Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Mouse Bird Snake Wolf

Mouse Bird Snake Wolf by David Almond, illustrated by Dave McKean (Walker Books)
HB RRP $19.95
ISBN 9781406322897
Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

The collaboration of David Almond and Dave McKean has been so successful that it’s to be expected that they continue to work together. Their creations are so in sync they come together in a fluid motion of words ending and illustrations picking up the thread.

The story tells of Harry, Sue and Ben (known as Little Ben because of his size) a group who had ideas, and imagined filling the empty spaces that they gazed into but saw nothing, yet saw something.

The gods that created the mountains, flowers, streams, trees and living things had grown fat and lazy. Now they only dreamed of what they might create without getting on with things. They sat about complimenting each other continuously about the wonderful things they had done. But talking is not doing.

When the children start creating the things they fill the empty spaces with, they find that not all things turn out the way they intended.

This book is about imagination and ideas; daring to try, and brushing off the negative intent of those who would end the creative force that floods the human spirit. But owning free will and power of the mind doesn’t always bring the expected outcome, and what’s done, can’t be undone.

A powerful and imaginative book with multi-layered themes and messages. 

The Very Brave Bear

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The Very Brave Bear by Nick Bland (Scholastic Press)
HB RRP $16.99
ISBN 978-1-74283-800-7
Reviewed by Jenny Heslop

The Very Cranky Bear is back in a wonderful new picture book by Nick Bland. In this adventure Bear challenges Boris Buffalo in a battle to see who is bravest. They climb trees, cross raging rivers and chase porcupines. However... when faced with a quiet dark cave, neither feels particularly brave.

Bland’s smooth rhymes and expressive language – they ‘wear a beard of bees’ – is lovely to read. The rhythm jumps along, rolling beautifully off the tongue as it is read aloud.

There is great humour in the interplay between the words and pictures.

Boris wandered up a hill
The steepest he could find
Then tumbled down the other side
...and Bear was right behind.

Bear has landed on top of Boris Buffalo as they both look surprised at the position they have ended up in. They pick themselves up and march, heads held high, on to the next challenge.

The pictures are fabulous. The detail makes them come alive - Boris Buffalo’s tongue out a little when he is concentrating, Bear’s face, nose in the air, as he balances like a butterfly ready to dive, and the frog on nearly every page, unnoticed at first (by the reader) but eventually becoming a very important character.


This story makes me think of the primary school playground and the casualness of the challenges thrown around – who can climb highest, run fastest or be the best. The Very Brave Bear is a fantastically engaging picture book for all preschool and early primary children to have on their bookshelves. They will laugh at the antics and love the adventures of Bear and Boris Buffalo. And they will relate to rising to the challenge of wanting to be the bravest.

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Mates: Bush Holiday

Mates: Bush Holiday by Leonie Norrington, illustrated by Brenton E McKenna (Omnibus Books)
PB RRP $11.99
ISBN 978-1-74299-001-9
Reviewed by Jenny Heslop

Tillithia looks forward to the school holidays when she can hang out with her friend Lily, or go to the markets or cinema. But not these holidays, her mum informs her. These holidays Aunt Doreen is taking them on a bush holiday.

Aunt Doreen is Tillithia’s mum, ‘aboriginal way’. It is her responsibility to teach Tillithia about indigenous culture. And although Tillithia is reluctant at first, the bush holiday - and Aunt Doreen’s lessons - turn out to be a lot of fun.

Part of the Mates Series, Bush Holiday is an easy read, exploring concepts suitable for lower and upper primary readers. The full colour illustrations throughout add to the story. They bring out the emotions of the characters, enhancing their growth and change. They also break up the text, creating an enticing, attractive book. Watch the flock of birds as they travel through the borders.

Tillithia is a great character and the reader learns along with her about Indigenous culture, traditional ways, language and bush tucker. The story highlights the importance of family and land, and respect for both.
Like other books in the Mates series, this junior novel is a funny and uniquely Australian story.

Monday, 29 July 2013

The Snake Who Came to Stay

The Snake Who Came to Stay by Julia Donaldson, illustrated by Hannah Shaw (Scholastic Australia)
PB RRP $9.99
ISBN 978-1-74283-709-3
Reviewed by Jenny Heslop

Polly doesn’t have any pets of her own but she does run a holiday home for pets. These holidays she has guinea pigs, a bird, and a snake. Mum is unhappy about the last pet but when Doris the snake arrives all is okay.

