Tuesday, 31 January 2012

All Monkeys Love Bananas

All Monkeys Love Bananas written and illustrated by Sean E Avery (Fremantle Press)
HB RRP $24.95
ISBN 9-781-921-888-731
Reviewed by Neridah McMullin

All Monkeys Love Bananas is a fast paced, funny rhyming story about a little monkey who has had too much of a good thing – bananas!

“All monkeys love bananas! For breakfast, for dinner, for snacks and for lunch, they all crave bananas, munch, munch, munch. Well, most monkeys do…”

Lou McGrew has eaten so many bananas, he can’t stand the thought of eating another one.

Any Dr.Suess fans out there will love the rhythm of this story as Lou he runs away from his mum and shares his tale of woe with his bunny rabbit best friend Sue Hopoloo. Sue also has a similar problem, she cannot stand to eat another carrot! So they decide to swap carrots for bananas.

“But when they taste each others food…they are happy, they are rude. Blegh! YUCK! Are you trying to poison me?!”

So bananas aren’t so bad after all…and Lou and Sue go back to their original food sources.

The prose is well written and moves along with adventurous speed and high energy in a delightful singsong fashion. My seven-year old enjoyed it immensely (and now tries out the last line on me all the time at mealtimes: “Are you trying to poison me?!” Yes, I say, eat it).

Two themes are put up for discussion here: ‘the grass isn’t always greener on the other side’ and the question of tolerance in that ‘we all like different things’ and that’s what makes the world a wonderful place.

The artwork is a humorous fusion of drawing and digital, the mainstay of colour being black and white tones with splashes of colour throughout. Sean E Avery is a very talented sculptor and artist and there is no doubt his work is unique.

This is a highly recommended read for pre-school and lower primary school readers.

Neridah McMullin is the author of three books for children. Her next book is an Indigenous folklore story called 'Kick it to me!'. It’s an ‘aussie rules’ story that’s being endorsed by the Australian Football League. Neridah loves family, footy, and doing yoga with her cat Carlos (who also just happens to love footy). www.neridahmcmullin.com

The Language of Cat and Other Poems

The Language of Cat and Other Poems by Rachel Rooney, illustrations by Ellie Jenkins (Walker Books)
RRP $15.95
ISBN 9781847801678
Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

Every now and then I ask myself, ‘how did this outstanding book find me?’ The poetry comes from an English woman trained as a special needs teacher who currently works with children with Autistic Spectrum Condition. She also does workshops for West Sussex’s Gifted and Talented programme. In November 2011The Language of Cats was long listed for the Carnegie Medal. The book contains 54 poems and has illustrations in pen and ink.
This is a brilliant compilation of poems in changing poetical styles, from sonnets to rhyming verse and written for children of no specific age group through to readers of any age. They are sometimes edgy, are always inventive, and more than frequently moving and profound. They could be enigmas, riddles or mind-benders, but every single one is thought-provoking.

Moved, I felt the need to contact Rachel Rooney. She was generous enough to tell me a little about her work. When I asked her how she learned to use words in this way; what experiences in her life brought about this skill, she replied frankly.

‘I didn’t start writing until I was 40, although I loved writing as a child. Initially I wrote very light-hearted stuff for children’s anthologies but after some fairly heavy life events in my mid forties, I felt the urge to write more questioning, fibrous stuff. The collection The Language of the Cat combines some earlier work with the latter writings.

‘I think I don’t specifically write for children these days, I write “with the child in mind”. So I hope that the concerns I’m addressing are as relevant to adults as they are to older children; questions about identity, desire, independence, etc. And I try to use references that don’t alienate either audience. These days I only write if there’s something I want to say or work out in my own head. Therefore I’m a slow worker!

‘I think I made a conscious effort to try a variety of styles as a way of cutting my teeth and learning the craft, although I do lean towards form and patterns in my work. How did I learn this? I’m not sure, other than reading and looking closely at poets I admired, i.e., Carol Ann Duffy’s poems for older children.’

I want to know if her work with autistic children shaped her view of the world and her writing in any way.

‘There are a number of poems in the collection that are influenced by my teaching of autistic children such as Tornado and The Trouble Is to name a few. Also I tap into my mildly autistic nature when I write – focused, attention to detail, the feeling of being “other/outsider”.’  I then query the possibility of new work.

‘I have a picture book, A Patch of Black, coming out in September. It’s pretty much a poem about fear of the unknown and was inspired by the same earlier mentioned life events. I’d love to write a follow-up poetry collection. At the moment I’m too busy teaching. I’m hoping that will change fairly soon.’

For something impressive, different and unforgettable, read Rachel Rooney.

Sunday, 29 January 2012

The Truth About Penguins

The Truth About Penguins by Meg McKinlay, illustrated by Mark Jackson (Walker Books)
PB RRP $16.95
ISBN 9781921720772
Reviewed By Anastasia Gonis

In this superbly detailed, finely illustrated book, the reader learns the truth about penguins. But not before that truth is passed from mouth to beak fully garnished with gross exaggeration, to form a continuum of nonsensical information.

