Saturday, 30 November 2013

Romeo and Juliet

Romeo and Juliet, based on the play by William Shakespeare, adapted and illustrated by Gareth Hinds (Walker Books)
Paperback Flap RRP $ 22.95
ISBN 9780763668075
Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

Shakespeare’s superb tragic love story is made accessible to a new generation in the easy to understand form of the graphic novel. Having retold classics such as The Odyssey, King Lear, The Merchant of Venice and Beowulf, Gareth Hinds has proven himself a gifted creator of children’s /young adult graphic novels which can definitely be enjoyed by readers of all ages. His skilled storytelling and vivid portrayals of the characters through his illustrations can be revisited by lovers of the classics (and everyone else) and be moved afresh by these immortal stories.

In this beautifully created fold-over flap edition, Gareth Hinds uses multicultural characters ‘in order to reflect how universal this story is’. Although the complete text has been abridged to accommodate the structure of the book, Hinds has remained faithful to Shakespeare’s iambic pentameter and retained the essence of the story. The master’s talent for puns, double-meanings and play on words will make you smile once again.

The Only Child Club

The Only Child Club by Anne Fine, illustrated by Arthur Robins (Walker Books)
HC RRP 21.95
ISBN 9781406348064
Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

What is it that an only child never gets to do? Are they missing out on anything significant? Ryan, an only child, decides to create a list of only children from within his class, to discover if there is something missing from their life.

He is meticulous and detailed in his preparations, adding and deleting names as he goes through his list to make sure he’s chosen the right children. But the hilarious and surprising outcome of his experiment is hardly what he expected.

This is a fun-filled chapter book for beginners with lots of terrific illustrations to support Anne Fine’s clever theme.

Friday, 29 November 2013

The Illuminated Adventures of Flora and Ulysses

The Illuminated Adventures of Flora and Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo, illustrated by K. G. Campbell (Walker Books)
HC RRP $19.95
ISBN 9780763660406
Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

The Illuminated Adventures of Flora and Ulysses’ clever and unique prose and style confirms that Kate DiCamillo is one of the most creative and versatile children’s writers today.

This outstanding book is full of wisdom and humour. It’s themes of grief and loss of various kinds - particularly that of the spirit, reflects on the importance of telling people that matter to you, that you love them.

The main characters are amazing. Ten year old Flora is a highly intelligent, reflective child who is trying to survive the divorce of her parents. Her way of coping is to bury herself in comics about her superhero, Incandesto, and his parakeet, Dolores. Her mother calls Flora a ‘natural-born cynic’ while she pours her emotionless self into the writing of romantic novels.

William Spiver who comes to live next door to Flora is temporarily blind due to an emotional trauma and comes with similar secret baggage to Flora’s. He is the only person that Flora can relate to. They both embark on a journey of the Self that begins when Flora resuscitates a squirrel that she names Ulysses, after he gets sucked up by a runaway vacuum cleaner.

This illuminating, powerful story of the heart has a rare and individual quality about it. The illustrations are superb and delicate like Flora and William Spiver, and highly enhance every significant scene and character they depict.

The Illuminated Adventures of Flora and Ulysses comes recommended as one of the best books you will ever read and own.

Thursday, 28 November 2013

A Swim in the Sea

A Swim in the Sea by Sue Whiting, illustrated by Meredith Thomas (Walker Books)
HC RRP $27.95
ISBN 9781921150494
Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

What a gifted author Sue Whiting is. Everything she creates has meaning and beauty, regardless of genre. In A Swim in the Sea the child Bruno is off on his first day at the beach. With repetition and alliteration, the sharp text shows his preparation, excitement, then trepidation and finally his joy at being at the beach. The words gain momentum then collapse in union with the waves they describe, and that are depicted in full force by the illustrator.

But the words would be just words without the outstanding full page illustrations created with acrylic paints by Meredith Thomas. She brings life to the text and the story the pictures tell, is more than what the author has written. There is no mention of the dog in the story, yet the dog is very much a part of the show. He is Bruno’s shadow and does what he does, feels what he feels, and makes the reader believe that the story is about him.

Here are two brilliant creators totally in sync with one another. Beautiful and stylish in every way, with a cover that speaks volumes about the contents, this book is a must for the 3+ age group and lovers of exceptional picture books.

Double Crossing

Double Crossing by Richard Platt, illustrated by Alexandra Higlett (Walker Books)
PB RRP $16.95
ISBN 9781406345056
Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

It begins in Ireland 1906. Poverty stricken David O’Connor has recently lost his mother. He poaches fish from the traps to survive with his friend Pat. A silly prank instigated by Pat leads to the death of the waterman. This, followed closely by the death of David’s father, changes the course of David’s life.

Unable to stay any longer with the neighbours, David travels to New York to live with his uncle. The journey in third class is dreadful but David sees it as an adventure, especially when he meets and is befriended by a boy from the upper class that bears an uncanny resemblance to him.

This strange and eventful journey is more than one journey and more than one story. It is a structure of events built with incredible talent and technique about loyalty and friendships; truth and lies, and the price of silence. It keeps the reader riveted from beginning to end with its perfect prose and sharp descriptions that call the senses to attention.

The putrid smells of the streets assault the nose as does the ugliness which is ever-present before the eyes. You can hear the ugliness in the voices and also in the physical and verbal assaults on the street urchins, while the sound of the carriages echo in the background.

Double Crossing is sad and moving, but simultaneously full of serendipity. It will be remembered and recalled due to the authenticity of the narrator’s voice through the diary entries, and its astonishing twists and turns. It is a masterful piece of work that deserves the accolades it will get.

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

WIN a $150 book pack

Buzz Words and Bookworld have combined to offer readers the chance to WIN a $150 book pack of children's and YA titles. And it's perfect timing with Christmas just around the corner. 

Included in the pack is the dystopian YA novel Allegiant, the conclusion to Veronica Roth's New York Times bestselling DIVERGENT trilogy. Divergent is also set to be released as a movie in March 2014 and starring Kate Winslett.

Allegiant takes Tris on new challenges and having to face impossible choices. She questions everything and everyone, including herself. Told from the dual perspectives of Tris and Four, all the secrets of this dystopian world will be revealed.

The remainder of the books in the pack will be a Christmas surprise, but rest assured that they will all be children's and YA titles.

For a chance to win this fantastic prize all you need to do is comment on this post by 5pm EDST 10 December 2013. Tell us your favourite book. You don't have to let us in on why but we'd still love to know! Join the conversation and be in with a chance to WIN this great selection.

Open to Australian residents only.

Dear Father Christmas

Dear Father Christmas by Alan Durant, illustrated by Vanessa Cabban (Walker Books)
PB RRP $ 16.95
ISBN 9781406351491
Review by Anastasia Gonis

All Christmas books are delightful and welcome at this time of year. Lift-the-flap letters always add a special touch and renew the spirit of Christmas with their messages of hidden longings.