Then Doris goes missing. How will Polly tell the snakes owner Jack when he gets home? How will she tell Mum there’s a snake missing somewhere in the house?

The Snake Who Came To Stay is a fun story. It is written simply and well, with seven short chapters and not too many complicated words. The plot is complex enough to hold attention; it is realistic and relatable.

The black and white illustrations break up the text on each page making the chapters less daunting. These pictures add to the humour of the story. I especially love the guinea pigs who pop up throughout.

The Snake Who Came To Stay is a fabulous book for stretching beginner readers. It is a step towards longer chapter books and is an amusing, entertaining read.

PS Don’t overlook the snake jokes on the inside front cover.

Sunday, 28 July 2013

Possum Magic Animals

Possum Magic Animals by Mem Fox, illustrated by Julie Vivas (Omnibus Books)
HB RRP $9.99 [board book]
ISBN 978-1-86291-973-0
Reviewed by Jenny Heslop

Possum Magic Animals is a new book which introduces very young readers to the characters from Mem Fox’s classic story Possum Magic. Beginning with Grandma Poss – who looks at her reflection in the water while brushing her teeth – and the word possum, each page in this wonderfully simple board book has the name of an animal and Vivas’ beautiful illustration of that character. It moves through all the animals who inhabit Hush’s and Grandma Poss’ world – snake, kangaroo, wombat – ending with friends and goodnight.
As in the original story, the illustrations are soft with a touch of gentle humour. Some of them contain subtle hints about the Possum Magic storyline.

Classically Australian, this is a beautiful book for every baby to begin their ‘reading’ life with. A sturdy board book with a cloth spine, it would make the perfect gift for any new baby, toddler, or expectant mother in your life.

Saturday, 27 July 2013

The River Charm

The River Charm by Belinda Murrell (Random House Australia Children’s)
PB RRP $15.95
ISBN 9781742757124
Also available as an ebook
ISBN 9781742757131
Reviewed by Marian McGuinness

As a child I loved Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women and Ethel Turner’s Seven Little Australians. Both were written in the 19th century and both were written with finesse and emotion, with the grittiness of life’s adventures at their cores.

Murrell’s evocative book, The River Charm, had the same captivating effect. I was transported into the lives of Murrell’s own forebears, the Atkinson’s of Oldbury, near Berrima in the southern highlands of NSW. It was a time of bushrangers, home schooling, aboriginal chiefs and life on the land. Koalas were called native bears; children caught yabbies in creeks and even had the rare privilege of attending corroborees.

The story is introduced through the eyes of 21st century Millie as she and her family holiday with great aunt Jessamine who is looking after the Oldbury estate. Jessamine is wearing a charm bracelet that holds the history of their family in the charms. One charm is a river pebble. As Jessamine tells Millie its history, Millie sees a girl dressed in white flit across the lawn, the story then timeslips to1839.

Based on Murrell’s family tales of Charlotte Atkinson, we start the story with the troubles facing the family after the death of Charlotte’s father. Her mamma is left with four children to raise. She unwisely marries a man who soon shatters their lives by his brutality and abusive behaviour.

Mamma’s strength of character shines through as she gathers her children and leaves the family home in the depths of night. Charlotte’s brother James carves his initials into the fireplace before he leaves, ‘I wanted to leave my name as a record that we belong here and Oldbury belongs to us.’ They ride their horses on a perilous journey south, through rugged bush and treacherous terrain to the safety of a shepherds’ hut on the Shoalhaven.

Towards the end of the book, Charlotte, now 15, attends her first ball in Sydney. She falls in love with the handsome Will Cummings. This is sure to fire the imagination of readers as we turn the pages to see what happens.

The River Charm would be a wonderful asset to any junior high school English program. The ties with Australian history, the drama of the narrative and the quality of the writing are testimony to this.

As with Murrell’s forebear, Charlotte Waring Atkinson, the author of the first children’s book published in Australia, Murrell shares the family genes of storytelling. A riveting read for girls aged 10 – 14.