A hand-painted banner announces that the penguins are coming. We look upon a double-paged, fully illustrated bird’s-eye view of the zoo in intricate detail. There are monkey cages, hanging bats, owls, a lake with alligator and hippopotamus co-existing; meerkats, a panda enclosure, and lots of birds and other animals in cages and enclosures.

‘What’s a penguin?’ the squirrel asks after reading the banner. The giraffe thinks he knows but can’t exactly describe it. The meerkats that are standing nearby listen in. Various birds give their opinion. Then one-by-one, each animal gives their description about the life of penguins. Each pretends to be well informed and tries to surpass the other in knowledge. This is done to impress the listening animals that are gathering and growing in numbers.

As each animal speaks, we see what the squirrel visualizes. It’s hilarious! The illustrations give life to the text and the words meld with the pictures.

The passing on of nonsense to the poor ignorant squirrel gets out of hand until the zookeeper puts a STOP! to it. He starts to set the record straight and we learn the truth about penguins. He slowly repairs the damage the misinformation has done to penguins. The reader is now in the real penguin world. The illustrations again are so in sync with the text, depicting the life of penguins that words and illustrations seem to become one.

A gloriously entertaining and informative book. The text is hand-written in black ink. It is superbly illustrated with a repetition of shades of ochre, mustard and yellow through the pictures giving it a delightful feel of continuity. Earthy colours bring the animals to life as well.

The covers are an equal delight. The front depicts the animals in gloss against a cream matt background. The back cover shows glossy swinging monkeys and meerkats against a blue matt background. The fly covers are full of motion with dancing penguins on the bottom and swimming penguins on the top. An attractive border of blue, interspersed with red dots, and swings of green below stand against a mustard background. There are illustrations also on the publication page.

Friday, 27 January 2012

Unicorn Riders Bk 2 : Willow’s Challenge

Unicorn Riders Bk 2 :Willow’s Challenge by Aleesah Darlison, illustrated by Jill Brailsford (Walker Books)
PB RRP $12.95
ISBN 978-1-921529-98-6
Reviewed by Emma Cameron

Does a greasly venturing from the forest signal a bad omen? Or is that an old wives tale? Willow believes ‘where ever greaslies go, bad luck follows’ and is proven right. Lord Gildenfair, struck down with a mystery illness, has sent the riders a message asking them to bring him a last resort elixir to save his life. He says Flossy, AKA Willow, knows the way to Arlen. But Willow doesn’t wish to help. She feels he harmed her family in the past.

The riders discover Lord Gildenfair is her uncle and reason that she must go but, seeing as the message was sent to the group, say they will ride as one. Willow takes some convincing but agrees. On their way to Arlen they spot soldiers, led by Lord Elsen, on a mission to attack and overtake Arlen. When the riders reach Arlen, Willow discovers a childhood friend, Calder, is her uncle’s servant.

Gildenfair’s condition continues to worsen and he says the doctor’s medicine makes him ill. He is in no position to help his people and when Arlen is surrounded by Elsen’s troops things turn desperate.
The riders gather with the people of Arlen to defend the city and Ula, Quinn’s unicorn, sends Quinn a mind message to say that the enemy is already among them. The riders agree the best option is to prevent battle but the soldiers attack and turmoil ensues.

To add to this, the enemy among them traps Willow so she can’t give her uncle the elixir. Her quick thinking and teamwork of the riders sees them using magic to overpower evil, save the city, and get the elixir into Gildenfair just in time. By story’s end, readers have learnt, and may be shocked by, who the true enemy among them was. They will also know that justice will be served.

Thoughtful illustrations pull readers into this fast paced, powerful tale. Readers see Willow overcome past fears and anger as she learns the truth and understands that life is not always as it seems. A strong message that forgiveness shows strength, not weakness, comes through clearly and the deceit and double-crossing at play shows how greed and poor values can only cause grief and harm.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Jake’s Great Game

Jake’s Great Game by Ken Spillman, illustrated by Chris Nixon (Fremantle Press)
PB RRP $10.95
ISBN 9-781-921-888-502
Reviewed by Neridah McMullin

Jake’s Great Game is a fast moving, fun and lively read for junior primary readers. 

Jake decides he wants to start playing soccer and his dad takes him to buy some footy boots. Jake likes the silver ones, and he just knows he’s going to be an awesome soccer star! But Jake’s enthusiasm soon takes a nosedive, as he finds out that soccer is not as easy as he thought it would be. When he isn’t tripping, he’s slipping. His dribbling looks like bad passing and his passing looks like bad dribbling. Will he ever get his great game? Everyone else seems to have the hang of it except him.

The moral of Jake's Great Game is that if you keep trying you'll be rewarded. It’s all about persistence and application. This message is delivered through the story of Jake trying to play soccer. His initial failure (despite his new silver footy boots) is compounded by the fact that Jake’s dad isn’t very knowledgeable about soccer either, as much as he tries to help Jake. However, things greatly improve when Jake's coach recognises Jake’s instinctive ability as a goalie. Jake’s Nana provides him with lots of practice in the backyard and his first game is a an absolute triumph. Jake is an awesome soccer star goalie!