Beautifully illustrated ad presented in full page colour, Alan Durant has created a loving approach to children’s wishes for the festive season. Warm and endearing thoughts from a child’s mind fill Holly’s letters left to Father Christmas on the mantelpiece.

A magical journey and dreams come true bring joy into Holly’s life after she builds up the courage to write what she really wants on the list she leaves for Father Christmas.

Tuesday, 26 November 2013


Patience by Kirrily Lowe, illustrated by Henry Smith (Wombat Books)
HB RRP $18.95
ISBN 978-1-921632-58-7
Reviewed by Peta Biggin

Sam is expecting the postman to bring him a parcel and he is having a hard time waiting.  It seems to take forever for his delivery to arrive but it finally does.  After the excitement of opening his parcel, Sam realises that something very important has happened within him.  As he was waiting for the postman to come, he was also learning to be patient.

Patience is the latest book in The Invisible Tree series written by pastor Kirrily Lowe.  Each themed book aims to encourage personal attributes in young children.

There is an Invisible Tree
That lives inside of me
It wants to grow big and tall
Even though I am very small 

Despite the concept of the series being based on a biblical scripture, the tone of the book is not religiously biased in any way.  Rather it describes the evolution of patience within Sam through the metaphor of fruit (being borne of the Invisible Tree). The story is told in rhyme and it is easy to read, although the rhythm does falter on occasion. It would make a great read aloud book for pre-schoolers or early primary children.

For me the illustrations were the biggest attraction.  Each full-page illustration is a collage with sections of newspaper, writing or wrapping paper used to provide a visual texture.  The collage theme also extends to the text with seemingly random words being presented as if cut from a newspaper or magazine.

Patience is the fourth book in the series, following on from Love, Joy and Peace. Subsequent books planned are: Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness and Self-Control.

Kirrily Lowe is a mum to three boys and a pastor together with her husband Tim at the C3 Church City Campus in Darlinghurst, Sydney. She is passionate about filling young lives with great values in a fun way. The Invisible Tree is her first series of books.  She can be found online at:

Henry Smith is a graphic designer and film maker from the production company Taste Media.  His work ranges from handcrafted claymation films to drawings and designs. All of the illustrations in The Invisible Tree series were created from recycled & hand-made papers.

City of Monsters, Book 1 – Monster School

City of Monsters, Book 1 – Monster School by DC Green
(Ford Street Publishing)
PB RRP $18.95
ISBN 9781925000078
Reviewed by Francine Sculli

Princes aren’t your ordinary people, but Prince Thomas isn’t your ordinary prince either. He’s one of the few human beings left in Monstro City, a place overridden with monsters that don’t favour humes. His existence would be a little more exciting if he were allowed to do anything, but his days are largely consumed by Lord Boron’s dead boring history lessons (that don’t teach him much at all) and confinement in his bedroom with only Erica, a humourless ogre, to keep him entertained with absurd protection rituals.

Thomas knows very little of the world outside. He knows that the castle was raided by deadly vampires who abducted his father and brother. He knows his mother has since been comatose in a hospital bed and that Lord Boron has earned himself the privilege of being King until Thomas turns eighteen. But Thomas knows there is more to all of this.

One day his curiosity gets the better of him. He bribes money-driven Erica and devises a crazy plan to mask himself as a swamp monster named PT, build a mechanical replica of himself to sit in on Lord Boron’s boring history lessons and sets off to attend the local monster school, Monstro Central School.  At school, Thomas hopes to learn as much as he can about the outside world but he gets much more than he bargains for.

He meets an equally made cast of misfit monsters (think zombies, vampires, trolls, oversized spiders and mummies) who allow him to join their group, the Dead Gang. But these monsters quickly discover that PT isn’t who claims to be. He’s not a swamp monster but a human Prince Thomas. Resisting the urge to eat his brains out and suck his blood, the monsters begrudgingly decide

Even after the monsters discover that PT isn’t really a swamp monster, but a human Prince Thomas, the monsters decide not to eat his brains out or suck his blood, instead they begrudgingly decide to help him discover what is really going on over at the castle. What they discover sends them on an even wilder adventure – overturning the throne, reclaiming Thomas’ right as King, shapeshifting into Mayor Viethe, being chased by lethal gob hunters and confronting one of the scariest mythical creatures in the world – the dragon Kalthazari.

Monster School is a wildly imaginative story that is rippling with adventure, humour, blood and guts and the most barbaric line up of intriguing characters you’ll ever meet. DC Green has carved a fierce world that is sure to keep even the most reluctant reader engrossed. With interesting language, every monster you can imagine and some woven themes of friendship, trust and honour – Monster School is definitely gloriously grotesque. 

Monday, 25 November 2013

Paper Magic

Paper Magic by Jeffery E Doherty (IFWG Publishing)
PB RRP $15.99
ISBN 978-0-9923020-1-6
Reviewed by Jaquelyn Muller

Paper Magic is a new fiction chapter book from author/illustrator, Jeffery E Doherty. It tells the story of Marina who is a young girl of approximately 12 or 13, who like most girls her age, harbours insecurities and feelings of self-consciousness. What makes Marina’s case different is that for a reason unknown to the reader (but not integral to the plot), Marina is confined to a wheelchair.

The author states that the book is suited to secondary school readers, however I feel that grade five and six students would follow and identify with the themes of friendships and family while being intrigued by the mysticism of the ‘paper magic’. Doherty’s simple but textual black and white illustrations support the text also making it accessible for primary readers.

The mood of the story starts somewhat solemnly with Marina observing the bright and jovial landscape of the park from the distance of her room as she contemplates starting a new school. Marina’s frustration is made clear and it encourages the reader to continue so as to understand why she can’t go outside herself. It is not evident at first that Marina has a handicap.

Marina’s family are represented by her mother and grandmother and they follow a typical mother/daughter dynamic with tensions between each of the generations, leading the reader to think this may be a serious story.  However the grandmother’s introduction of enchanted paper surprises, and it quickly transforms the plot to a lively, engaging pace.

The magic paper along with Marina’s grandmother, lead her on to an adventure in the park where she meets Toby, Amelia and Sam. Together they unlock the true potential of ‘paper magic’ and along the way discover aspects of themselves which are conveyed via light-hearted mini-plots. The descriptive used by Doherty is original without being overworked.

Marina’s disability is not the focus of the story, but a vehicle for her insecurities. The idea of making new friends, starting a new school and navigating family will be familiar to most readers making Marina easily identifiable.

The origin of the magic paper and how Marina’s grandmother came to possess it is not ratified which could be explored in a follow up story or as prequel.

I found Paper Magic thought provoking while captivating and younger readers will have opportunities to draw conclusions and predict outcomes.

Jaquelyn Muller is a published picture book author and champion for early childhood literacy campaign, Let’s Read. Jaquelyn recently had her book I Love You 5 Lollipops exhibited at the China Shanghai Children’s International Book Fair in November 2013 and she regularly conducts literacy workshops for primary school students. 

