children. This series allows young children to access information about the people of whom we can all be proud. In this way, the achievements of those who have built our society and way of life will be recognised and remembered and will hopefully inspire us to continue their legacy.

Friday, 1 April 2011

What Body Part is That?

What Body Part is That? by Andy Griffiths, illustrated by Terry Denton (Pan MacMillan)
PB RRP $14.99
ISBN: 978 1 330 40398
Reviewed by Wendy McLean

Andy Griffith is known for his disgusting, hilarious and nonsensical reads and his latest offering ‘What Body Part is That?’ is no exception. Andy has teamed up with his long-standing and multi-talented sidekick, illustrator Terry Denton, to bring 100 per cent fact-free guide to the human body. This book is guaranteed to explain everything you ever needed to know about the human body without a single scientific explanation!

The book is divided into sections based on anatomy, such as ‘The Bits You Can See’ (e.g. Head and Neck, Skin, etc.) and ‘The Bits You Can’t See’ (e.g. Digestive System, Circulatory & Respiratory Systems, etc.). Each section is further divided into topics within each chapter (e.g. Mouth, Chin, Elbow, etc.). A double-page spread is dedicated to each body part and includes a brief discussion of what the body part is and what it can and can’t do.  Hilarious illustrations by Terry Denton support the text. A Fun Fact is also included for each body part (e.g. It is physically impossible to lick your own elbow).

This book is packed with information on the heart, the brain, the bum and so much more. The smallest, biggest and most disgusting parts of the human body are all included. For instance, did you know your nose contains five million odour receptors so this is why you shouldn’t put it too close to armpits or bums or dog poo? Or human tonsils can bounce higher than a rubber ball of similar weight and size? And what about saliva? Most experts believe that during your lifetime you will produce enough saliva to fill one or two swimming pools.

‘What Body Part is That?’ is packed with illustrations to help you distinguish the difference between capillaries and caterpillars, understand the full cycle of the bladder and identify the several different types of belly buttons (innie, outie, fluffy etc.).

‘What Body Part is That?’ is a thoroughly hilarious and enjoyable book. Fans of this comic duo will not be disappointed!