Friday, 31 May 2013

Hero on a Bicycle

Hero on a Bicycle by Shirley Hughes (Walker Books)
PB RRP $ 16.95
ISBN 9781406336115
Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

Paolo is thirteen years old when the war reaches the outskirts of Florence where he lives with his English mother Rosemary, and his sister Constanza. His father Franco has left long ago to join the Partisans in their fight against the Fascists and the Germans. His whereabouts remains unknown.

Costanza has a close friendship with Hilaria, daughter of the wealthy Albertinis, admirers of Mussolini. The town whispers that their dealings with Black Market suppliers explains how during a time of lack and hunger, the Albertinis still wear expensive clothes and hold elaborate parties for the German soldiers.

Constanza hates the war and the conditions it has imposed on her life. Paolo longs for excitement and spends each night riding his bike through the streets long after curfew. It is during one of these rides that he is approached by members of the resistance movement and given a message for his mother.

Paolo finds himself and his family harbouring Allied soldiers and embroiled in something that grows bigger each day, with suspicion and the word ‘traitors’ shadowing  their lives. But the danger they experience daily only serves to ignite courage and determination in the family. The siblings leave their childhood behind them as the atrocities they witness wipe away their innocence. The allies are moving ever towards them. Can they stay safe until they arrive, and will they ever see their father again?

This is Shirley Hughes’ first novel. It has waited a long time to be written and in the interesting forward, Shirley explains the roots of this exciting and well-written war adventure, and how she moved from picture books to this novel. Fast-paced and full of tension, it exhibits an excellent sense of place and time with historical facts spicing up the storyline.

The Apprentices

The Apprentices by Maile Meloy, illustrations by Ian Schoenherr (Text Publishing)
PB RRP $19.95 
ISBN 978-192214714-1
Reviewed by Wendy Fitzgerald

Maile Meloy writes adventure stories that are a lovely blend of real life and fantasy. Her characters are strong and her words are sprinkled with magic. She is an American writer and The Apprentices is her second book for kids. It is a sequel to her first book, The Apothecary.
It’s Benjamin Burrow’s dad who is the Apothecary. An apothecary is what people used to call a pharmacist. But Benjamin’s dad is no ordinary pharmacist. He has special powers. He is able to mix unusual concoctions and spells by using formulas from the Pharmacopoeia- a 700 year old leather bound book stuffed with medical and magical secrets that their ancestors had passed down.

Benjamin is one of his father’s apprentices and he is learning fast.

The Apprentices is set in 1954. Benjamin Burrows and his dad are in war torn jungles of Vietnam using their elixirs to heal the sick and wounded. But we learn their real mission is to use their alchemical wizardry to save the world from atomic annihilation.

In the beginning Jane Scott, age 16, is in a posh boarding school in New Hampshire called Grayson Academy. She hasn’t seen Benjamin for 2 years, but when she receives some cryptic letters from him she tries to work out where in the world he is.

Meanwhile, Janie is working on her own important experiment- a method for extracting salt from sea water. When she is wrongly accused of cheating in a test Janie is expelled from school and her experiment mysteriously disappears.

Who stole her experiment? Janie thinks she knows.

This sparks a string of events that lead us on an enchanted chase across the Pacific Ocean. Just imagine what it would be like if you could turn yourself into a bird, breathe underwater or see inside someone’s mind. How would you feel if you were in a small boat being tossed about in a wild storm? What would you do if you were locked inside a cage in an underground uranium mine?

I suggest you read the book to find out.

It is unusual to have illustrations scattered through a book like this. Ian Schoenherr’s delightful black and white illustrations add to the atmosphere of this exciting, well-paced story.                                            

Thursday, 30 May 2013

Grumpy Grandpa

Grumpy Grandpa by Kate Forsyth, illustrated by Annie White (Scholastic Press)
HB RRP $24.99
ISBN 978-1-74283-175-6
Reviewed by Jenny Heslop

Grumpy Grandpa is a humorous story, told in rhyme, about a young girl’s visit with her grandfather. She is a little scared of him and his gruffness, but by the end she overcomes this fear and comes to the realisation that he is, as her mum says, ‘a funny old teaser’.

I am immediately drawn to the title and the first page – both text and illustration – is an enticing start to the story plunging the reader straight in. It does take a couple of read-throughs to get the rhythm right but it is worth it. The language is rich and descriptive, Grandpa ‘honks like an elephant into a hanky’ giving her ‘ghastly nightmares’.

The illustrations are fabulous and focus mainly on the girl – with her braid always flying backwards – and her grandpa in his flannel shirt and braces. Although the words make Grandpa seem harsh and scary especially when he asks ‘are you grizzling? Or are you singing?', the pictures give away the suppressed grin beneath his bushy eyebrows and crinkly eyes.

This story presents a unique view of a grandparent/grandchild relationship and is one that I think many young children will find reassuring. And they will respond also to the cheekiness of the story.
A great picture book to add to any collection.

Killer Ute

Killer Ute by Rosanne Hawke (University of Queensland Press)
PB RRP $14.95
ISBN 978 0 7022 4960 0
Reviewed by Jo Antareau

Joel Billings is a twelve-year-old boy who doesn’t wait for things to happen, he makes them happen. Despite, or perhaps because of, his traumatic infancy, Joel is a resourceful child. His own parents used substances and abandoned him at birth, and despite being raised by a loving grandmother, Joel struggles to trust. This is the type of reality that many children have to face, and Hawke does not try to sugar-coat it. In this, the final of a trilogy, Joel is suddenly pulled out of his life just before the start of high school, and is taken on holiday to a remote farm with his foster Dad, the biker Dev.

Joel’s radar is immediately alerted to adults deceiving him again. Even his wonderful foster father seems to be in on it. Why is he there? Why was he not allowed to say goodbye to his friend? The farm is near the coast, but why are the adults preventing this water-loving child from going to the beach? But Joel is one step ahead of the adults; he has managed to smuggle a phone with him. But will this put him at risk? Of what?

When a huge ute appears to deliberately run him and Dev off the road, the pieces start to fall into place. It seems that his vengeful father is pulling strings from prison to threaten Joel again. Again, he has to deal with ruthless adults who don’t care about a boy standing between them and what they want.

This is a fast paced adventure story for children aged over 9.


The TÆ’ANARYN by Dr Joe Ireland (Wombat Books)
PB RRP $14.95
ISBN 978-1-921632-32-7
Reviewed by Jacque Duffy

TÆ’ANARYN is a fantasy story about a little devil girl named Kialessa. She has a good heart but is endowed with horns, a tail and she doesn't burn. After an attack on her life, she is removed from an abusive home by the King’s men and taken to an elite boarding school only to be treated badly there too for her differences.

Whilst skulking around the school/castle corridors after hours Kialessa uncovers a mysterious plot to kill the King of Lenmer'el the one person who has shown her respect and friendship.

This book is aimed at the young adult and middle grade market but I feel it is more suited to middle readers. The book contains a glossary, list of exalted gods, days of the week, a list of terms of address and points to ponder in the back of the book. In the front there is a list of characters and pronunciation. Most middle readers would not require definitions of King, Queen, Prince and Princess. However, they may have benefited from other words such as scribe, missionaries, portmanteau and pantheon being included.