Ice Breaker: The Hidden Series

Ice Breaker: The Hidden Series 1 by Lian Tanner (Allen and Unwin)
PB RRP $18.99
ISBN 978-1-74331-434-0
Reviewed by Ann Harth

Petrel lives on an icebreaker seemingly bound for nowhere. When she was an infant, her parents committed an unspeakable crime and were thrown into the icy waters below. Petrel became the Nothing Girl, shunned and ignored by the tribes who live, work and battle on the ancient ship. She steals food to survive, curling into forgotten corners of the ship for warmth and safety from the hatred of the others. Her only friends are Mr Smoke and Miss Slink, two large and intelligent rats.

In this first book of the Hidden Series, Lian Tanner has created a self-contained society on a ship that has been travelling through icy waters for centuries. After a bloody battle 200 years before, the population of the Oyster split into three jealously guarded territories. Although Petrel is not turned away at the borders, she is not welcomed, either. In the eyes of the ship’s inhabitants, 12-year-old Petrel is lower than the rats who have befriended her.

The tide begins to turn when Petrel spots a frozen boy on an iceberg. She informs the crew and the boy is brought on board and locked away. The tribes argue over his fate, some wanting to extract information from him, others certain he is lethal and wishing to throw him off the ship to die in the icy grip of the sea. Petrel helps him to escape and feels responsible for his fate, but when the ship’s First Officer is murdered, the frozen boy is the most likely suspect. All three tribes join forces to look for the boy and Petrel tries to protect him while conflicted with her own questions about his sudden appearance.

As the story unfolds, the mysteries surrounding the frozen boy, the purpose of the ship and even the deaths of Petrel’s parents are revealed. Lian Tanner skilfully weaves emotion, excitement and surprising twists throughout this fast-paced book bringing them all together in a satisfying conclusion.

Ice Breaker is a suitable novel for 9-13 year olds and many will easily identify with Petrel. She is a convincing character and her introspection helped me to feel like I was experiencing the events of the story right along with her. Petrel’s courage in the face of loneliness and ridicule will work to empower young readers.

Lian Tanner creates bold and colourful characters.  Her professional life includes, but is not limited to, work as an actor, a teacher, a tour bus driver and a juggler. Her Keeper’s Series has won many awards and The Hidden Series promises the same. For more information about Lian Tanner, please visit

Ann Harth is a published children's author and writing tutor at Australian College of Journalism. She loves to read, write and is committed to creating children's literature that inspires, entertains and triggers a tiny twist in the mind. Her latest middle-grade novel, The Art of Magic, and her book for budding authors, Writing for Children – In the Beginning are available from Amazon.

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Ella and Olivia: Cool Kitties

Ella and Olivia: Cool Kitties by Yvette Poshoglian, illustrated by Danielle McDonald (Scholastic Australia)
PB RRP $7.99
ISBN 978-1-74283-799-4
Reviewed by Jenny Heslop

Ella and Olivia are sisters. Ella is seven years old and Olivia is five-and-a-half. They have a little brother called Max and a pet dog called Bob. They also have fifteen Cool Kitties between them, eight are Olivia’s and seven are Ella’s. Cool Kitties are all the rage. Everyone at school collects them. Ella’s friend Zoe has sixteen all of her own.
Ella and Olivia are Cool Kitty crazy. They would love to collect the whole set but don’t have money to buy more. They decide to earn some by doing lots of jobs around the house for Mum and Dad. But they soon discover that it’s not quite as easy as they imagined. Will they ever earn enough for the Cool Kitties they want and a special carry case to store them in?

Cool Kitties is a sweet story about two sisters overcoming their frustrations and working together to achieve this goal. Large text, short chapters and plenty of cute illustrations throughout make this a great chapter book for young beginner readers. And the concepts of cute toy kittens, collecting, friendships, co-operation and family make this an entertaining and relatable read for this age group. There are many more titles also in this enticing series for young girls.

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Baby Elephant Walk

Baby Elephant Walk [with CD] by Hal David and Henry Mancini, illustrations by Rhiannon Mowat (Scholastic Australia)
HB RRP $24.99
ISBN 978-1-74283-418-4
Reviewed by Jenny Heslop

Baby Elephant Walk is a vibrant and happy picture book version of a well known song by Hal David and Henry Mancini. Composed in 1961, Baby Elephant Walk is still widely used. Mancini’s tune is an addictive and catchy one which Mowat captures with lively illustrations that seem to move to this musical beat, in sync with the lyrics.

Make believe you’re in a jungle movie
See the baby elephants go by 
The beat is groovy
It’s a brand new dance you ought to try.

The animals that dance through this book are energetic and charismatic, portrayed in an environment of gentle, soft colours and lush jungle life. This will appeal enormously to young children.

The accompanying CD features the fabulous and instantly recognisable voice of Jay Laga’aina who brings a magical energy to all he sings. I’m sure it will have all listeners joining in, and humming the tune well after the book has been closed.

Join the conga line and dance your way through jungle with these sweet and rhythmic animals in Baby Elephant Walk.

Friday, 22 November 2013

When did you see her last?

When did you see her last? by Lemony Snicket, Art by Seth (Hardie Grant Egmont)
ISBN 978 1 74297 297 8
HB $16.95 RRP
Reviewed by Nean McKenzie

This is the second book in the middle readers series All the Wrong Questions. When did you see her last? gives just a brief summary of what came before, then launches into action. In the almost abandoned town of Stain'd-by-the-Sea a girl (and brilliant chemist) called Cleo Knight has gone missing. With the help of Moxie, teenage journalist, and the hindrance of his chaperone, S. Thoedora Markson, thirteen year old Lemony Snicket sets out to discover what has really happened.

Lemony Snicket's distinctive voice is planted firmly inside the character's head, sometimes in the form of stream of consciousness, other times explaining in dictionary detail what more complicated words mean. Behind it all is the rather black, tongue in cheek humour, also present in the Series of Unfortunate Events, which makes you laugh out loud while reading. Characters say delightfully unexpected things such as: '...Nothing wrong with leaving a guy all alone in a dangerous place. Maybe on our way into town we can find a puppy to run over because we're such nice guys.'

Quirky characters abound. My favourites are Mimi and Harvey Mitchum, the husband and wife police team who can't stop arguing, and their son Stewie the police siren. Nurse Dander and Doctor Flammarion also make excellent bad guys. The illustrations, suitably retro and in various shades of purple and black, effectively add atmosphere to the story. The end papers of the book are covered in squids, such as those which supply the ink for 'Ink Inc', the largest company in Stain'd-By-The-Sea.
The plot goes by at a sizzling pace with twists and turns and as a result, is sometimes a little confusing. Only part of the mystery is solved in this book, as there are longer running ones through the series. There's the beautiful but possibly untrustworthy Ellington Feint, a man called Hangfire with an evil plan and most of all, just who is Lemony Snicket?  Hints are dropped and the reader is left with more questions at the end of the book than at the beginning, despite the case being cracked and the missing girl found. The only solution is to wait for the next book and read on.