Funny, wise and beautifully told, Jake’s Great Game is a fun story for kids who are starting to read books with chapters. Chris Nixon’s black-and-white illustrations can be found on every page. You don’t need to have to have read all the other Jake Series books to enjoy this one but if you have read the others, you’ll probably want to read this one, too—especially if you like books about sport.

The Jake series are terrific stories for boys and girls from five to ten years of age and they have a range comprehensive teaching notes readily available on-line at http://www.fremantlepress.com.au/resources/teachersnotes

Neridah McMullin is the author of three books for children. Her next book is an Indigenous folklore story called 'Kick it to me!'. It’s an ‘aussie rules’ story that’s being endorsed by the Australian Football League. Neridah loves family, footy, and doing yoga with her cat Carlos (who also happens to love footy!). www.neridahmcmullin.com

Monday, 23 January 2012

Sam, Grace and the Shipwreck

Sam, Grace and the Shipwreck written by Michelle Gillespie with illustrations by Sonia Martinez (Fremantle Press)
HB RRP $24.95
ISBN 9-781-921-696-008
Reviewed by Neridah McMullin

Sam, Grace and the Shipwreck is an evocative and compelling true story about the daring rescue of the passengers and crew of the shipwrecked SS Georgette off the Western Australian coastline in 1876.
Stockman Sam Isaacs is out with his horse tracking stray cattle when he suddenly hears the cries of shipwrecked people in the wild sea off Calgardup Bay. Sam gallops back to the homestead to tell the Bussell family (whom he works for) what has happened, and their young daughter, Grace Bussell, races out and jumps on her horse. With ropes in hand, 16-year-old Grace Bussell returns with Sam to see what they can do to help. 

By this time, most of the lifeboats were breaking up in the rough sea. Urging her horse into boiling surf, beyond a line of roaring breakers, Grace and Sam reach the boats where the women and children are in great peril. With as many women and children clinging to Grace and the horse as possible, she makes for the shore, landing them safely. Sam and Grace do this over and over again until they’re exhausted. It took four hours to rescue 50 people.

Sam Isaacs and 16 year-old-Grace Bussell performed amazing acts of courage. They were awarded medals from the Royal Humane Society for their efforts and Grace's legend lives on through the name of the coastal hamlet of Gracetown, north of Margaret River in Western Australia, near the wheat belt town of Lake Grace. 

This picture book is fast paced and makes a great ‘read aloud’ book. “There is something about this morning—a quiet in the hills, a shiver in the air—something that prickles the nose of the stockman’s horse.”
It’s quite dark at times, and you can definitely feel the ‘intensity’ of the situation and the unpredictability of the rough sea. The illustrations are dramatic and unusual, involving mixed media collages, combining computer generated images with oil paintings. The images are powerful yet perfect for this amazing story.

Pitched at older primary-age children, this book should make an excellent resource for teachers and librarians trying to encourage young readers to learn more about Australia’s history. Sam, Grace and the Shipwreck has it all - adventure, bravery, history and horses! 

Neridah McMullin is the author of three books for children. Her next book is an Indigenous folklore story called 'Kick it to me!'. It’s an ‘aussie rules’ story that’s being endorsed by the Australian Football League. Neridah loves family, footy, and doing yoga with her cat Carlos (who also just happens to love footy). www.neridahmcmullin.com

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Have you seen Ally Queen?

Have you seen Ally Queen? by Deb Fitzpatrick (Fremantle Press)
PB RRP $19.95
ISBN 9-781-921-888-489
Reviewed by Neridah McMullin

Have you seen Ally Queen? is an engaging, realistic and delightful read for teenagers and adults alike.

Ally has been forced to leave her home in Perth (for reasons initially unknown to her) to a sleepy coastal town she likes to refer to as ‘hicksville’; a place full of bogans, surfies and greenies. Bullied at her new school, Ally finds it hard to fit in. Her mum can’t help her as she was a witness to a hit-and-run accident and is suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and she isn’t someone Ally can turn to right now. Ally misses how things used to be. She feels like she’s stumbling through her new life, awkward and out of place and completely misunderstood. 

But Ally is a tough nut and eventually she finds her own space and place in the world. She learns to like herself. Ally is funny, quirky and smart and it’s a reminder of the difficulties that teenagers face, particularly teenagers dealing with parents who have their own problems.

This story is fast paced and fun. Fitzpatrick is spot on with her language, using common turns of phrase that are engaging and accessible to teenagers. Her writing voice and narrative is strong and genuine and uniquely written in an Australian cultural and historical context. It’s very cool! The iconic descriptions of the beautiful beaches and surrounding mountains are poetic prose and her description of school camp was delightful. Fitzpatrick’s humour is contagious and shines through her writing. Ally is quick witted and self-effacing but Fitzpatrick avoids the usual clich├ęs of perfect parents and domineering teachers and the input of Miss Carey is wonderful. 