The story contained some strong messages such as ignoring bad behavior and rewarding good, and treating others as you would like to be treated yourself. The issue of religious belief was raised and handled well within the story. I found the story itself to be well told though it would have benefited from stronger editing.

This is the first of the fantasy series The Tae'anaryn. Dr Joe Ireland has written award winning fantasy for the Dungeons & Dragons Living Greyhawk campaign. He has worked as a teacher, magician, performer, busker and even lecturer in the philosophy of science. This is his first novel.

Jacque Duffy is the author and illustrator of the series ‘That’s not a …” learn to read books used in all Queensland State Primary Schools and one local history coffee table book.

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Review: Riley and the Jumpy Kangaroo: A journey around Canberra

Riley and the Jumpy Kangaroo: A journey around Canberra by Tania McCartney, illustrated by Kieron Pratt (Ford Street Publishing)

HB RRP $22.95; PB RRP $16.95
HB ISBN 978-1925000023
PB ISBN 978-1925000030
Reviewed by Francine Sculli

Riley and the Jumpy Kangaroo: A journey around Canberra is the follow on title in Tania McCartney’s well-established ‘Riley the Little Aviator’ series. As the fifth book, it does not disappoint and has all the fabulous ingredients that made the other four titles brilliant – great cartoon illustrations, real life photographs of famous Australian landmarks, fun-loving characters and bright pages that will engross readers.

The title that came before – Riley and the Grumpy Wombat – took readers on a joyous adventure through the sites of Melbourne. This time, we have boarded the plane to Australia’s capital, Canberra, for another thrilling adventure. In Canberra, Riley finds himself seated in Parliament; distracted by the racket of a loud thumping sound that he quickly finds out belongs to the fast-moving jumpy Kangaroo. Riley decides to follow the kangaroo, jumping in his little red plane with his friends. The jumpy kangaroo takes Riley and friends through Canberra’s most renowned and iconic places. From Commonwealth Bridge, City Walk and Mountain Tower to the National Botanic Gardens, National Zoo and Aquarium, the National Museum and Lake Burley Griffin; not to mention the famous National Library, Questacon, Portrait Gallery, the National Gallery of Australia, the Manuka strip and the Commonwealth Park. There is literally no site left untouched by the jumpy kangaroo who zooms, pings, pops, bounds, soars, zigzags, bounces, catapults, powers, dashes, whizzes and hops all over the place, until she finds a joyful resting place in a daffodil at Commonwealth Park – just what she had been looking for.

As with previous books in this series, this one follows a simple story structure with interesting and accessible words that help push the story along. The strong use of action verbs propels the story and engages readers in Riley and the kangaroo’s journey across Canberra; making it a perfect teaching tool for lower and middle primary school aged children, for vocabulary building, writers’ toolboxes and geographical knowledge.

This series would not be complete without the fantastic illustrations of Keiron that have become synonymous with the ‘Riley the Little Aviator’ series. His brightly coloured cartoons are once again blended perfectly with photographs of the Canberra sites, making these books unique, relevant and vibrant.

Riley and the Jumpy Kangaroo was road tested on my four-year-old son and nephew and they were left chuckling at the kangaroo’s antics, riding along with the adventure and intrigued by the photographs. It’s another winner.

Jumpy and Riley are on a blog tour from 29 July til \1 August 2013. For the full Blog Tour Schedule, jump in your little red plane and head right here.  

Event: The Moose is Loose!

Mark Carthew is launching his new book The Moose is Loose! on Saturday afternoon at Eltham Library.

It's a free event and kicks off at 3pm, June 1.

There'll be moose food and drinks and a prize for the best antlers.

Bookings essential. RSVP (03) 9439 8700 or

Mysterious Traveller

Mysterious Traveller by Mal Peet and Elspeth Graham, illustrated by P.J. Lynch (Walker Books)
HC RRP $29.95
ISBN 9781406337075
Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

Issa the guide has magic eyes. He can read the desert better than anyone, ‘its tracks and its tricks…its moods and its mountains’. His life changes the day he finds a ribbon floating in the air and the baby protected by a camel in the desert.

The old man names the baby Mariama. As she grows older, Issa knows she’s been sent to him to be his eyes for he has slowly become blind. Mariama must learn to describe the world with words for Issa.

Then three men arrive. Issa with Mariama agree to guide them through the Bitter Mountains for the payment of a bag of pearls which will be kept as a dowry for the orphan girl. But the travellers renege on the agreement when they realize that Issa is blind and they set off alone into the desert. Issa reads the wind and knows danger looms so he and Mariama follow the men in order to save their lives.

An incredible story is revealed by the mysterious, youngest traveller. It’s a story of loss which goes far back in time and one that is tied to Mariama. Issa’s life changes course again.

This is an extraordinary book which is ideal for older readers. The story is inspired by a real happening during the travels of the gold and salt caravans in Africa. The illustrator’s use of muted earthy colours combines with the moving lyrical language to rise like a crescendo from the page.

P. J. Lynch, the illustrator of the magnificent The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey by Susan Wojciechowski, has done a superb job. He has set the pictures inside decorative frames reminiscent of the Arabian Nights. The jacket cover is breathtaking and replicated on the book’s cover which shows Mariama and the blind Issa looking out into the distance at the desert.

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Ella and Olivia: Puppy Trouble

Ella and Olivia: Puppy Trouble by Yvette Poshoglian, illustrated by Danielle McDonald (Scholastic Australia)
PB RRP $7.99
ISBN 978-1-74283-657-7
Reviewed by Jenny Heslop

Seven-year-old Ella and her younger sister Olivia have wanted a puppy forever. They have promised to look after him themselves, to train him and to take him on a walk every day.

Finally the day arrives when a new puppy Bob is in their arms and they have so much fun. But they also discover keeping a puppy is not so as easy as they expected. Bob can be naughty. Then on a walk, he runs away.

Ella and Olivia are sweet characters. Aimed at beginning readers, this series is a great one for young girls. Most young children would love a puppy so Puppy Trouble will strike a chord with many readers.

Bob is mischievous as puppies often are, and the sisters also, do not always behave perfectly which gives these books a realistic and relatable edge.

Puppy Trouble will be devoured by readers already familiar with Ella and Olivia and new readers can also start here. The books do not need to be read in order. There are already eight to collect and I’m sure there will be more to come.


Sailmaker by Rosanne Hawke (University of Queensland Press)
PB RRP $14.95
ISBN 9780 7022 4973 3
Reviewed by Jo Antareau

In the sequel to The Keeper, life’s good for Joel Billings. His father is behind bars, his foster Dad, Dev has stuck with him through tough times, and is now accepted by Joel’s family. And water-loving Joel has a windsurfer all of his own. Still, some doubts linger. Dev might not want to hang around forever, he has a life outside of Joel’s world.