Friday, 26 July 2013

Smooch and Rose

Smooch and Rose by Samantha Wheeler (University of Queensland Press)
PB RRP $14.95
ISBN 9780 7022 4986 0
Reviewed by Jo Antareau

Who can resist a story about a baby koala? Orphan Smooch is rescued from dogs by Rose and her grandmother. But Rose is denied every girl’s dream of keeping a cuddly koala as a pet because he needs to be looked after by a trained carer. Despite her resentment, Rose forges a friendship with his carer and follows Smooch’s progress as he thrives and is eventually released. Rose is delighted when he makes his home on some trees in her family farm.

But Rose’s world is far from rosy. She too is an orphan, still grieving her parents, and struggling to fit-in with the snooty girls at her school.  Her grandmother cannot afford to keep the family farm going and it is soon sold to developers.

Rose will have to move away from the only home she has ever known and live in the city. But even worse, Smooch lives in the very trees that are slated for clearing by the developers.  And the developers do not seem to care about a small girl and her beloved koala.

This book is about having the courage to stand up for what is right. Although hardly able to deal with the bullies at school, Rose needs to find a voice to speak up for Smooch.

This is Wheeler’s first book, and she has written a lovely tale for anybody who cares about the welfare of our native fauna – and whose heart melts at the thought of cuddling a koala.

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Blog Tour: Riley and the Jumpy Kangaroo: A journey around Canberra



For the full Blog Tour Schedule, jump in your little red plane and head right here.  

Fireshadow

Fireshadow by Anthony Eaton (University of Queensland Press)
PB RRP $19.95
ISBN 9780 7022 3381 4
Reviewed by Jo Antareau

Anthony Eaton began the story with a premise that the biggest battles we fight are the internal ones. We meet Vinnie a teenager who has escaped from his life, camping in a remote wilderness. But he cannot escape his memories, his guilt at surviving the accident that killed his sister – and the possibility that he was at fault.

His solitude is broken by another pair of campers, an old man and his granddaughter. Despite his initial resentment, Vinnie is drawn into their world. Erich, the old man, is dying yet is drawn to the remains of a World War II prison camp in the forest.

Erich’s history is gradually revealed in parallel with Vinnie’s. At Vinnie’s age, Erich was a young German soldier, a man whose pride was shattered from being a POW interred in an enemy land, a man determined to continue fighting a battle in the camp the only way he could – by defying the guards. Yet the elderly Australian camp-doctor recognises something in Erich as he takes him on as his assistant, and nurtures his medical skills. Eaton adroitly portrays how kindness eventually wears-down Erich’s stoicism and he comes to trust the doctor and his daughter, Alice.  But a friendship in a POW camp does not go unnoticed, and Erich soon has other battles to fight.

This is a gripping read for Young Adults. Both Vinnie and Erich need to sever themselves from the burden of their own parents’ baggage as both stories reach a climax. Each needs to make a decision to let go of the past and stare-down their own ghosts.  

This book also portrayed a largely forgotten part of Australian history, that Germans POWs were interred in Australia.

First published in 2004, this book was a CBCA Honour Book for older readers. Anthony Eaton has published eleven books for children, young adults and adults.

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Eric Vale Super Male

Eric Vale Super Male by Michael Gerard Bauer, illustrated by Joe Bauer (Omnibus Books)
PB RRP $14.99
ISBN 978-1-86291-993-8
Reviewed by Jenny Heslop

Things are looking up for Eric Vale. His school is about to hold the annual fete and the week leading up to it has been designated superhero week. And there is no subject Eric knows more about, or enjoys as much, as superheroes.

In fact, there just may be a few chances for Eric to save the day (and Sophie Peters) and become a superhero himself. That would stop the bullies teasing and the sneers of Meredith Murdoch. But in Eric’s world, nothing runs quite to plan. For once in his life he’d like to be known as Eric Vale Super Male, rather than Eric Vale Super Fail!

Eric Vale Super Male is a fun follow-up to Eric Vale Epic Fail. Eric still fails to keep his focus in class, turning his attention instead to the creation of his comic strip hero Secret Agent Derek ‘Danger’ Dale. With his loyal sidekick Chewy Rodriguez, Eric continues to bumble his way good-heartedly through school life.

This is an entertaining story for primary aged children and there is much for them to relate to. The ‘Danger’ Dale comic strip woven throughout is fabulous too and adds to the many laugh-aloud moments throughout. It is an easy read with fun illustrations on every page making it accessible to beginning readers.