Colour for Curlews

Colour for Curlews written and illustrated by Renée Treml (Random House Australia Children’s)
HB RRP $19.95
ISBN 9781742759210
Reviewed by Marian McGuinness

Having reviewed Renée Treml’s first picture book One Very Tired Wombat (shortlisted for the CBCA’s 2013 Crichton Award), I was looking forward to seeing her interpretation of the rather plainly feathered, Aussie curlew.

Two cheeky curlews wander into an artist’s studio, and like two little kids, find delight in squeezing paint tubes and dabbing themselves ‘with golden eyes that glimmer in the sun.’

Other birds come to play as well. Bowerbird naturally seizes the tube of blue, Brolga selects red for ‘some colour near her face’, three quails slide across the yellow and red blobs and create orange. Lorikeet stirs blue into yellow and wallows around in a green puddle.

Treml uses a plethora of Australian birds to mix and match the artist’s primary coloured palette until there is a rainbow as, ‘splashes fly and birds all laugh as colours go here and there!’

Not only will pre-schoolers and young readers love the colour fun, they’ll delight in seeing One Very Tired Wombat waddle across the page, lie down in the pool of paint, roll around, stretch and scratch until all the colours mix into brown as ‘wombat closes both his eyes to sleep the day away.’

This multi-coloured picture book combines Treml’s love of mixing colours with her passion for native birds, so it’s a double-whammy for readers. Her artwork is crisp, yet subtly detailed and her splashes of colour bring joy to every page.

Starting with her alliterative title, Treml combines rhyme, vivid verbs and changing font to engage her audience. Her endpapers provide extra information about the quirkiness of our native birds for potential bird watchers, big and small.

Thursday, 21 November 2013

The Three Wallabies Gruff

The Three Wallabies Gruff by Yvonne Morrison and Heath McKenzie (Little Hare Books)
PB RRP $14.95 
ISBN 978 1 742977 15 7
Reviewed by Nean McKenzie

This delightful picture book takes an old tale and cleverly twists it into a story as Aussie as Vegemite. Taking the place of the Billy-goats Gruff are three very astute wallabies; a dad, mum and son. Instead of a troll is a green yowie, beautifully illustrated with red eyes and yellow teeth. It's all set around a sparkling blue pool, shady and cool. None of the other animals can drink the water because the yowie frightens them away. But things change when the Wallabies Gruff turn up.

This is a good book to read aloud, with humorous rhymes to please both the reader and listener. The phrase, 'Who's that going Slip Slap down my private track? I'll gobble you up for my afternoon snack!' is repeated each time an animal tries to cross the bridge. Unfazed by the hideousness of the yowie, the quick-thinking wallaby family take advantage of his greediness and ultimately trick him into losing his beloved pool. The yowie ends up in the back of beyond, where he gets his just deserts 

The illustrations are colourful and full of character. Father wallaby wears a Bonds type singlet top and has a moustache and muscles, while Mother wallaby wears a red, floral dress. The facial expressions, on the animals too scared to drink the water from the pool, look suitably distraught. But the yowie is the best, almost evoking sympathy at the end in a final (textless) twist on the last page. It's good to end a book with a chuckle.

The humour in this book makes it appealing to children of a variety of ages, from preschool to those who can read it for themselves. 

Saurus Street

Saurus Street by Nick Falk and Tony Flowers (Random House Australia)
PB RRP $12.95
Saurus Street 5: A Plesiosaur Broke My Bathtub
ISBN 9780857981820
Also available as an ebook
ISBN 9780857980540

Saurus Street 6: A Diplodocus Trampled My Teepee
ISBN 9780857981844
Also available as an ebook
ISBN 9780857981851
Reviewed by Marian McGuinness

After reviewing the first two Saurus Street books a short while ago, what fun it is to read the next set of adventures.

With a great opening sentence ‘There are three reasons I’m scared of Granny and Grandad’s outdoor loo …’, I was hooked. Suddenly, visions of dark nights, scary sounds and creepy crawlies brought back childhood memories. Some things never change.

In Book 5, A Plesiosaur Broke My Bathtub, we’re creeping around with 9 year-old Thomas as he gathers the courage to go to the outside loo in the middle of the night. Granny and Grandad’s ‘creaky old cabin’ is built over a sinkhole in a swamp that’s connected to Saurus Lake, so a bottomless outdoor toilet is a spooky place to go.

Thomas has a powerful imagination. One dismal, windy night he falls down the toilet into its ‘murky darkness below.’ The only thing Thomas can do is swim through the yuck, through a tunnel and into Lake Saurus. His rollicking adventure begins when he is hooked on a fishing line by a red-haired girl called Molly. She thinks he is ‘as mad as a box of frogs.’

Molly is fishing for squid to feed Ellie, the Loch Saurus Monster (a plesiosaur).

As readers of Nick Falk’s Saurus Street books handle a single plot, Falk weaves in a riotous sub-plot. The Reverend Parsnip and his wife, Priscilla, are planning on taking over the lake and building a hideous fishing lodge.

Thomas and Molly join forces and imaginations. They devise a plan to ‘pull the plug’ to save not only the lake, but also its shy inhabitant, Ellie the Plesiosaur.

Nick Falk is a whizz with words. He uses lots of vibrant verbs: twist, warble, squiggle, spike and each takes the font shape of its sound, which not only reads well, but adds a visual dimension and extra context to the sentences.

Chapter headings are fun as well. Who wouldn’t want to read Meet the Parsnips or Something Alive Down There …

There’s plenty of white space on each page and Tony Flowers’ hilarious illustrations reinforce key elements as you read. The facial expressions and body language connect you directly to the story.

And we’re left with the question, how do Granny’s VOLCANIC ginger snap biscuits save the day?

Book 6, A Diplodocus Trampled My Teepee, continues the high jinks in Saurus Street. This time, Toby and Jack are camping at Camp Saurus. They play ‘Imagineering’ and make up outrageous stories about the things they find.

They find a marble that is really the magic eyeball of Captain Saurus, a legendary pirate whose ship was made from dinosaur bones. The eyeball unleashes a curse that brings dinosaurs back to life.

While there’s curious scratching noises from their teepee a huge head rises over the treetops. It’s a diplodocus and pandemonium breaks out. The boys have to find a way to reverse the curse. Jack’s ‘scary sister’ Saffi joins them. The boys don’t know which is more fearsome, the dinosaurs or Saffi.

Toby places the magic eyeball over his own eye, like a pirate patch. Amazingly, he sees like a pirate. There’s a map tucked away in the eyeball. To reverse the curse, they have to find where X marks the spot!

There are dinosaurs on the loose everywhere. Jack, Toby and Saffi end up riding a dinosaur, rodeo-style, to escape the stampede. They fall through a crack in the earth and end up at the bottom of a canyon guarded by ‘one-eyed Rex’, the most terrifying of Captain Saurus’ dinosaur crew.