A tear in the sail of his windsurfer leads Joel to the sailmaker, an eccentric who lives a hermit- like existence on an island where he tends the lighthouse. Stories about the place being haunted don’t scare Joel off; quite the opposite, he wants to spend the night there.

Joel also finds an abandoned boat, a tinny, drifting near shore. But who owned it? And where is that person now? These thoughts are far from Joel’s mind as he and his best friend Mei spend the night on the island. But a sudden storm cuts them off from the mainland, and the children are plunged straight into danger. Joel needs to keep a cool head and use his resourcefulness to survive.

First published in 2002, this has been re-released as a companion to the newly published third book in the series, Killer Ute. Another fast paced story by Rosanne Hawke for children aged 9 and over. Although Sailmaker is the second in a series, it is able to stand alone.

Monday, 27 May 2013

Workshop: Picture Book Writing for Adults

The Williamstown Literary Festival is running 29 May to 2 June. 

On Saturday 1 June (1.30-3.30), award-winning author Claire Saxby will give her insights into writing picture books:

Picture book writing for adults

How hard can it be, right?  Experienced picture book writer Claire Saxby gives you the benefit of her many years getting it right, and shows you how its actually done and done very well. Bring writing materials and good ideas. - SELLING FAST - book here

Possum Magic

Possum Magic by Mem Fox, illustrated by Julie Vivas (Omnibus Books)
HB RRP $29.99
ISBN 978-1-74299-000-2
Reviewed by Jenny Heslop

Possum Magic is one of the best selling picture books in Australia. It is an enduring classic which this year celebrates its 30th anniversary.

Possum Magic is the story of Hush and Grandma Poss who live happily together in the Australian bush. Grandma Poss makes bush magic and her best magic is the one which makes Hush invisible. This provides the little possum with not only amusement, but safety as well.

The problem begins when Hush wants to know what she looks like and Grandma Poss cannot find the magic which will make Hush visible again. So Hush and her grandma travel around Australia tasting classic Aussie foods. They eat ‘Minties in Melbourne’, ‘pumpkin scones in Brisbane’ and keep tasting through cities until the possum’s body begins to appear.

Possum Magic is a wonderful book. The text and illustrations weave seamlessly together and there is a magical quality to the story which endears it to children and adults everywhere, placing it firmly in their hearts.

This 30th anniversary edition is a stunning book - cloth bound with a slipcase - it would make a wonderful gift. The front cover is red with a beautiful small illustration of Grandma Poss reading at night to the invisible Hush, who is peering over her shoulder. It is a simple classy cover for a classic book.

This edition will only be available during 2013 and deserves to be on every child’s bookshelf.  

Sutherland Shire Picture Book Writing and Illustration Competition

The Sutherland Shire Writers' Festival Picture Book Competition is on again this year.

But now illustrators can get in on the action with an Illustration Competition as well. Entry is only $10 ($12 for postal entries) and the final judges are some of Australia's best editors and agents.

For your chance to get your work in front of heather Curdie, Brian Cook or Paul Collins check out the competition details at

Competition closes 5 July.

The Sutherland Shire Writers' Festival is now over a whole weekend! Over 16-17 November you can hear the best of Australia's writers for kids, young adults and adults plus workshops and publishing consultations.

The Dunderheads Behind Bars

The Dunderheads Behind Bars by Paul Fleischman, illustrated by David Roberts (Walker Books)
PB RRP $16.95
ISBN 9781406344752
Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

The Dunderheads are a cool group of kids, unconventional looking, but super-smart and resourceful. Each child has a special talent and a name associated with that talent. All together they are invincible.

School has finished for the year and the Dunderheads are glad to see the back of their teacher Miss Breakbone who hates kids. Rising star Ashley Throb-Hart, is filming in town and a call is out for extras. The Dunderheads get chosen to be in the playground scene, but so is Miss Breakbone.

A thief has been stealing expensive jewels around the area and the tyrannical Breakbone convinces her brother the Inspector, that Spider is the villain because of his climbing abilities, and Spider gets put in jail. The other Dunderheads draw up an elaborate plan to catch the real culprit but they end up in jail as well. Nothing will stop them for there’s always Einstein’s Plan B.

The illustrations by David Roberts are detailed, full of expression and movement, and highly comical. They bring Fleischman’s characters to life on the page and accentuate the text in a brilliant fashion.

This is the second Dunderheads book by Paul Fleischman who won the PEN USA Literary Award in 2010 for The Dunderheads, and the Newbery Medal for Joyful Noise: Poems for Two Voices. His latest picture book, the outstanding The Matchbox Diary, has just been released through Walker Books.

Sunday, 26 May 2013

The Keeper

The Keeper by Rosanne Hawke (University of Queensland Press)
PB RRP $14.95
ISBN 978 0 702 24973 0
Reviewed by Jo Antareau

The first book in a trilogy about Joel Billings, a boy who seems to be a magnet for trouble. First published in 2000, this has been re-released to coincide with the long awaited third book in the series, Killer Ute.

At first glance, Joel is just a trouble maker. He’s often in trouble for fighting, has a short temper and struggles at school. But Hawke allows us to walk in his shoes, to see the world through his eyes. He lives with his grandmother and has no memory of either parent, who were both ‘into drugs’. He wants nothing to do with his own father, who kidnapped him as a baby to get his hands on Joel’s inheritance. But Joel longs for a caring man in his life, and unaware of the risk this might put him in, he places an ad in the paper for a Dad. A tattooed biker, Dev Eagle, turns up.

Dev is exactly what Joel needs in a foster father. Always respectful, he listens to Joel, never judges, and supports him in the things that are important to him. In his company, Joel learns to slow down. Like a ‘real’ invisible friend, Dev lives in the family’s boat shed, and Joel keeps him secret, knowing that his grandmother would never understand. But how long can this last? Particularly with the arrival of Zoe, Gran’s boarder, who sticks her nose into Joel’s life.

Then his father is released from prison and wants to kidnap his ‘meal ticket’ again. The long awaited fishing contest suddenly explodes into a dangerous adventure.

With short chapters and a fast pace, this would appeal to boys who are reluctant readers.

Saturday, 25 May 2013

All this Could End

All this Could End by Steph Bowe (Text Publishing)
PB RRP $19.99
ISBN 97819211758447
Reviewed by Wendy Fitzgerald    

How would you feel if you mother was a bank robber?  What if you had moved through seven schools all the while pretending you were in a normal family? Finally you meet a boy you really like. But what would he think if he knew the truth?

Welcome to the life of Nina Pretty.  Her mother, Sophia Pretty thinks that it’s fun to rob banks and she expects the whole family to join in.

Sophia loves the thrill of stealing. She quotes from self help books and finds plenty of ways to justify her criminal behaviour. Anyway, the money’s insured! she says. The big banks won’t miss it... or will they?

Nina’s dad, Paul is a teacher. His job gives the family the illusion of a trustworthy cover. Nina worries about her little brother Tom. Why can’t her dad stand up to her mum?

It is at her seventh school that Nina finally finds a friend in a boy named Spencer.  They share a love of weird words, quirky facts and the same sense of humour. They find they can talk about everything... well almost everything.