Ally has an inner dialogue with her alter ego Angelgirl and this layering of complexity adds texture and interest in the story line. I have admit to laughing out aloud a couple of times whilst reading this book. (I’m the mother of two teenagers so I knew exactly where Ally was at).This story is written in a distinctive and engaging style and is to be thoroughly recommended to Young Adult readers.

This is Deb Fitzpatrick’s second novel and now I’m going to track down her first book to read! 

Neridah McMullin is the author of three books for children. Her next book is an Indigenous folklore story called 'Kick it to me!'. Neridah loves family, footy, and doing yoga with her cat Carlos (who also happens to love footy too). www.neridahmcmullin.com 

Friday, 20 January 2012

Guardian of the Sky Realms

Guardian of the Sky Realms by Gerry Huntman (IFWG Publishing Group)
PB RRP US$14.99 (published in US; available online)
ISBN 9780984329885
Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

The story begins in Sydney. The focus is on the unpopular teenager Maree who lives with her mother, her father having left them long ago. She likes Jason who is multi-talented, musical and gorgeous. For some time now, Maree has been mesmerised by angels and angel images, particularly one that hangs in a gallery near The Rocks. Her plan is to steal it, and own it to admire.

But a young man is there, also admiring Wings In Despair. He tells her the story of the painting; about Alanar, Guardian of the Northern Sky Realm, and his share-heart Mirriam. They were the Divine, Protectors and fighters of the daemons of the Fire Lands. But Mirriam was killed in conflict. Alanar has awaited her Rebirth to take up the battle again. Before Maree realizes it, she falls into the painting and flies away with the stranger, who is himself, the Alanar of the painting’s story who has come to bring his Mirriam home.

The timid Maree embarks on a fantastic journey in another World; one where the flow of time is different to her own. It is a journey of disbelief, discovery, knowledge and Rebirth. She becomes Mirriam, an exciting and courageous girl, continually evolving, strengthening in every sense, and nothing like the person she was before.

The story goes back and forth, from then and now, the then being Mirriam/Maree’s Human World in Sydney, and the now, her new life in the Sky Realm. In alternating chapters, we see the happenings in her Human World. Her mother believing she is dead is battling with grief and fear.

We see what is happening to Jason. Back in the Human World, his parents are attacked and the shroud of mystery surrounding his identity begins to fall away. There are choices both young people must make. Maree must find a way back to Sydney to assure her mother of her existence without revealing her new life.

Their travels take them through Paris on Christmas night, where the gargoyle Darius becomes their ally in unexpected collisions with daemons, then through the Himalayas and the US, through portals, caverns, Shadowlands, and dangerous entrances and exits; amidst the warring of good and evil up to the last explosive revelation.

The book is a US production using American English (IFWG are thinking of producing an Australian edition in the next year or so). However, Barnes and Noble (online) are asking US$13.50 at the moment - plus postage and handling.

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Gunnedah Hero

Gunnedah Hero by Clancy Tucker (morrispublishingaustralia.com)
PB $30.00 (plus postage and handling approx $5)
ISBN 78-0-646-55733-5
Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

Gunnedah Hero is a book that will be remembered long after its reading. It’s an Australian historical, fictional adventure presented in two parallel stories set in the past and present. It showcases the effects of drought on the lives of the farming communities and the landscape, as it profiles the drastic measures taken by desperate farmers to save their stock and land.

Fourteen-year-old Gunnie Danson is faced with a real challenge when he has a school assignment on the drought. He knows nothing about the subject. But a weekend at the cattle farm Wiralee Station that has been in the family since 1848, and a manuscript in a box left to him by Smokey, his great, great grandfather, will change his life forever.

As Gunnie begins to read the manuscript, little by little he uncovers Smokey’s life, including the greatest challenge he faced when he drove their remaining one hundred cattle during the harshest drought up the long paddock in1910, to save Wiralee Station.

The central story is told in lyrical prose in Smokey’s words. The language reflects the poetic style of the era used in poems and story-telling. This coming-of age-story about a boy with courage, resourcefulness and resilience plays out amidst other sub-stories of Australian pioneers seeped in their own grief, loss and a struggle for survival.

But it is not a dark tale. The story is filled with light and hope; with impressive characters that coloured the early landscape with their escapades and adventures. Some carried terrific stories along with news to the lonely drovers they encountered. Others brought danger and were a threat to the solitary traveller. A recurring point that flows through the book, is the relationship between the drovers/farmers and their animals – mainly dogs and horses, and the crucial, often life-saving role they played.

The poetry that the author has included gives another dimension to the prose with its relevance and humour. These poems are again singular sub-stories which portray other lives; where life becomes the focus, no matter whose life is portrayed.