They find where X marks the spot and have to work out how to reverse the dinosaur curse. There’s lots of frantic, clever puzzle solving done just in the nick of time as they’re about to become snacks for a raging tyrannosaurus rex.

These Saurus Street books are an imagination starter. That’s what I love about them. Not only are you romping around in such a creative stories, you’re using your imagination as you go. With the winning partnership of Falk and Flowers, readers 6+ will devour these books with dinosaur appetites.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Blossom Possum and the Christmas Quacker

Blossom Possum and the Christmas Quacker by Gina Newton, illustrated by Christina Booth (Scholastic Press)
HB RRP $19.99
ISBN 978-1-74283-959-2
Reviewed by Jenny Heslop

Koala Claws has fallen asleep beneath the gum tree after his last stop on Christmas Eve and Blossom Possum cannot wake him. What will happen if he sleeps through Christmas? Can Blossom and her buddies save Bush Christmas?

Blossom Possum and the Christmas Quacker is a fun picture book filled with Australian animals who all have different suggestions about how to help Blossom Possum wake Koala Claws. The story does not always have an even rhythm, or pure rhyme. But the rhyme exists within the sentence structure; the rhythm is exposed as the story builds with lovely intermingling of rhyme, prose and repeated verse:

But Koala Claws wasn’t stirring,
he stayed sleeping like a log.
Stuck in the Land of Nod was he.
So who would do his job?

As the story develops and animal names are added, a wonderful tongue twister is created. Echo Gecko, Neville-the-Devil, Good Luck Wood Duck and many more – try saying them fast.

The language is very much Australian. They 'set off down the track, round the back of the beyond and go past the black stump'. And the story plays out in an Australian setting too. The soft watercolour illustrations bring the gum trees to life, making the landscape very much a part of the story. They show the procession of animals getting longer and longer, stretching across the page and emphasising the vastness of the country around them. Then on alternating pages, the pictures draw closer to very busy animals in a group.

I especially love the image of the animals on their way back, their silhouettes throwing purple shadows, as the trees on the distant hills do, emphasising the passing of time. This is echoed also at the end with Claws and his reinroos silhouetted in the sky as Santa Claus is often depicted at the end of Christmas stories.

This is a Christmas story with a difference, very Australian and, with its balance of repetition and action, and its humour, it should catch the imagination of preschool aged children.

Somebody’s House

Somebody’s House by Katrina Germein, illustrated by Anthea Stead (Walker Books)
HC RRP 27.95
ISBN 978912720338
Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

Katrina Germein’s rhyming verse perfectly captures the joy and energy of childhood within its bouncy, rhythmic text that can be read or listened to with equal pleasure.

Who lives in the houses? What do they do? From one brilliant coloured house to the next, suggestions are made then visually displayed using vibrant illustrations that occupy the whole page. The active characters move about on the page in full play mode. They run, swing, and question who and what of the world around them while the text includes the reader in the search for answers.

This is Anthea Stead’s first illustrated picture book. She has captured the essence of Katrina Germein’s words in her imaginative and expressive artwork. The melding of the two talents serves to create a production representing life and wonder. The fine lines of the plants on the fly pages that join the bold strokes of the pavement with a soothing soft green are an excellent contrast to the strong multi-coloured covers.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013


Shimmer by Jennifer McBride and Lynda Nixon (Fremantle Press)
PB RRP $ 14.99
ISBN 9781922089434
(Also available as an eBook)
Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

Kora is a genie of royal birth. She is banished to earth for her own protection due to the empire Genesia’s warring with a powerful enemy, the half human- half genie, Vennum.

She lands in Western Australia and is immediately ‘harnessed’ by teenager David. Being at someone else’s command doesn’t sit well with the headstrong, wilful and spoilt Kora.

David is an indifferent and irresponsible character. His father was killed in Afghanistan and his grief is still alive inside him. Because his father’s body was never found, he still believes he may be alive.

These two characters play out a battle of wills amidst the chaos of secrecy. Lots of backstory and excellent dialogue reveal David’s and Kora’s family history. Drastic circumstances convince them to join forces to bring down Vennum so Kora can return home. But David has a price for this agreement. Here the pace increases dramatically. Kora and David evolve as characters, and twists in the tale take the reader on another course.

These two Western Australian authors have joined to create a great read. It has all the elements of an absorbing fantasy tale, with time-travel, portals, globes, genies and lots of treachery, adventure and excitement with an amazing climax.

Monday, 18 November 2013

Gallipoli Medals

Gallipoli Medals by Goldie Alexander, illustrated by Mignon Watson (ANZAC Day Commemoration Committee)
PB RRP $10.95
ISBN 9780980448054
Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

This wonderful book is a valuable resource for young readers with its unique approach to the legend of ANZAC. The story is told through two points of view: the diary entries of eleven year old Jaxson today and those of Private Jack Donaghue during 1915.

Jaxson is surprised to learn that an ANZAC Commemorative Medallion belonging to his great great uncle, Private Jack Donaghue has been found in an Op Shop. The purchaser, Major Peter Romsey, is trying to track down the relatives of the owner. This sparks an examination of Jack Donaghue’s life. More so, when Jaxson’s school project uncovers more questions and answers about the Great War.

Another thread through the book is the close relationship between Jaxson and his Turkish mate Abi. After learning about Great Great Uncle Jack, dynamics change between Jaxson and Abi. Jaxson has mixed feelings about the reasons for the War and how enemies can become friends. Abi can’t understand why things are different.

The friends struggle with this dilemma. We share their fears, the questioning and reasoning, and view their painful journey through doubt to the exultant resolution.

This superbly illustrated book of historical fiction (with a map of the ANZAC area at the end) is presented in a fine prose style. While made up of a compact 28 pages, it holds extensive information and important themes and is ideal for readers of all ages.

Ferret on the Loose

Ferret on the Loose by Heather Gallagher, illustrated by Benjamin Johnston (New Frontier Publishing)
PB RRP $12.95
ISBN – 9781921928420
Reviewed by Emma Cameron

Lucy hopes all the training she’s done with Flash will see him win the Annual Fastest Fearless Ferret Race. Elisha, Lucy’s nemesis, wants her ferret Bad Boy Blue to win. He stands a good chance. Sable, who Li owns, is fast but no real threat to either Lucy or Elisha’s entries. Due to falling asleep during races, Mr Olfart’s dopey Sadie will never win. He tells Lucy Flash might, with better training. He’s desperate to win a title he’s never won before.

While training, Flash is injured. Mr Goodo, the vet, prescribes pain killers, banning training for a week. Feeling sorry for him, Lucy lets Flash out of his cage at home. He bolts. After a chase around the house he launches himself into Lucy’s arms and she takes him to the next training session so he can watch. She arrives early. The only one there yet is Mr Olfart. He goads her into letting Flash have a practice race against Sadie with, “What are you: chicken?”