But Spencer’s life is complicated too. His father is a bank manager. When his mother runs off with a man who looks like a body-building vampire Spencer is left to pick up the pieces. He has to deal with one depressed dad and a very confused little sister called Monica. Monica refuses to talk and only communicates using lollies called conversation hearts.

If you are over 13 years old I suggest you read this story to see how the author, 19 year old Steph Bowe cleverly weaves her plot with sparkling insight, witty humour, gentle honesty and kind compassion mixed together with a delightful sprinkle of romance.

This is Steph Bowe’s second book. Her first book, Girls Saves Boy came out in 2010. She is definitely a young writer with a very promising future. I highly recommend Steph Bowe's blog as well.

Friday, 24 May 2013

Alice-Miranda in Paris

Alice-Miranda in Paris by Jacqueline Harvey (Random House Australia)
PB RRP $15.95
ISBN 9781742752884
Also available as an ebook
ISBN 9781742752891
Reviewed by Marian McGuinness

Bonjour to all the fans of Alice-Miranda. Oui oui, the seventh book in Jacqueline Harvey’s series is set in Paris.

Alice-Miranda and a clutch of her school friends, along with a group of boys from Fayle School for Boys have travelled to Paris as a combined choir to sing at various fab locations during Fashion Week.

As always, things do not go smoothly. There are several plots at work in this epicentre of fashion and City of Love.

The children have fun touring the Louvre, sailing the Seine and performing at the Palace of Versailles, Notre Dame Cathedral and The Ritz. They have their own room keys (like adults), eat breakfasts of croissants and pastries, and walk the hotel owner’s dog Lulu, who ‘strutted like a model on a catwalk.’

But, all is not oh là là! There has been a theft of expensive llama fabric just before the fashion show and Alice-Miranda and crew set out to unravel the mystery.

As usual, there are many deliciously named characters. There’s Mr Trout, Mr Lipp (whose suit was a ‘particularly nasty shade of electric blue’), Mr Plumpton and Professor Winterbottom.

There are several questions that will keep young readers hooked. Who is the famous person strangely named Dux LaBelle who hides beneath a mask and cape? Who is the fabric thief, and who will ask their English teacher, Miss Reedy, out to dinner, after all it is the City of Love!

Beautifully paced and airily written, young readers 8 and up will believe themselves to be walking the streets of Paris with Alice-Miranda aided by the handy glossary of French phrases at the beginning of the book.

Award-winning author Jacqueline Harvey is currently writing more Alice-Miranda books. Sacré bleu! What will her next adventure be?

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Event: Reading Matters Conference

From 30 May to 1 June the State Library of Victoria will host the Reading Matters Conference. 
Presented by the Centre for Youth Literature, the Conference helps teachers and librarians stay in touch with crucial and emerging issues and trends in youth literature. The 2013 program features a range of events with YA authors (Raina Telgemeier, John Flanagan, Morris Gleitzman and Garth Nix) and youth literature specialists. There are student days, a conference and evening events.
You can check it all out at the State Library of Victoria website

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Twin Magic: Lost Tooth Rescue!

Twin Magic: Lost Tooth Rescue! by Kate Ledger, illustrated by Kyla May (Scholastic Inc)
PB RRP $6.99
ISBN 978-0-545-48025-3
Reviewed by Jenny Heslop

Lottie and Mia have just started at a new school. They are twins but are not the same in every way. Lottie is messy while Mia is tidy, Lottie is shy while Mia is forward, and they like to dress differently. But they are identical when it comes to magical powers. When the twins link their pinkie finger and say the magic spell:
             ‘When Twins get together
              We’re stronger than ever! 
              Twin magic azam,
              Let’s do what we can!’

they become magical Super Twins. In Lost Tooth Rescue! Super Twins power is needed, and together with unicorn Rosie and new friend Toby, they find Anna’s lost tooth.

The illustrations are colourful and fill the whole page with the focus split evenly between pictures and text. This clearly places the book between a picture book and an early reader chapter book. The drawings are not detailed, but rather emphasise the important aspects of the story and the expressions of the children. They reflect the thoughts and actions of the twins, highlighting their similarities and differences.

Interestingly, Lottie and Mia are much clearer individuals as girls than when their Super Twin persona is activated. Lost Tooth Rescue! is the first in a new series for girls between six and eight. It is good for stretching readers a little, while sticking to a simple storyline which includes relatable concepts such as starting school, losing a tooth or helping a new friend. This, combined with the appeal of twins, magic and unicorns, will ensure the Twin Magic series will be a hit with young girls.

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Daisy and the Puppy

Daisy and the Puppy by Lisa Shanahan, illustrated by Sarah Acton (Scholastic Press)
HB RRP $24.99
ISBN 978-1-74283-051-3
Reviewed by Jenny Heslop

Daisy is the oldest child in a large family and the thing she wants the most in the world is a puppy. But how can she convince her parents that a dog would be a good thing for the family? She washes the neighbourhood dogs, sleeps in a basket and howls at passing fire engines. But after gazing at the animals in the pet shop, she still leaves empty handed.

Daisy and the Puppy is a beautiful story about family. Although not written in rhyme it is rhythmically poetic. ‘Lark loves the sucking catfish, with their fins like floating veils.’ The dialogue is natural and reading this story aloud the words roll off the tongue with ease. ‘You don’t need one,’ says Dad. ‘Not when you can rumble and tumble with Ruby, Lark and Jube!’

The illustrations are wonderfully messy, sometimes running off the page, creating movement and life. It is through these pictures that you get a true sense of the warmth, love and togetherness of the family.

Bear and Chook by the same author is a picture book I have always loved. There is something delightful about the way these two characters embrace the world. Daisy and her family are enchanting in a similar way with their earthiness and uncomplicated happiness.

Daisy and the Puppy is a heart-warming story for three year olds and up, especially for any young child longing for a puppy of their own.

Monday, 20 May 2013

Ella and Olivia: The Big Sleepover

Ella and Olivia: The Big Sleepover by Yvette Poshoglian, illustrated by Danielle McDonald (Scholastic Australia)
PB RRP $7.99
ISBN 978-1-74283-658-4
Reviewed by Jenny Heslop

Ella has invited her best friend Zoe for a sleepover. They plan to stay up late, telling stories and having a midnight feast. Olivia is feeling left out.

Olivia is only five-and-a-half years old, almost two years younger than her sister and not old enough yet for a sleepover. But she helps Ella with all the jobs which need to be done in preparation for the night. When Zoe arrives, Ella hopes that the bigger girls will share the fun with her.

The Ella and Olivia books are a great series for beginning readers. The text is large and broken up with sweet black and white illustrations. The chapters are short and the words and sentences straight forward and not too complex.

The story is one grounded in reality. Girls will easily identify with the sisters and recognise the excitement of the first sleepover with a friend. The relationships in the story are lovely but real, especially the one between the two sisters. They sometimes get frustrated with, or envious of, each other but they work it through, often with a little help from Mum.

There are eight so far to collect, and these books, suitable for 5-8 year-olds, will keep young readers engaged in the lives of Ella and Olivia.