This is a perfectly crafted, exceptionally well-written book which has been self-published. It comes highly recommended by the reviewer.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

The Scorpio Races

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater (Scholastic Inc.)
HB RRP $24.99 
ISBN 9780545224901
 Reviewed by Dawn Meredith

This beautifully bound and illustrated book caught my eye straight away. The bronzed effect, black silhouetted female rider on a horse and embossed gold letters speaks quality and intrigue.

I have become a fan of Maggie Stiefvater. The elegance and simplicity of her writing reveals a poet’s sensibilities. No words are wasted, although, perhaps, she endows the young male character, Sean Kendrick, with a little too much poetic vision. But then, he is an unusual young man and I’m not surprised his leading lady, Kate Connolly, alias Puck, falls for him. As with all leading men, Sean has skills and abilities which draw admiration from other characters within the story, as well as the reader. He is a gifted horseman and the horses in this story take some handling! They are part mythical kelpie, part harpie, part devil, but beautiful in their dangerousness. Let me explain.

Each year on a frigid beach of the island, the carnivorous water horses, the capall uisce  come out of the foam to hunt. It is the annual test of manhood to catch one and train it to run in the Scorpio Races. Sean Kendrick is a natural, as was his father, But unlike his father, who died in the race years ago, Sean has a small gift of magic with the beasts. He has captured Corr, the red horse his father rode that day and he wins almost every year riding him.

This year, however, against all advice, there’s a girl in the race and she intends to ride a normal warm-blooded, herbivore, Dove. The stakes are high for Kate, who must win the prize money in order to keep her eldest brother from leaving the island to look for work. Otherwise it will be just herself and her slightly autistic brother, Finn, and they are dirt poor.

So, the ‘evil dude’ – he’s Benjamin Malvern, who owns the big flash stables and sells horses to rich Americans like George Holly. Sean is indebted to the Malverns and is slowly working off his debt by using his talents to make them richer. He dreams of saving enough money to buy Corr. The Malvern’s son, Mutt, a useless oaf, jealous of Sean, is always looking for an opportunity to humiliate or harm the gifted horseman.

The myth and legend in this story are part Irish/Celtic culture, part Stiefvater, but it’s appealing and adds to the authentic feel of the harsh but somehow entrancing island life. Having lived on an island myself, in Scandinavia, I could taste the salty wind and the coldness that seeps into your bones after sunset and the freshness of mornings on a deserted island beach. There’s nothing quite like it. Having done her research in the south of England, Stiefvater does a wonderful job of recreating the culture, language and climate of island life.

The build-up of tension is just right. Stiefvater cleverly invites us to invest in the hopes of these two people and their fledgling love, to feel excited and yet frightened about the outcome of the race. Will Kate survive? Will Dove be able to run against the bigger, faster, meaner Capall Uisce without being eaten? Will Sean give up his dream of buying Corr with the winnings of this race just to help the girl he loves win it? Will Mutt Malvern be successful in his attempt to get Sean killed ‘by accident’? And most of all,( to me), does Corr, the water horse with the killer instinct, feel any connection or loyalty towards Sean?

You’ll have to read it to find out!

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

Monday, 16 January 2012

Writing Historical Fiction: Gunnedah Hero

Historical fiction is a personal favourite of mine and today Buzz Words Books has the privilege of participating in the Gunnedah Hero blog tour. Author Clancy Tucker gives us an insight into why and how he writes historical fiction:

G’day. Sadly, very little Aussie history is taught in our schools today, yet I can still rattle off dates and facts that I learnt in primary school. Before I wrote my Aussie historic adventure, Gunnedah Hero, I contacted a very senior person in the curriculum branch of the Victorian Education Department, wanting to know what Aussie history was taught in our schools. The answer I received was stunning, ‘Not much at all. Kids find it boring.’ That comment inspired me to write a story that contained hidden historical facts within a great yarn.

I believe we need to pay more attention to our extraordinary past. We have such a rich tapestry of events – discovery, early settlers, the Rum Rebellion, the Eureka Stockade, the Wave Hill Walk Off etc. We are only where we are because of those who have gone before us, and my book, Gunnedah Hero, pays homage to their efforts. I write historic Australian fiction because I have a fascination with, and appreciation of, Australian history. Hopefully, this book will inspire teens to read more about our past, and maybe realise how well off we are today.

This book contains two stories in one – 1910 (Smokey) and 2010 (Gunnie). Readers will find wonderful connections between the main protagonist, Gunnie, and his great-great-grandfather, Smokey ‘Gun’ Danson. Although they are 100 years apart in the story, they are both fourteen-years-of-age. Gunnie’s full name is Gunnedah Swenson Danson; named after Smokey who became known as the ‘Gunnedah Hero’ in 1911. Also, Gunnie’s middle name is the maiden name of his great-great-grandmother, Molly Jane Swenson. Gunnie wears both names with greater pride after he finishes reading an extraordinary manuscript left by Smokey in the attic at Wiralee Station – the story of his epic journey up the long paddock in 1910.