Not long before race day, Flash disappears. No matter how much Dad, Lucy and her friend Penny search, he’s nowhere to be found. On race day, Lucy goes to watch. When Mr Olfart arrives with a new ferret named Mr Incredible as his entry, her sad mood turns to suspicion. His ferret wins and, with help from her brother and Penny, Lucy exposes Mr Olfart as a ferret-napper.

Mr Olfart is banned from racing for two years. Lucy’s ferret is, fairly, disqualified due to having been trained by someone else. To everyone’s delight, Mr Olfart is also punished by being placed on duty for the job nobody likes. Yes, cleaning up the poo after each race. And Lucy says having Flash back is the best prize of all.

This straight-forward, easy to follow tale presents good lessons in fairness and inappropriate behaviour. Like all titles in the Little Rockets series its high quality paper contains well-spaced text and colourful illustrations that break up its ten chapters. Readers aged 7+ are likely to enjoy it very much.

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Esther’s Rainbow

Esther’s Rainbow written by Kim Kane and illustrated by Sara Acton (Allen and Unwin)
PB RRP $24.99
ISBN 978-1-74331-370-1
Reviewed by Ann Harth ( )

Esther’s Rainbow starts and ends with a rainbow and colours fill every page. Esther spies a rainbow while eating lunch on Sunday. It’s soft, warm and smells like honey.

On Monday Esther looks for her rainbow but instead, sees all things violet, like Daddy’s shirt and Granny’s chocolate creams. On Tuesday she sees indigo in a forgotten feather and the midnight sky but Esther still can’t find her rainbow. The days of the week go by and Esther sees a different colour each day. When she wakes on a Monday to a soft, sweet rain shower, her rainbow returns.

Kim Kane and Sara Acton have introduced colours and the days of the week within the page turning quality of their book, but the unique imagery and memorable language are what attracted me. Children will be able to relate to the violet in hard, shiny nail polish, the blue in the echo of a swimming pool and yellow on baby’s I-like-butter chin. The words flow beautifully and the simple but effective illustrations allow you to fall in love with Esther immediately.

Esther’s Rainbow is suitable for children aged 3-6 but children younger and older will enjoy it as well. It recreates a familiar but colourful week in the life of a child but enhances it with a unique touch. Most children will identify with Esther’s experiences.

Kim Kane was born in London but now resides with her family in Melbourne. 2011 was a big year for her as two of her picture books, Family Forest and Vegetable Ark were recognised by the Children’s Book Council of Australia. Family Forest was shortlisted for the CBCA award and Vegetable Ark was a CBCA notable book in two separate categories. But those aren’t her only awards. Her first book, Pip: the Story of Olive, received the Barbara Ramsden Award in 2008.

Sara Acton was also born in England and lived in New Zealand before moving to Australia. She now lives near the ocean in New South Wales. She is an award winner in her own right and her work in Esther’s Rainbow illustrates the reason for this. Her book, Ben and Duck, was the winner of the CBCA Crichton Award for new illustrators.

Ann Harth is a published children's author and writing tutor at Australian College of Journalism. She loves to read and is committed to creating children's literature that inspires, entertains and triggers a tiny twist in the mind. Her latest middle-grade novel, The Art of Magic, will be released in 2012.

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Friday Brown

Friday Brown by Vikki Wakefield (Text Publishing)
RRP $19.99
ISBN 9781921922701
Reviewed by Wendy Fitzgerald 

Friday Brown is the second YA book from Adelaide writer Vikki Wakefield. It won a host of awards. Long listed for the Gold Inky Award 2013, Shortlisted for the Prime Minister’s Literary Award 2013, the WA Premier’s Book Award 2012 and the Queensland Literary Award 2013. As well it is an Honour book in the Children’s Book Council of Australia Awards of 2013.

I thought I was going to be in for a real treat in reading this book and it was. Wakefield has a gentle way of painting characters you truly care about. She lets us travel with this band of characters from dirty city slums to dusty unforgiving ghost town of Murungal Creek in outback Australia.
Wakefield has written this book in first person and we see the story through the eyes of seventeen year old Liliane (Friday) Brown.  Friday’s mum has just died leaving her alone. A street kid called Silence picks Friday up and introduces her to a gang of lost kids led by a beautiful and charismatic girl called Arden.

Wakefield plays cleverly with the shadowy dynamics of a street gang. The kids in this gang find strength in the security of the group and they form a family of sorts. They are each meant to look after each other’s backs. Arden has taken the role of the leader. She makes the rules and deals out the punishments. She wields power and control.

Through these strong, feisty young characters we confront issues of loyalty, memory, survival, homelessness, power, family, belonging, love, fear and loss. We get a glimpse of what it is like for kids like this who exist in the shadows of our society- kids doing the best they can with what they know of the world.

It’s not surprising they turn to crime. Wakefield doesn’t make judgement. I admire the way she has crafted these characters so we can follow their motivations and empathise with their situation, but still Friday Brown carries her own moral compass and this helps her make sense of various situations.

I think readers over 14 would enjoy this book. There is adventure, mystery, death, fire, flood, drama, romance, surprise, warmth, vulnerability, bravado and a dark family curse. 

You might also like to read Vikki Wakefield’s first YA book, All I Ever Wanted.

Friday, 15 November 2013

Meet Maia Blog Tour and Giveaway

Image: Magda Bojes                                                                     
Today is the last stop on the Meet Maia Blog Tour and Buzz Words is thrilled to welcome Greet Pauwelijn, founder and publisher of New Zealand children's book publisher Book Island. Anastasia Gonis chats with Greet about Book Island and Maia and What Matters. This is an edited version of the full interview with Greet featured in the 1 November 2013 issue of Buzz Words.

There is also the opportunity to WIN a copy of this outstanding book by answering a simple question at the end of this interview.

Welcome to Buzz Words, Greet. Book Island is a fantastic name. Where did it originate?

It refers to the place where I am when I read an extraordinary book. When I'm on my little island, I don't hear, see or smell anything any more (which has proven to be quite dangerous at times). I'm hoping that reading our books will have the same effect on our readers.

How long have you been in publishing, and where and how did you begin?

I've been in publishing for only a year and a half. I'm originally from Belgium where I used to translate Polish literature into Dutch. We moved from Belgium to New Zealand in 2009 and in February 2012 I decided to become a children's publisher. There was a slight difficulty: I wanted to publish in Dutch, while I was living in New Zealand, and as if that wasn't challenging enough, I decided to publish both in English and Dutch translationThe first book I chose was Mr Miniscule and the Whale, a Polish children's classic from 1939, but while working on this one I've published 6 other children's books! It's been a long but extremely interesting journey.

From which languages are your children’s books translated?

All our English titles so far were originally published in Dutch by Flemish publishing houses, while I've published a French and Polish book in Dutch translation. I've also published our first Book Island title, Azizi and the Little Blue Bird about the Tunisian revolution, written in Dutch by Belgian-Tunisian author Laila Koubaa. The illustrator, Mattias De Leeuw, is one of Belgium's rising stars, releasing about 4-5 titles a year. 