Sunday, 19 May 2013


Seadog by Claire Saxby, illustrated by Tom Jellett (Random House Australia)
HB RRP $19.95
ISBN 9781742756509
Also available as an ebook
ISBN 9781742756523
Reviewed by Marian McGuinness

Fabulous and fun! I loved this picture book from the moment I saw Tom Jellett’s cheeky cover. There are many rascally dogs in children’s literature such as Harry the Dirty Dog and Hairy Maclary from Donaldson’s Dairy, and Seadog has just as much charisma.

Just like we are all different, so too are dogs. Who wouldn’t love a sea dog? Who couldn’t love a sea dog? Seadog is not a work dog or a fetch dog or a trick dog or a clean dog, he’s a ‘find-and-roll-in-the-fish dog’. He’s a rapscallion and his day at the beach is described in lots of hyphenated phrases, until he is a ‘Pee-ee-euw, Seadog’. After the day is done when he’s all stinky with fish he becomes a ‘sit-still-till-it’s-done dog’ and succumbs to a bath.

With Saxby’s clever use of alliteration and assonance, children and adults will have fun twisting their tongues around the rhythm and rhyme as they go on Seadog’s adventures at the beach.

Tom Jellett has captured the enthusiasm and joy of such a scruffy, lovable dog. The endpapers give the book even more sea-appeal with a patchwork of international maritime signal flags. There are lots of close-up pictures of Seadog that make you feel as if you could give him a pat and hold your nose as you smell his fishy fur.

Claire Saxby is prolific in her writing and admits to being inspired by her own children, memories of childhood and by the children around her. It helps that she has a dog that often pretends to be a cat.

Tom Jellett is not only a bestselling illustrator of books for children; he also has been an editorial illustrator for umpteen print publications.

This is one picture book for 3 and up that will become dog-eared from love.

Saturday, 18 May 2013


Mates: Drongoes by Christine Bongers, illustrated by Dan McGuiness (Omnibus Books)
PB RRP $11.99
ISBN 978-1-86291-982-2
Reviewed by Jenny Heslop

The year five cross-country race is an important one for Jack and his mate Eric. It is really the race to end all races - the one where Jack is finally going to beat Rocket Robertson, his racing nemesis. And it is the race that Eric is finally going to make it to the finish line.

In order to achieve these goals, the boys will need plenty of training – and maybe a little help from the spangled drongoes, those cheeky birds who hang out at the creek.

Drongoes is a title in the Mates – Great Australian Yarns series and is perfect for young readers. It is an easy-read chapter book but with a storyline which will also satisfy older reluctant readers. The connotations of drongoes (one of which is a horse famous for not winning a race) adds an extra dimension to the story which older readers will appreciate without affecting younger reader’s enjoyment. The humour is appropriate for both readerships as well.

This is an appealing book to look at as well as to read. The layout is attractive, with full colour illustrations which add to the enjoyment of the reading experience. The pictures echo the humour of the text. The double spread illustration of Jack and Eric training, silhouetted in the setting sun, followed by a flock of drongoes, beautifully evokes the enormity of what the boys are trying to do.

This is a funny story highlighting the notions of winning not being everything, of loyalty, and of the great Aussie spirit of ‘giving it a go’. It will appeal to many young readers, especially those who relish a good sporting challenge. Jack and Eric are great characters to cheer for.

This will be enjoyed by children from seven and up.

Friday, 17 May 2013

My Band

My Band by Elizabeth Lea, illustrated by Chantal Stewart (National Library of Australia)
HB RRP $17.99
ISBN 9780642278364
Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

This is a musical book full of fun and movement that educates and informs. The focus is on the introduction of ten instruments that any child would learn if they were to join a band. Each instrument is introduced by the letter that it begins with set in large font on the outside of the lift-the-flap section. Underneath is the instrument with information on how to play it, what it is made of, how it is held, what the major pieces are called and the family it belongs to: woodwind, brass, percussion or string.

The pages are made of sturdy but light plasticised cardboard that will easily wipe clean. The illustrations are enchanting – light-hearted and joyful, surrounded by notes and filled with colour. After the ten instruments have been presented, it’s time for the whole band to play together.

At the back of the book there are eight craft activities to make: a guitar, French horn, castanets, tambourine, panpipes, violin, oboe, and a kazoo. The method is easy and most households would have the things that are needed for these projects. Below each activity is a picture of, and information on, each instrument in the project section.

All NLA books are specifically created with combined learning and entertainment in mind. They are produced with great insight and meticulous preparation and thought.

Thursday, 16 May 2013

What is a Book App and Could YOU Create One? How 27 Writers Did!

What is a Book App and Could YOU Create One? How 27 Writers Did! by Karen Guinn Robertson
Reviewed by Vicki Stanton

At last I understand what book apps are, what they do and when book apps might be the way to publish. Karen Robertson could not have explained the process any more simply but arms readers with the necessary knowledge to determine whether this publishing avenue is for them and, if so, how to go about it. 

The step-by-step system (D-R-E-A-M) is easy to follow, even for the non-techies among us (like me!). Information on how to develop your project and where to find the most suitable book developer is included. There are leads to plenty of free resources and the author interviews are an invaluable insight into the pros and cons of publishing in this format.

Karen writes from experience, having first published her own picture books in print before venturing into the very new world of digital publishing. Her expertise has led her to help others realise their projects in ways that could have been barely imagined a decade ago. She reveals her journey and those of twenty-plus other writers who have utilised this new technology for many different reasons and in many different ways.  Importantly, their insights will hopefully help others sidestep some of the pitfalls.

At $2.99, this book is a steal for those even thinking about book apps.

(You don't have to have a Kindle reader to read this book. There is a free Kindle app that lets you read books from the Amazon Kindle store on your Android devices, iPad, iPhone or iPod touch. It's super easy and the app is free. Learn more about it here:

How to use the Kindle app on iPad, iPhone and iPod touch:
How to use the Kindle app on Android:

Don’t Let a Spoonbill in the Kitchen

Don’t Let a Spoonbill in the Kitchen by Narelle Oliver (Omnibus Books)
HB RRP $26.99
ISBN 978-1-86291-931-0
Reviewed by Jenny Heslop

Don’t Let a Spoonbill in the Kitchen is a gorgeous, cheeky and very fun picture book. It is a book about Australian waterbirds and is perfect for all lovers of rhyming verse, funny stories and birds.

The text and illustrations work well together – first setting up each bird in their natural habitat with a smooth easy rhyme – then placing the bird in our human environment and imagining what a mess they’d make of it.

There is a steady rhythm to this story. First a verse about the bird and its habits, then a verse suggesting similarities to our actions with an added caution:

I’ll give a simple warning that
You’d better not ignore...

Then the page turn and the imagined results of such an unwise action - ‘Don’t let a Spoonbill in the kitchen’. I’m sure this will produce many giggles and children will join in to chant this conclusion line.