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Fat Angie

Fat Angie by E.E. Charlton-Trujillio (Walker Books)
PB RRP $19.95
ISBN 9780763661199
Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

Fat Angie is the only girl in her school that has ever had a nervous breakdown. She is broken by grief because her sister, a soldier in the army, has been missing in Iraq for months, believed dead. Fat Angie is bullied and humiliated mercilessly by her peers and her only solace are the sweet cakes that she resorts to in an attempt to escape her pain. She is friendless, and corporate lawyer mother has disconnected herself from her daughter because of the way she looks. Her father has severed himself from them all by starting a new family elsewhere.

Her stepbrother Wang is also grieving for his sister that was the glue that held the family together. Now he is rebellious and cruel towards everyone, has resorted to stealing regardless of their affluent situation, and is a breath away from jail.

Into this dysfunctional scene of cruelty and indifference enters KC Romance, a stunning and world-wise girl that immediately chooses Angie to keep company with. She has a past and is dealing with many issues herself, particularly those of abandonment and cutting. She turns Angie’s world topsy-turvy in an unexpected way.  They both learn that ‘it’s so hard when the person you look like on the outside doesn’t really match how you feel on the inside’.

Fat Angie is a unique and inspiring book. It is dark, edgy, and shocking in its depiction of bullying and its inhumanity, but beautiful and tender in its ability to show the other side of human nature. The writing style is unusual as is the language. There is no question that the author knows her subject well and has created her characters with intent and great perception. It has many layers and carries strong messages with it. Be prepared to cry.

Monday, 22 July 2013

Flora's War


Flora’s War by Pamela Rushby (Ford Street Publishing)
PB RRP $18.95
ISBN 978-1921665981
Reviewed by Francine Sculli

Flora’s War is a rich book. Rich not only for its beautifully written and compelling story, but rich also for the way it transports you in time with its illustrative style. Pamela Rushby has written an amazing tale steeped with history, coming-of-age, friendship, love and a taste of what it was like to be female during World War 1.

Flora’s War is set in Cairo, Egypt in 1915. Flora, a sixteen-year-old Australian is visiting Cairo with her archaeologist father, both regular visitors to Egypt during excavation season. This time around, Flora can already sense that this year’s trip won’t be like any other. She sees the army bases set up, the soldiers roaming around, the influx of nurses sent over for duty and how fewer excavation sites there are in Egypt. Still, Flora goes about her typical life in Egypt – staying in an extravagant hotel, ushered around by an influential Egyptian, working on her father’s site and traipsing around Cairo with her best friend, Gwen, an American girl whose father is also an archaeologist.

But within moments, their usual life changes to something extraordinary. Flora’s lush hotel is overtaken by the army and converted to a hospital, forcing her and her father to move to another house, known as the house of the butcher and blacksmith. And things keep changing, soon Flora and Gwen are given first aid training at Lady Bellamy’s Recreation and Rest Centre where they volunteer their time writing letters, talking and serving tea to the soldiers. Quickly, their volunteering duties start to involve driving the wounded soldiers to and from the hospital, as they start to arrive by train from Gallipoli. Flora and Gwen see unspeakable travesties that will change their life forever but in these tragedies, they find solidarity in friendship, love and being a modern woman.

Flora’s War has many, many strengths. The writing is poetic and transformative – so vivid and articulate that it is so easy for the reader to lose themselves in the bedlem and magic of dusty Cairo, or the heart break of the mental ward set up in the makeshift hospital that was once an extravagant hotel. But more than that, it is easy to get lost in the characters – so wonderfully carved, full of life and character, and wholeheartedly believable. Flora paints the picture perfectly of what it would have been like to be a female growing up in this time – fighting to be a modern woman with simple tasks like learning to drive a car or working on an excavation site. With so much subtext and so many sub-stories, Flora’s War,  is an epic story that will engross anyone who picks it up. 

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Monet’s Garden: A Book for Kids

Monet’s Garden: A Book for Kids by Kate Ryan, illustrated by Kat Chadwick (National Gallery of Victoria)
HC RRP 14.95
ISBN 9780724103713
Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

It’s always a pleasure to review the outstanding publications that come through NGV. In Monet’s Garden; A Book for Kids there is so much to enjoy. The book is a carefully considered creation, aimed at educating children on important and interesting subjects that are approached in a way that they can understand while being entertained.