Throughout the story, there are wonderful moments where Gunnie admires the spirit of Smokey and appreciates how tough it was for our pioneers. Being the same age as Smokey was in 1910, Gunnie appreciates the resilience, dedication and integrity of his great-great-grandfather – alone with cattle in a drought, coping with all sorts of disasters along the way without modern technology or luxuries. Reading Smokey’s story at Wiralee Station makes Gunnie realise how much hard work has gone into making Wiralee the most drought-free station in Australia.

Gunnedah Hero is suitable for anyone from 8 to 80 years-of-age. Already, senior citizens have acclaimed it as having a realistic, honest, and detailed account of the life and times around 1910. The sequel, ‘A Drover’s Blanket’ is finished and I am currently working on book three, ‘Magic Billie’. Gunnedah Hero is Smokey’s story.  A Drover’s Blanket is Molly’s sad story. Magic Billie will be about Smokey’s closest mate, a wonderful Aboriginal drover he met on the ‘long paddock’ during one of Australia’s worst droughts in which Australia lost 19,000,000 sheep and 2,000,000 cattle.

Writing, or bossing words around, is an absolute pleasure for me. I climb into my character’s heads and provide the reader with a realistic view of each character. How? I choose real people I know to be my characters. That way, I know exactly how they will react to certain situations and can easily describe their anger, reactions, speech, laughter, humour or fears; even the scar on their face, a crooked tooth or a slight limp.

Reading books provides something unique that movies, DVDs and mobile phones do not – the use of your imagination. It is my job as an author to incite that imagination, keep my readers enthralled, conjure up a situation or a scene, and leave my readers wondering what will happen next.

At the bottom of my letterhead is a comment I truly believe, ‘Books are cool. They take you away to awesome places.’

Clancy Tucker

Gunnedah Hero is available as a paperback from http://morrispublishingaustralia.com and http://clancytucker.com.au
EBook available from Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/114638

GIVE-AWAY: As a part of this blog tour, Morris Publishing Australia and Clancy Tucker are giving three eBooks to readers of the blogs. Go to http://morrispublishingaustralia.com and use the form on the Contact Page. Fill in your first name, email address, and put Blog Competition and your preferred eBook format in the message. (Choose from ePub, PDF, Kindle) The winners will be drawn on January 31st, 2012. All winners will be notified by email and their eBook will be attached.

Paperback Price Slashed: From 14th to 31st January, the price of the Gunnedah Hero paperback will be slashed to $25. Go to the website http://morrispublishingaustralia.com and choose the Buy Now button under Discount copy text. The usual postage charge will apply. 

Friday, 13 January 2012

Battle Boy – Book 15 Underwater War

Battle Boy – Book 15 Underwater War by Charlie Carter (Pan Macmillan Australia)
PB RRP $9.99
ISBN: 978 0 330 40432 7
Reviewed by Wendy McLean

The highly successful Battle Boy series is a dramatic and thrilling series that combines science fiction, history and adventure all into one. In each book, 11 year old Napoleon Augustus Smythe (Battle Boy 005) travels back in time as a Human Data Collecting Device (a HD-CD) – to spy on the past and solve famous historical mysteries. Each intriguing mission lands Battle Boy right in the thick of famous battles and military exploits. Battle Boy is guided through his missions by Professor Perdu and a multitude of hi-tech gadgets.

Book 15 is just as gripping as the earlier books, with Napoleon heading back in time to the famous Battle of the Atlantic – the longest battle of the Second World War. Napoleon must survive the underwater wars between Allied battleships and German U-boats. With this mission possibly his most dangerous Napoleon will need every bit of his survival gear (Simulskin, Boot Boosters and Chameli-Shirt) to survive!

The Battle Boy Series is a compelling, action-packed series that will engage even the most reluctant reader. The books are short, and are divided into eight to twelve easy to read chapters. The text is broken up by black and white illustrations of Napoleon’s special survival gear and dramatic battle scenes. The author Charlie Carter has cleverly drawn on famous historical battles and events and reworked them into action-packed adventures that will appeal to boys and girls aged 6-10 years.

Readers can check out the other Battle Boy books at: http://www.battleboy.com.au/

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Clancy Tucker - Gunnedah Hero - Blog Tour and Give Away

Historical fiction is a great love of mine so Buzz Words Books is thrilled to be participating in the blog tour of a new historical fiction book for young adults set in 1910. 

Gunnedah Hero by Clancy Tucker is published by the new, independent and Australian publisher Morris Publishing Australia.  