Your latest book Maia and What Matters is a deeply moving book about loss, hope, and coming to terms with ageing, all interwoven within the relationship between a child and her grandparents. It’s different to anything you’ve previously published. How did the book come to you?

Maia and What Matters is a book that is well-known in Europe, because of its remarkable story and stunning illustrations. It belongs to the category of children's books that are rather sophisticated in illustration and story. These are the kind of books that my heart goes out to. The illustrations are so beautiful, that you just can't forget them. 

I'd ultimately like to focus on publishing children's literature of this quality and level. I realise that there is only a limited audience for such titles, and therefore I can only allow myself to publish one of these every now and then. When I started off with Book Island I knew I had to wait before I could pull out this treasure.

My kids and I talk a lot about their grandfather and great-grandparents who have passed away and what that means. I believe we shouldn't shelter our children from reality but try to prepare them for inevitable losses and challenges that will come their way. Adults often underestimate what children can handle. During the talks that I give at primary schools I'm always surprised at how mature the children of today are and how well they cope with topics we consider too difficult for them. With titles like Maia and What Matters I'm hoping to make a difference.

The text portrays the deep bond that exists between Grandmother and Maia. They don’t need words to communicate. The illustrations are exquisite and delicate, similar to the relationship between them. Please tell us something about the writer Tine Mortier, and illustrator, Kaatje Vermeire.

Tine Mortier is one of those versatile people who seems to be good at everything she does: she's is a writer, playwright, teacher, book reviewer and editor with a wonderful imagination. She writes for children and adults and her books have been translated into multiple languages.

I deeply admire illustrator, Kaatje Vermeire, whose artwork could just as easily sit in a gallery as well as in the pages of a book. Kaatje's techniques are so labour intensive that she can only illustrate one book a year. She definitely belongs to the group of Flemish illustrators that have taken picture book illustrations to a higher level. Her workshops and master classes at this year's Beijing Book Fair were very popular.

Australian David Colmer translated Maia and What Matters. How did this choice come about?

When I had acquired the rights for Maia, the next step was to find a translator for the book. I initially asked Laura Watkinson, the English translator of our first two books. Unfortunately Laura declined the job, because she was still dealing with some personal losses in her life and didn't feel ready to translate Maia. This shows how much a translator can get involved with the book he or she is translating.

Thanks to an Australian-Dutch colleague of mine, I knew that some of the books written by Annie M.G. Schmidt who's regarded as the Astrid Lindgren of the Netherlands, had recently been translated by David Colmer, an Australian living in Amsterdam. I decided to contact David and soon after we had a long chat on Skype. I didn't realise how famous he was until I started following him on Facebook, where I could see him winning award after award. It was a real honour to work with him. 

Book Island is more than a publishing house to you. Tell us about the extra dimension to your children’s books and what is the hoped for outcome with the inclusion of activities that expand on reading.

With Book Island I also organise events based on our books. For the launch of our first 3 titles in New Zealand last year we built a 5 metre tall skyscraper sandwich made out of recyclable items. I'm always looking for partners who could bring our books to life, no matter how small scaled their projects are.  Inspired by the beautiful dresses Maia is wearing in Maia and What Matters one of the local crafters, Joke Gossey, who's also from Belgium, will add a 'Maia' dress to her Hikkepik children's collection. Next year a Belgian performer and two Polish musicians will tour Belgium and the Netherlands with a performance based on the Dutch version of Mr Miniscule and the Whale. I just love how people get inspired by our titles and create something new.

Do you have long term plans for Book Island and can you share them with us?

My plan is to gradually publish more books each year, from the 6 titles I did in the first year to maybe 12 a year by 2016, and build up an exciting backlist. We started distributing our titles in Australia in November 2012, which is the same time as the launch in New Zealand, but as I didn’t have time to invest in marketing, we're not very well known across the Tasman Sea yet. We’re now working with a new distributor, Dennis Jones, who’s managed to sell more copies of Maia and What Matters in ten days then our sales reps in the UK in one month. Seeing these sales figures I’ve got a huge confidence in our new Australian sales and distribution team.

With this interview Book Island wraps up their highly successful Meet Maia Blog Tour. The response has been absolutely overwhelming. Thanks to the fifteen blogs involved Maia is now known across the English-speaking world. Click here to read the other blog posts. Thank you for travelling with us to Book Island!

Read Buzz Word's review of Maia and What Matters in the post below. For a chance to win a copy of this outstanding picture book answer this question in 25 words or fewer: What did you share with your grandparent/s?

Responses must be sent to vicki  {at} stanton {dot} id {dot} au and received by 5pm ADST on 22 November 2013.

Maia and What Matters

Maia and What Matters by Tine Mortier, illustrated by Kaatje Vermeire (Book Island)
HC RRP $28
ISBN 9780669667
Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

Hope, loss, understanding ageing, and the relationship between child and grandparent are the themes in this exquisitely illustrated book. Translated to English from Dutch by Australian author and award-winning translator, David Colmer, the fine line drawings and the soft and muted colours are reminiscent of the long ago classic tales of childhood.

Maia was impatient to be born. It happened quickly under a cherry tree. Her first word was cake and her best friend was grandmother; an active, rebellious, playful and fun-loving free spirit. They had everything in common. They understood each other perfectly and there were times when words weren’t needed between them.

When Grandma has a stroke, Maia doesn’t understand why she’s still. When she wakes up she doesn’t talk or remember anymore. When she can finally move, she has ‘grown slow’.

Maia fills Grandma’s surroundings with drawings of things she knows creating a familiar world of collage, hangs a thousand objects, and brings a plate with cake.

When sounds came out of Grandma’s mouth, Grandpa just nods. But Maia ‘picks the words out of grandma’s mouth’.

After Grandpa ‘had broken a teacup and stopped living’ Maia knew she had to wheel Grandma’s chair to the funeral parlour so she could touch his hair and said ‘bye’.

A deeply moving story made so by the perfectly translated illustrations. The broken cup on the beautiful carpet and the back of an armchair tells of Grandpa’s passing; a child’s perception of a sea of tears cried portrayed by the literal presentation of a boat with Grandma and Maia in it rocking on stormy seas; grandpa in his cold coffin surrounded by frosty flowers and white crystals of air.

But there is always a frisky squirrel appearing in some corner of the pictures which represents hope for the return of their lost freedom and love of the outdoors.

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Hugless Douglas Finds a Hug!

Hugless Douglas Finds a Hug! by David Melling (Hodder/Hachette)
HB Puppet Book RRP $19.99
ISBN: 9781444912678
Reviewed by Hilary Smillie
The fifth Hugless Douglas Adventure comes complete with a gorgeous, soft hand puppet of Douglas with two arms which can be opened wide for a hug. Completely irresistable!
Each page has a circular hole to fit the little brown bear, and David Mellings cute illustrations will have a toddler giggling. Douglas is searching for a hug. He finds sheep that are too bouncy to hug, an owl - not huggable at all, and a rabbit whose ears are too tickly and make Douglas sneeze. Can you guess who can give Douglas the hug he needs?
A simply beautiful and amusing interactive picture/board book. Every toddler will want to make Douglas wave, clap or stretch for that hug, then cuddle up to him.