Pierre the mascot introduces himself as the guide throughout the book.  It initially touches on The Impressionists and introduces Monet as a young man who didn’t like school therefore drew doodles of his teachers on the covers of his books during class.

It is through the Did You Know? sections of the book that lots of interesting information is presented. Did you know that: Monet’s first name was Oscar, not Claude, that’s why his early drawings were signed ‘O. Monet’; that as a teenager, he saved money to go to Paris and study by sketching portraits of important people of his area which were sold from the local supply store; that the landscape artist Eugene Boudin’s invitation to Monet to join him on a painting trip initiated the artist’s lifelong love of outdoor painting; that the first painting by Monet to be seen in Australia was Rough Weather at Etretat purchased by the NGV in 1913? There’s more of these delicacies to be savoured.

Children learn about Monet’s family, fame and fortune, Paris in the 1800s, and through Guess What? discover Monet’s sleeping and eating habits, who his friends were, and about his passion towards all things Japanese. Monet even had a Japanese bridge built on his property, and collected Japanese woodblock prints which still hang in the dining room at Giverny.

There are lots of jokes, riddles and activities for children that encourage reader participation through artistic expression, internet research and outdoor activities. It delves into French life and food and includes Monet’s favourite Tarte tatin with recipe; how to examine paintings with a questioning and observant eye, try origami and grow sunflowers, and how to take photos in order to discover light and shadow. (the last three with instructions) There is an I Spy game for when travelling, templates to photocopy and quizzes.

This brilliantly designed book is full of entertainment and learning. The price is extremely moderate. At the end there is an Illustrated List of Works, with reference information, and a double paged List of Comparative Works. Highly recommended and certainly value for money.

Saturday, 20 July 2013

Extra Yarn

Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jon Klassen (Walker Books)
HC RRP $24.95
ISBN 9781406342314
Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

Young Annabelle finds a box of coloured yarn in the snow. She uses it to knit herself a jumper and one for her dog, then one for Luke and his dog. But there is lots of yarn left. She knits for her classmates, her teacher, all the people that she knows, but the magic yarn is never ending.

Word spreads about the endless yarn and reaches the ears of a clothes-loving archduke. He offers her ten million pounds for the box of yarn, but Annabelle refuses to part with it at any cost. The archduke sends robbers to steal the box, and he sails away with it.

But when the box is opened, there is only a pair of knitting needles inside. With a curse, the archduke casts the box into the sea. It floats back to its owner.

Here is a delightful message on how some things are worth more than money. The light and dark illustrations represent the bitter cold that engulfs the area. The importance of the yarn to Annabelle and her people is accentuated by the beautiful multi-coloured knitted objects that appear in startling contrast against the background landscape and represent the beauty money can’t buy.

Friday, 19 July 2013

View From the 32nd Floor

View From the 32nd Floor by Emma Cameron (Walker Books)
PB RRP $16.95
ISBN 9781922077295
Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

William has a new name every day chosen from his dictionary of names. His day is defined by the name he chooses. From the first moment Rebecca moves into the building opposite his on the 32nd floor, William’s world shifts.  So do the lives of all the tenants in the building, particularly the ones he knows, whom he watches daily through his binoculars.

 William is determined to bring out the isolated and lonely neighbours from their shells into a world of friendship and community. With Rebecca as his ally (she has made away with his heart with her hobbling gait that reminds him of a pony), he moves towards this end gently using his gift of compassion and friendliness.

With the help of their Lists which grow longer each day, can Rebecca and William bring Mrs Stavros out from behind her shadowed curtains, and convince old Mr Crispin to join Tai Chi classes for his health? Can the two youngsters unite the tenants in the biggest get-together ever?

Clever and beautifully constructed, this moving, character driven story has many layers and themes. Emma Cameron is a gifted writer whose first verse novel Cinnamon Rain was an outstanding debut. This is equally as good and will also  remain unforgettable.

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Ten Silly Wombats

Ten Silly Wombats by Ed Allen, illustrated by Andrea Edmonds (Scholastic Australia)
PB RRP $13.99
ISBN 978-1-74283-638-6
Reviewed by Jenny Heslop

Ten Silly Wombats is a charming backwards counting book read to the rhythm of Ten Green Bottles. The ten wombats start off boarding a bus to Sillyville and, one by one, they drop out of the action until only one remains, walking home by himself.