Oliver’s illustrations are a mix of linocut, cut paper and photographs. The birds in their natural setting are linocuts, beautiful and natural, and then the addition of the collage elements effectively enhances the total silliness of the idea of letting spoonbills into the kitchen, or pelicans into the airport!

I’ll add my ‘simple warning’ - don’t let this fun and beautifully illustrated book pass you by.

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Guinea Pig Town and Other Animal Poems

Guinea Pig Town and Other Animal Poems by Lorraine Marwood (Walker Books)
PB RRP $16.95
ISBN 9781922077424
Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

Lorraine Marwood, the winner of the 2010 Prime Minister’s Literary Award for Children’s Fiction for her novel Star Jumps, has lived most of her life on a dairy farm. Being close to nature has nurtured a strong bond with her surroundings and made her senses alert to every living, moving thing. This is visible in every word and its nuance in her new poetry book, Guinea Pig Town and Other Animal Poems.

Welcome to this ‘eat and drink garden’ of ‘so many flying objects’ that will ‘never collide’. It is a brand new collection of ninety poems on 141 pages, under seven headings. They are interesting, intelligent and insightful poems that entertain whilst presenting to the reader, an intimate view of animals and insects, their surroundings and unusual habits.

Poetry is a magical medium that demands skill from the writer for its message to be relayed to the reader. Marwood is a gifted wordsmith whose clever use of assonance and alliteration has added a musical rhythm to every piece in the book.

These poems are suitable for ages 8-108.

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Big Red Tractor Saves the Day

Big Red Tractor Saves the Day by Melissa Firth, illustrated by Cheryl Orsini (Scholastic Press)
PB RRP $14.99
ISBN 978-1-7428-125-1
Reviewed by Jenny Heslop

Big red tractor is busy at work on the farm, ploughing the fields, planting seeds and watering the plants when suddenly a nest with a baby bird appears in the field in front of him. Can the tractor save the day?

Big Red Tractor Saves the Day is a sweet tale about a hard day’s work and a valiant rescue. Filled with colour, movement and sound, young children will enjoy this story. The rhyme is smooth and anticipation is built up as the tractor gets closer to the nest:

 The tractor’s getting closer, wheels spinning round,
 Churning the earth with a crunching sound.
 Chugga chugga chugga brmm brmm brmm.

The illustrations are bright and cheerful. The farmer has a smile on his face as he steers his tractor around, pulling different attachments for the different jobs in the field.

This simple, happy story is great for children from 2 years. Boys especially, who love tractors and trucks, will enjoy having this read to them.

This is the third book that Melissa Firth and Cheryl Orsini have written and illustrated together. The first two are Fredrik goes Bananas and Red Plane to the Rescue.

Monday, 13 May 2013


Stagefright by Carole Wilkinson (Walker Books)
PB RRP $18.95
Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

Cultivated rich girl Velvet S Pye arrives at Yarrabank High, a culturally diverse co-ed with low standards in literacy due to a high concentration on performance results in sport. Her family’s changed economical and employment status has turned her world into a nightmare from which she expects to awake very soon. The students at Yarrabank talk dirty to one another and about each other in a strange interpretation of the English language.

After trying to inculcate Velvet into some sort of sports event, the headmaster gives up and she ends up in the cultural studies class. This turns out to be an experience in itself and even more confusing as a subject to Velvet who has always been a high achiever. The teacher here spends the whole time sleeping over a desk at the back while the class runs amok. But during these teething times at the school, Velvet and the readers learn a lot about the diversity of the school, the reasons for the way it is, and the fact that all things and people are not always what they seem.

End of the year is approaching and evidence of cultural activity is demanded from the cultural studies class. A new take on Shakespeare’s Richard The Third is decided on and Velvet finds a new interest when Stagefright, their theatre group is created. Finally she has a challenge she can sink her teeth into and prove that she is able to fit in.

The play becomes a source of reinvention for all the students in some way or another. The teacher comes out of hibernation to reveal a character of great creativity and support, while the production proves that hidden inside everyone is something that longs to surface. It simply waits to be given the opportunity.

This is a terrific rewriting of Carole’s first book. It is filled with music and poetry, movement and change, humour and delight. This novel is a highly successful reinvention of something old in every way.

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Yellow Dress Day

Yellow Dress Day by Michelle Worthington Illustrated by Sophia Norsa (New Frontier Publishing)
HB RRP $24.95
ISBN 9782921928291
Reviewed by Emma Cameron

Being a fan of dresses and colour means Ava’s heart only needs one look outside each morning to know what colour dress is right for that day. As pages turn readers see different types of weather meld with desires for particular colours. The day in this book’s tale is a ‘whisling, whirly, windy day’, requiring a yellow dress. But said dress is not in the cupboard, or drawer, or under Ava’s bed!

Ava recalls that yesterday was a windy day too, which saw her jumping and tumbling through piles of leaves. She checks the laundry to find the dress is in the wash. Her heart sinks. Luckily Mum finds old dress-up clothes. Various possibilities, all yellow, emerge. Ava has choices and, dressed as a daffodil, heads outside.

The wind is still present though its strength has pushed all clouds away and Ava is tugged about by the gusts till she tumbles happily in the sunlight. At the day’s end she sits on a tree branch with her mum and puppy to conclude that this was ‘the best yellow dress day ever’. Young girls are sure to agree and find much in this sweet tale to identify with as well as talk about, especially as they peruse the illustrations.

Whimsy abounds in vivid, distinct and attention-grabbing water colour by a young artist who knows how to capture the world through the eyes of an even younger audience. Colour and lots of movement capture the overall mood of characters and story. Facial expressions of Ava and her puppy tell so much, hers in relation to her own emotion and the pup’s in response to Ava’s feelings and the overall situation that is obviously puzzling to him.

Part of the proceeds from the sale of this book go directly to the International Rett Syndrome Foundation on behalf of Ava Lardes and the book is sure to be a very welcome addition to all libraries.

Saturday, 11 May 2013


Goblins by Philip Reeve (Scholastic UK)
PB RRP $16.99
ISBN 978-1-407115-27-6
Reviewed by Jenny Heslop

Skarper lives in the spookily named Blackspike Tower with his ‘batch brothers’ under the watchful eye of Old Breslaw and King Knobbler - a goblin known as much for his legendary sword Mr Chop-U-Up as for his ruthless leadership. The Blackspike Boys are the fiercest goblins in Clovenstone but Skarper is different. He is not very interested in fighting and is much cleverer than all the other goblins put together.

As a result he views Clovenstone from a different perspective - from above, in fact, as he hurtles to his death after being catapulted from the top of the tower by the other goblins. But it is this event which leads to the many adventures that follow.

Goblins is a fairytale with a difference. The story mixes characters from fairytales, from myths, and from the imagination. Giants, sorcerers, cloud maidens, mean mermaids, twiglings, a rather nasty troll, slimy sinister boglins and the shadowy Dragonbone men stride through the story along with Skarper, the goblins and a couple of softlings; firstly a would-be-hero who tries to be brave and the other, a middle-aged princess who does not wish to be rescued.