The tour dates are:

January 14th http://www.kids-bookreview.com - Author Interview
January 15th http://authorjillsmith.wordpress.com - Book Review
January 16th: www.buzzwordsmagazine.blogspot.com - Article - Writing Historical Fiction
January 17th: http://carolwarner.wordpress.com/ - Author Interview
January 18th: http://elaineoustonauthor.com/ - Review
January 19th: www.buzzwordsmagazine.blogspot.com - Review
January 20th: http://sherylgwyther.wordpress.com - Author Interview
January 24th: www.sherfordbear.co.uk - Review
January 25th: http://misshelenwrites.wordpress.com - Author Interview
January 26th: Grand finale - http://www.blogbud.com/clancytucker - What's next for Clancy

Gunnedah Hero is available as a paperback from http://morrispublishingaustralia.com and http://clancytucker.com.au

eBook available from Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/114638

GIVE-AWAY: As a part of this blog tour, Morris Publishing Australia and Clancy Tucker are giving three eBooks to readers of the blogs. Go to http://morrispublishingaustralia.com and use the form on the Contact Page. Fill in your first name, email address, and put Blog Competition and your preferred eBook format in the message. (Choose from ePub, PDF, Kindle) The winners will be drawn on January 31st, 2012. All winners will be notified by email and their eBook will be attached.

Paperback Price Slashed: From 14th to 31st January, the price of the Gunnedah Hero paperback will be slashed to $25. Go to the website http://morrispublishingaustralia.com and choose the Buy Now button under Discount copy text. The usual postage charge will apply. 

Taken Away

Taken Away by Celine Kiernan (Allen & Unwin)
PB RRP $16.99
ISBN 978-1-74237-772-0
Reviewed by Thalia Kalkipsakis
Not since childhood have I felt the need to hide a book under my bed, face down and beneath a pillow, in case the terrors lurking within somehow made their way out as I slept...

That is, until I read Celine Kiernan’s gripping ghost tale, Taken Away.

A small, pale hand grabbed the edge of Dom’s bunk. Little fingers curled around the mattress. I could see the indents of the fabric where they gripped tight. There was a pause, as thought it was frightened to look, and then a small, pale, dark-eyed face cleared the edge.

Taken Away tells the story of twin Irish boys, Dom and Pat, whose family has been displaced after their home burnt down. The effect of the fire is not only displacement; somehow, it also means that the ghost is able to see the twins. And when he does, he thinks he’s ‘found a home’.

Through Pat’s eyes we feel his horror and sense of helplessness as his twin, his partner in life, is possessed. Dom disappears, becomes a ‘whistling void’, and in his place is something that no longer belongs in this world. The situation is made all the more compelling because Pat is the only one who realises that something is wrong.

As with other truly terrifying ghosts, this one is not all that he seems. To save his brother, Pat realises that he must also help the ghost. And so, the twin’s plight becomes entwined with a tragic World War I mystery.

Recommended for readers from 13 to 16 years, Taken Away is much more than just a haunting. The mystery and suspense keep the pages turning, but it is the relationships that take this story to a higher level, not the least of which is the connection between twins and the resulting anguish when events cause their separation.

Thalia’s latest book is called Head Spinners: six stories to twist your brain (www.thaliakalkipsakis.com). 

Monday, 9 January 2012

You Can Draw Anything

You Can Draw Anything by Kim Gamble (Allen & Unwin)
PB RRP $9.99
ISBN 978-1-74237-798-8
Reviewed by Thalia Kalkipsakis
Created by Kim Gamble, the much loved illustrator of the Tashi series, this appealing paperback reprint is both entertaining and highly informative.

Designed to teach young artists how to draw, the instructions are given in light-hearted, simple language, but it is also possible to learn the techniques simply by following the step-by-step visuals. My nine-year-old daughter opened the book, followed the illustrated instructions showing how to draw a lion, and then declared: ‘That’s the best drawing I’ve ever done!’

Any budding artist who takes the time to read Gambles instructions will not be disappointed. He clearly and deftly demonstrates the shapes that make up all objects around us, how to draw by following a grid, faces and expressions, perspective, shading and much more. He is encouraging, warm and full of useful tips; ‘Practise expressions in front of the mirror – look for the little lines that change, especially around the eyes.’

Despite the apparent ease with which he draws, the humour and character in each image makes it clear that we are in the hands of a true talent. Designed for children from eight to twelve, the dedication for this book reads: ‘For Mum, who kept me supplied with pencils and paper.’ Any parent of a budding artist would most likely already be following the lead of Kim Gamble’s mum, but they would do even better to add this book to the supplies.
Thalia’s latest book is called Head Spinners: six stories to twist your brain (www.thaliakalkipsakis.com). 

Saturday, 7 January 2012

Unicorn Riders Book 3 : Krystal’s Choice

Unicorn Riders Book 3 : Krystal’s Choice by Aleesah Darlison, illustrated by Jill Brailsford (Walker Books)
PB RRP $12.95
ISBN 978-1-921529-99-3
Reviewed by Emma Cameron

The third in this series holds excellent lessons on being wary of one who offers something special to lure you away from what is truly important and who, despite the facade, does not have your best interests at heart and may even be a danger. It shows how one can be duped and that it is important to listen to the voice inside that warns you when things do not feel right. A real strength of it is how it uses a combination of wonder and delight alongside that of menace and drama, all without a trace of didacticism.