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Event: Lady Cutler Dinner

The Children’s Book Council of Australia (NSW) is holding its annual Lady Cutler Dinner on 19 November at the Castlereagh Boutique Hotel to celebrate the achievement of this year's Lady Cutler Award Recipient Vivienne Nicoll-Hatton. The Lady Cutler Award for Distinguished Service to Children’s Literature in NSW has been presented annually since 1981 by the NSW Branch of the CBCA. This year's Award is sponsored by Peribo.

The Charlotte Waring Barton Award for an aspiring children's writer, which comes with a mentorship with Random House, will also be presented on the night.

With a two course meal, tea/coffee, complimentary drink on arrival and After Dinner Speaker Libby Gleeson the night will be one to remember.

Tuesday 19th November at 7pm for 7.30
The Castlereagh Boutique Hotel,
169 Castlereagh St Sydney
$70 for members, $85 for non-members
Includes 2 course meal, tea/coffee plus complimentary drink on arrival


An Aussie Year – Sneak Peek at July

Sneak Peek and Win! A year’s subscription to Buzz Words Industry Magazine.

We’re celebrating the release of An Aussie Year, with a fantastic prize—a year’s subscription (or extension) to Buzz Words, valued at $48! To win, just leave a comment on this post, 40 words or less, telling us your favourite month as a child, and why.

July is a delicious time of the year for Aussie Kids. Most states have school holidays and it’s a great time to head to the snow. Kids unable to get to the ski fields in New South Wales and Victoria, might enjoy heading to a local skate rink for some wintry fun.

There aren’t as many events or festivals happening in July, but an important one does take centre stage—it’s NAIDOC week—a time celebrate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and their cultures.

Netball season begins in July which is the perfect time, because those netball-vital orange segments are at their juiciest this time of year.

Sometimes, people celebrate Christmas in July with traditional meals, crackers and gifts. Australians come from all over the world—many from countries where Christmas is celebrated during winter with hot meals and lots of snow. Christmas in July is a way to honour traditions and festivities from the ‘home country’.

July is also a great time to snuggle indoors or … escape to warmer places like the Great Barrier Reef!

Read what Buzz Words thinks about An Aussie Year in our review and follow the An Aussie Year Virtual Tour and join Ned, Zoe, Lily, Kirra and Matilda on this journey around the webosphere, from 21 October to 21 November. There will be reviews, sneak peeks, guest posts and lots of fabulous giveaways including some publishing opps!

Visit the An Aussie Year website ( to meet all the characters from the book, see updates and behind-the-scenes work. There’s also some Fun Activities for kids.

About the Creators:

Tania McCartney is a book-obsessed author, editor, reviewer, photographer, traveller, mum of two and wife of one. She simply adores words and paper—and would ingest them if she could (though she’ll settle for a good coffee). She frequently flits around cyberspace but can also be seen visiting schools and libraries, running workshops, reading to kids or pushing tomes onto unsuspecting shoppers in bookshops. Tania lives in Canberra, but would like to live inside a book.

Tina Snerling is a designer, illustrator, artist, web designer, seamstress and mum. She adores Paris, fabric, design and paper. She lives a very illustrated life—one day she’s creating children's books, the next she’s creating websites (in between the washing and school lunches!). She’s the type who has a notebook by her bed because most good ideas happen when you’re supposed to be sleeping. She lives in Brisbane with her two gorgeous poppets and one gorgeous husband.

WIN! A year’s subscription (or extension) to Buzz Words valued at $48! To win, just leave a comment on this post, 40 words or less, telling us your favourite month as a child, and why. Competition closes 5pm 21 November 2013.

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

How to Babysit a Grandad

How to Babysit a Grandad by Jean Reagan, illustrated by Lee Wildish
PB RRP $14.99
ISBN: 9781444915884
Reviewed by Hilary Smillie

This tender, humourous picture book opens with the following text:
"Babysitting a grandad is fun if you know how. When your grandad rings the doorbell, what should you do? Hide!
I remember my small granddaughters doing the same thing when their dad arrived home from work until their giggles gave them away. So a great beginning.
The little boy in the story obviously has had a great deal of experience managing his grandad while enjoying himself as well. His how-to tips often smack suspiciously of self-focus. Are ice cream topped with cookies, cookies topped with ice cream, and anything dipped in ketchup the best snacks to give a grandad? The How to Entertain a Grandad list is, of course, an opportunity to show off. Somersaulting across the room is number one.
Tips abound on every page - What to Do on a Walk, How to Play with a Grandad, and What to Draw for Grandad are but a few. Naptime is my favourite part where grandad is the one to sleep, and the tips on how to wake him will make kids laugh.
Illustrator Lee Wildish, the winner of the Red House Children's Book Award 2013, has created comical oversized bodies and drainpipe legs, lively colour combinations and heart warming scenarios which show the fond connection between grandad and grandson. The child-drawn pictures "pegged up" in rows on the second page of the picture book are also appealing, and show what the story is about. At the end of the book, Grandad departs with a similar picture painted by his small charge.
Jean Reagan demonstrates a deep knowledge of children within her simple text and storyline. I liked its length (22 pages of story with extra illustrations to enjoy) and I didn't want it to end.
Full of humour, love and fun, How to Babysit a Grandad will be a firm favourite with both parents and children.

Monday, 11 November 2013

Creatures of Magic

Creatures of Magic by Maree Fenton-Smith, illustrated by Lilly Piri (Walker Books)
PB RRP $ 19.95
ISBN 9781922077738
Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

Maree Fenton-Smith’s first publication comes with a strong, first person narrative voice that directly addresses the reader. This serves to bring us more intimately into every scene, and we experience the goings on more sharply than from a different point of view.

 Anna and her sister Greta are thrilled at the appearance of their new neighbours the Browns and their two girls, Violet and Tabitha. It is the last day of school and having other children around means holidays full of fun and play.

The Brown family bring an assortment of unusual belongings that include stuffed rodents, lots of mice in cages, cats, and magic. It will be a summer not easily forgotten full of adventure and excitement, great revelations and many experiences.

Strange and interesting things begin to happen from the first day of the Brown’s arrival when the girls realize that they can access each other’s rooms through the attic. The Brown women all wear cat broaches, and cats invade and are welcome in their house. They own books on magic and spells and an air of anticipation and discovery flows through every pore of both buildings.

But creatures of magic, also known as witches, trying to live in a non-magical world, are exposed to danger and dangerous situations. Why have the previous neighbours reappeared and what connection do they have with the Browns? Who are the men in the dark cloaks and what goes on at night in the garden?

This is a fairytale ‘without fairies’ that contains lots of adventure, mystery and adventure which makes it an ideal read for the 10+ age group. The black and white illustrations by Lilly Piri enhance the magical element of the story.