The flowery language used fits the feel of the tale perfectly. On his long fall Skarper sees that ‘gargoyles lurk in the ivy like lice in beggars’ hair’. This sets the tone of the dark tower from the first page, and welcomes the fact that ‘old magic lingers still’ and cloaks the story throughout. Occasionally the mention of a Rolls Royce or other modern items in the midst of an old world filled with kings, dragons and cheesewrights pulled me out of the story, but this was rare.

This funny, rollicking tale of danger and heroic deeds will be speedily devoured by middle grade readers (8+) and lovers of fairytale and adventure. The bright green pages and cover are striking, and the black and white pictures of goblin heads, claws and tails dotted throughout the margins are a great touch. For map lovers there is a fabulous map of Clovenstone, the keep and the surrounding countryside - all the way to the Nibbled Coast.

Friday, 10 May 2013

Where Do You Sleep?

Where Do You Sleep? by Bettina Strong, illustrated by Laurie Burrows (Be Book Wise)
PB RRP $14.95
ISBN 9780 9781 62403
Reviewed by Jo Antareau

Little mouse is uncomfortable in her own bed – a child’s bed – and so begins a journey to find a better place to sleep. She encounters a number of different animals and asks them to show her their bedrooms.  From a bat who sleeps upside down in a cave to a polar bear’s icy hole, the mouse is willing to try a variety of different animal beds. The puppy’s basket is quite cute and the rabbit’s communal burrow is very cosy, but none of these quite suit the mouse.

Written in a rhyming prose with repetitive dialogue, this picture book is suitable for children aged three years and over. Illustrated with coloured sketches by Laurie Burrows, the creatures have been given soft, cartoonish features, so even the crocodile does not look threatening.

However, I am puzzled by the mouse's repeated response of 'No, no, no, I do not agree'. The theme of this book is tolerance and she merely asked them for information and no creature forced her to adopt their particular style of sleeping.

In the end, the mouse fashions a nest of her own, inspired by the bird’s home. This is a sweet little book that illustrates differences between the niches of various animal species, and is sure to inspire discussion about habitats.

Although the book has not included a bibliography for further reading, teaching notes and other resources are available from the publisher.

Ticklish Tom

Ticklish Tom (Little Mates) by Susannah McFarlane, illustrated by Lachlan Creagh (Scholastic Australia)
PB RRP $4.99
ISBN 978-1-74283-738-3
Reviewed by Jenny Heslop

Ticklish Tom is a new title in the sweet alliteration alphabet series Little Mates. Tom is a Tasmanian Devil who happens to be the most ticklish Devil across the whole of Tassie. His friends take advantage of this most of the time but when Tom gets himself into a tricky situation, they all team up to help.

As with other books in this series, friendship, teamwork and helping others feature strongly in Ticklish Tom. But it is the humour, fun and word play that shine brightest. The author manipulates all of the t words in the story with great skill and style. And the illustrator is extremely talented at depicting Australian animals and their surrounds.

This is a great read-aloud story for young children who are exploring the world of the alphabet.


Dandelion by Galvin Scott Davis, illustrated by Anthony Ishinjerro (Random House Australia)
HB RRP $19.95
ISBN 9780857981028
Also available as an ebook
ISBN 9780857981035
Reviewed by Marian McGuinness

This picture book for primary aged children tells the story of Benjamin Brewster, a young boy in the first years of school. Instead of school being a safe haven of joy and wonder, it’s become a prison, as Benjamin is bullied by older children.

Capturing the sadness and the powerlessness of being bullied, illustrator Anthony Ishinjerro has used the persona of a faceless child (other bullied children might see themselves here) wrapped in a sepia world. It is filled with shadows and the reader looks through a kind of lens at Benjamin’s alienated childhood.

‘Each morning he would count the nine hundred and seventy-two steps that it took him to reach his school.’

But it was hopeless. All Benjamin saw were hovering, ominous figures, barred gates and pointing fingers, so he skips school and hides beneath the shelter of a tree. As he sits and worries and thinks, a field of dandelions sprouts around him. As all children do, Benjamin picks one and makes a wish as he blows the feathery seeds that parachute into the wind.

The dandelion seeds are a metaphor for the bullies (and perhaps his worries) as he blows them away.

The reality is that the bullies are still there. Benjamin calls on the namesake of the flower as dandelion means lion’s tooth, and he begins to let his roaring voice be heard. This, along with imagining the bullies being blown away, helps Benjamin to cope. He finds that if he uses his imagination, he begins to have control over the situation.

On the last page, Benjamin lifts his head to the light; his face is aglow as he looks into the future. Told mostly in rhyme, this poignant story will give many parents and teachers the opportunity to discuss bullying with their children. School Education Minister Peter Garrett said in November last year, ‘One in five students has experienced some form of cyber bullying. This means every family either has a child, or knows one, who is being bullied at school.’

As author Galvin Scott Davis says in his epilogue, he created a story ‘that could transport children and adults to a world where creativity is embraced to solve problems.’

Thursday, 9 May 2013

There was an Old Bloke who Swallowed a Bunny!

There was an Old Bloke who Swallowed a Bunny! by P.Crumble, illustrated by Louis Shea (Scholastic Australia)
PB RRP $13.99
ISBN 978-1-74283-160-2
Reviewed by Jenny Heslop

There was an Old Bloke Who Swallowed a Bunny! is the newest version of the classic rhyme There was an Old Woman Who Swallowed a Fly. I like P. Crumble but this is not one of my favourites – in fact I found this farmyard version a little hard to swallow. The rhyme is awkward and the procession of animals does not quite make sense. Why does he swallow a duck to carry the mouse?

Louis Shea is a fabulous illustrator and I love his animals and their expressions. On the bunny page there are about thirty rabbits (and two tortoises) and each one is individual. The humour on the page is strong as well, but the pictures have a dark edge to them that may be a little frightening for the very young.

The words follow the convention of the original rhyme, and as always, the author adds a different mix of animals to keep each other company during their brief stay inside his ever growing stomach. 'There was an old bloke who swallowed a llama. The toothy fellow caused quite a drama.'

This is a fun book and many children will enjoy the silliness of events. See if you can find the worm the illustrator has hidden in every picture.

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Silly Sam

Silly Sam (Little Mates) by Susannah McFarlane, illustrated by Lachlan Creagh (Scholastic Australia)
PB RRP $4.99
ISBN 978-1-74283-737-6
Reviewed by Jenny Heslop

Sam is a sheep who loves to sing. More specifically, he loves to sing silly songs. But these songs are not always appreciated by his friends and Sam cannot find a place to sing until Sadie the sheepdog comes up with a perfect solution.

Young children will identify with Sam’s compulsion to make up silly words to songs, to singing them loudly and to wanting an audience. The illustrations are fun and there is plenty to discover in the detailed drawings including many things beginning with S which are not in the storyline. The text is amusing and there is much tongue twisting fun to be had when read aloud.

This is a great little set of books to collect. They are inexpensive, entertaining for littlies and have a nice Australian flavour which mostly avoids clichéd concepts and images. Silly Sam is the next book in the Little Mates Aussie alphabet series and is one of my favourites so far.