The story opens with the Unicorn Riders helping the poor folk of Stillmet rebuild after floods. Krystal, having left a life of luxury on her parent’s estate when chosen as a Rider, doesn’t delight in drab jobs. She is chastised for shirking duty while using her Unicorn, its magic, and her riding skills to entertain Stillmet’s people. While being a rider is the highest honour one can be given, she feels life as an entertainer would be far more her thing. She is relieved when Queen Heart sends the Riders on a mission to track down and rescue children who have been disappearing from Miramar.

Once in Miramar Krystal meets Dezoban, who leads a troupe of young travelling performers. Krystal does not realise they are stolen children. Her inner voice queries whether she should take up his invitation to see his unusual animal collection but vanity and desire to be special is easily won over. Seekng her dream, she sneaks away from the others. When Dezoban gifts her a peacock charm, marking her as one of his entertainers, she keeps it secret. It takes hold of her thoughts, making convincing suggestions.

Her underlying wish sees her fall under the charm’s spell and she convinces herself it will do no harm to follow its suggestions. It is when she leads the Unicorns and their riders to their capture that Dezoban reveals he had her do this so he could steal the unicorns for the magic held in their horns. He traps the riders and a great battle ensues in which Krystal’s love for her friends and her true, good self sees her use all her strength to release herself from the charm’s spell and rescue the others, including the stolen children.

Thursday, 5 January 2012

The Tale of Kyla Koala

The Tale of Kyla Koala by Susan Hall, illustrated by Ben Guy
(National Library of Australia
HB RRP $14.95
ISBN 978-0-642-27726-8
Reviewed by Emma Cameron

When Kyla Koala is caught in her very first bushfire ever, none of the other animals help her. They all simply flee. Unsure of which direction to take, Kyla does her best. Sadly, it’s not enough to prevent burnt paws. Through dialogue of the Uprights, readers learn that the only thing that saved her was what saved the Uprights and their homes; good fortune of wind changing in time.

A young girl, distressed because her dolly was burnt in the barn, discovers Kyla and sees her burnt paws. Though the girl’s parents say she can’t keep Kyla as a pet, they do help her tend to Kyla’s burns. Kyla’s repeated attempts to escape are thwarted by the young Upright who is desperate to keep her and it is only when Kyla finally succeeds in escape that a compromise found.

Hungry Kyla is unable to return home or to find food where she used to as all is blackened, but nearer the Upright’s home is a tree that will be suitable. When the little girl sits under the tree sobbing at her loss, Kyla climbs the tree and settles in it to munch on some leaves. The young girl understands it is these leaves, and the tree as a home, that mean Kyla is likely to stay nearby. Happy that they will be neighbours, the girl stops trying to keep Kyla trapped.

One of four in the Animal Tales series, the tale shows early settlers caring for injured native fauna and shows how they learnt about the life of the native animals. Besides incorporating small facts into the story, the book also ends with pictures showing some of the early paintings done by early settlers and how much they got wrong first up!

Story illustrations by Ben Guy are accurate presentations and capture the frantic dilemma native animals are threatened with when natural elements of our environment hit hard.  His illustrations also show farms and homes of early settlers interspersed between bush scenery, as it truly would have been in the early days. From the scenic Australian end papers to stylish cloth case and jacket, this is a beautiful production.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

The Tale of Kaz Kangaroo

The Tale of Kaz Kangaroo by Susan Hall, illustrated by Ben Guy
(National Library of Australia
HB RRP $14.95
ISBN 978-0-642-27729-9
Reviewed by Emma Cameron

Leaning out of Mother’s pouch one day, Kaz spots an interesting shape out to sea that’s heading for land. She hops a very long way, further than she has ever been on her own, to reach the beach and investigate this apparition. She thinks it may be a whale, until she spots Uprights crawling all over it and realises she should return home. Sadly, she can not remember which way home is.

The Uprights, who are setting up camp on land, try to catch Kaz. When fear takes hold and paralyzes her, all the Uprights try to work out what this strange creature is. It’s not a dog, a deer or a gigantic rat! One of them tries to draw her. When Kaz’s mum shows up, Kaz disappears into Mum’s pouch. The Uprights are amazed and, although wary of Mum’s size, they crowd around.

Kaz feels safe enough in Mum’s pouch to pop her head out and this makes one Upright order the others to back away, meaning Kaz and Mum can get home. One of four in the Animal Tales series, this tiny hardback explores the reaction of Europeans to our native fauna when they first came to Australia. Uniquely, it does this via the viewpoint and experiences of each creature; in this case, Kaz.

Young readers will enjoy the initial story about Kaz and, as they grow up and learn more about the world around them and our history, they will see into more of the issues faced by early settlers and our native animals when they first met. Besides incorporating small facts into the story, the book ends with pictures showing some of the early paintings done by early settlers; most interesting, as they got a lot wrong first up!

Story illustrations by Ben Guy are accurate presentations of our kangaroos and illustrations of the ship and the early settlers are a step into the past. From the scenic Australian end papers to the stylish cloth case and jacket, this is a quality production, and a percentage of proceeds goes to the RSPCA.