Tuesday, 7 May 2013


Light by Michael Grant (Egmont)
ISBN 9781405257589
PB  RRP $22.95
Reviewed by Nean McKenzie

Light is the sixth and final book in the YA series about the FAYZ (Fallout Alley Youth Zone) — an isolating dome in California, under which no one is more than fifteen years old. The many characters, each with a unique mutation, follow on from the previous books: Gone, Hunger, Lies, Plague and Fear. Under the FAYZ, kids continue to struggle for survival against starvation, each other and the evil presence of the Gaiphage, now in the human form of a scary girl called Gaia. The big difference in Light is the dome is clear, enabling adults from the outside world to look in. And they're horrified.  

With the dome clear, there are new problems under the FAYZ. Kids who can see their parents, stop working to produce food. Sam (the main character) and his friends are not confident they will make it out of the dome, even though the end is in sight. It is more likely they'll starve or be killed by Gaia who is growing in strength. She now possesses all the powers of each kid, including Sam's laser-shooting hands and Lana's healing powers. But they must unite and fight against her.

This story is about redemption and facing consequences. In the back of each kid's mind is the same question: what happens if they do get out? They know the adults will not understand the sometimes terrible things they have done. But first there is the difficulty of surviving. In the end a key character must be sacrificed to save not only those inside the FAYZ, but also the world outside. The 'end game' comes quickly.

Light is a long book, at 434 pages. (The whole series is around 3000!) The story is not for the squeamish with decapitation, severed limbs and cannibalism. There are some violent fighting scenes as well. There is a  recommended age of 13+ but it will depend on the teenager. Light is fast paced and jumps between the many characters skillfully.

After the conclusion there are four end chapters called 'aftermath,' which describe how the survivors of the FAYZ fare in the real world. This ties up loose ends and enables readers, who have stuck with these characters for the whole series, to finally say goodbye.  

Monday, 6 May 2013

I Wonder

I Wonder by Bettina Strong, illustrated by Laurie Burrows (Be Book Wise)
PB RRP $14.95
ISBN 978 0 9871624 27
Reviewed by Jo Antareau

Curiosity about the world is a beautiful part of childhood development. When kids can’t check something out for themselves, they seek answers from the nearest adult. The young narrator of this non-fiction picture book for early-primary or preschool aged children is no different. In I Wonder she asks many of the questions that a small child may pose about Australian fauna, such as ‘what an emu’s egg looks like’ and ‘where a wombat sleeps’.

Intended as a springboard for class discussion, the girl asks a single question about the features or behaviour of each of thirteen Australian animals. Strong has included familiar animals such as kangaroos and koalas, as well as some that children may not have encountered, such as a bilby. A brief answer to each question is provided on the inside back cover, although an early reader would need an adult to read and explain these to them.

Each double page is brightly illustrated with a colored sketch of the animal in its habitat. Whilst Burrows has drawn realistic animals, facial expressions were added which give the book a fun feel.
Although the book has not included a bibliography for further reading, teaching notes and other resources are available from the publisher.

Dog on Log

Dog on Log by Tania Ingram, illustrated by Kat Chadwick (Omnibus Books)
HB RRP $24.99
ISBN 978-1-86291-964-8
Reviewed by Jenny Heslop

Cat is coming to stay with dog. Dog and all his friends are preparing for the visit with decorations, balloons and party food. Cat arrives and all goes well until rat steals cat’s cake. Then chaos breaks out.

Dog on Log is reminiscent of Dr Suess books or P.D. Eastman’s Go, Dog, Go. The rhyme is almost all pure, the rhythm is perfect - a pleasure to read aloud - and the use of opposites is clever and consistent:

 Big cat asleep.
 Small rat awake.
 Small rat stealing big cat’s cake.

These simple words are fantastic for children who are just beginning to experiment with language, with the meaning and sounds of the words they are using. The sentence structure starts simply and builds up with the action of the story as it heads towards the chaotic atmosphere. This helps to increase the anticipation of events:

 Dog. Frog.
 Frog on dog.
 Frog on log.

The illustrations are as complex and detailed as the text is spare. There is so much to see. Every time I read it I notice something new. There is no mention of a chicken in the text, but she is as large a character as the dog, cat, frog and hog. From the first page where she sits under a tree with her sewing machine sewing strings of bunting she became my favourite character and I followed her actions in the illustrations throughout the book.

There is so much to enjoy in this book. The slapstick humour, the characters which come to life, the fun play on words and the gorgeously entertaining illustrations. The storyline is never sacrificed for the rhyme or vice versa.

Dog on Log has leaped onto my favourite’s shelf and I think will be much loved by young children (4+) and all who read to them.

Sunday, 5 May 2013

Hello Hugs

Hello Hugs by Bettina Strong, illustrated by Valerie Bouthyette
PB RRP $14.95
ISBN 978-0-9871624-4-1
Reviewed by Cindy Shames

This picture book is a lovely book that would suit 3 – 5 year olds. The story is a simple story of a little girl who doesn’t like goodbyes. After she says goodbye to her grandmother, she looks forward to her next hello.

The text is very simple and easy to read. The delightful large illustrations enhance the story for the young reader. The colour palate is chosen well as it gives off warmth and a re assuring feel for the mood of the story.  The main character Elizabeth has a warm happy face, which should be enjoyed by the reader. The book demonstrates how positive thinking can make situations seem better.

Bettina Strong has also written Go Ella, Go!

This review was done by Cindy Shames  A writer and illustrator of a children’s book and an art teacher.

The Word Hunters: The Lost Hunters

The Word Hunters: The Lost Hunters by Nick Earls, illustrated by Terry Whidborne (University of Queensland Press)
PB RRP $14.95
ISBN 9780 702 249587
Reviewed by Jo Antareau

The Lost Hunters is the sequel to Word Hunters: The Curious Dictionary in which the Hunter twins return with more time-slip adventures. Again, the dictionary transports them to points in history where a word was born, and their job is to ‘peg’ the word in place, so that it becomes established in our lexicon. But now the adventure has become personal. Al and Lexi realise that their long-lost grandfather was actually a word hunter like them, who has somehow become stuck somewhere in 3000 years of history. They have to find him, knowing that they too could get trapped in the past or fall victim to the many dangers inherent in the not-so-safe bygone days.

Along the way, they meet William Shakespeare, a World War I bomber and encounter the ‘real’ Humpty Dumpty (probably not what you think). They also meet Will Hunter, another lost time-traveller, who joins them in their adventures and is happy to adjust to twenty-first century life between missions.

However, their word hunting efforts are thwarted by the mysterious men in grey robes, who seem to be making sure that the very words they are saving disappear – and who will stop at nothing to achieve their end, even if it means hurting the word hunters. Who is behind their plot?

I enjoyed the historical and etymological snippets in the book. Whidborne’s line illustrations have wonderful detail and help to orient the reader in the historical era. However, I suggest that readers may have a better appreciation of the situations depicted after having read the first book, as I am not sure it stands alone. This is recommended for children aged 9 years and over.

Teaching notes are available from UQP.