The rhyme is a little awkward in places but this is mainly because, as a reader, I’m trying to squish the words into the bottle song. A few read-throughs would smooth this out. And the text is great with some inventive ways for the wombats to fall out of the count such as the silly wombat who ‘should fly a little wide’ as they all go down the waterslide.

The illustrations are fabulous. Each wombat has his/her own distinctive style and personality and the reader can track which ones have disappeared from the story. Also, the relevant number is hidden somewhere within every picture for children to find.

Ten Silly Wombats has a wonderful ending. After a few readings, preschool aged children will be singing along with the story and maybe making even up a few verses of their own.

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

My First Book of Jokes

My First Book of Jokes illustrated by Mark Guthrie (Scholastic Australia)
PB RRP $9.99
ISBN 978-1-74283-792-5
Reviewed by Jenny Heslop

Q: What do rainclouds wear under their Clothes?
A: Thunderpants! 

My First Book of Jokes is a colourful joke book perfect for three to six year olds. Aimed at children who are just starting to understand how jokes work, these riddles should tickle their funny bones.

Q: What type of long-handled brush will always come back?
A: A Broomerang

The fun starts with the eye-catching cover where an emu is stuck in a tree and surrounded by kookaburras laughing so hard, they are almost splitting their sides. This humour is continued in the same way throughout the book.

With full page pictures, kept simple yet expressive to illustrate the word twists, preschoolers will easily follow and understand the riddles. There is one question to a page, with the answer being revealed when it is turned.
This joke book has an Australian flavour throughout, in both the illustrations and the riddles.

Q: What did the platypus say after she got some new lipstick?
A: Put it on my bill.

These simple, logical and funny jokes will be easy for young children to remember and retell.

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

There Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed a Mozzie

There Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed a Mozzie by P. Crumble, illustrated by Louis Shea (Scholastic Australia)
PB RRP $14.99
ISBN 978-1-74283-852-6
Reviewed by Jenny Heslop

‘There was an old lady who swallowed a mozzie,
I don’t know why she swallowed that mozzie ...
She’s gotta be Aussie!’

This Australian slant on the classic rhyme There Was An Old Woman Who Swallowed a Fly provides this very amusing tale. A tough old lady swallows all sorts of Australian animals from the humble mozzie up to the mighty croc! At which point something’s got to happen to make her stop.

As a fan of both Shea and Crumble, I haven’t always loved the books in this series, but this one is really enjoyable. Crumble’s rhyme is smooth and the rhythm works really well. This makes it fun and easy to read aloud.

Shea’s unique bold and bright illustrations, along with his trademark expressive animals, are humorous without the tinge of darkness which appear in some of the other books in this series.

This is my favourite book in the series and well worth a look. Check out how the old lady manages to catch the dingo and the croc.

Young children will have a lot of fun with this book.

Monday, 15 July 2013

Rebecca and the Wicked Witch

The Wingless Fairy Series Book 3: Rebecca and the Wicked Witch by Margaret Pearce (Writers Exchange E-Publishing)
Ebook $2.99
ISBN 978-1-922066-55-8 
Reviewed by Nina Lim

Something strange is happening in Rebecca’s hometown. In the third installment in this fantasy series for mid-graders, Rebecca has now completely settled into mortal life with her human family. Her life as a spoilt and bored fairy princess is now a distant memory. Rebecca loves working and studying like a regular mortal girl. But when the new schoolteacher Miss Baroom arrives in the village Rebecca senses that something is very, very wrong

The happy atmosphere of the old school house is replaced with a tense and foreboding feeling. Something strange has happened to her friend Tam, and he appears to be losing his memory and walks around with a vacant expression on his face. And what about Tam’s sister Janine? Why is she always too sick to go to school? And something is definitely not right with Tam and Janine’s mother. She appears to be looking younger every day, and is never seen without Miss Baroom by her side.

Rebecca knows there is something dangerous about Miss Baroom and her motives for coming to the village. It is up to her and her loyal owl, house goblins and a mythical gryphon to save the village from Miss Baroom’s evil intentions. But how can they banish the powerful witch when Rebecca is merely a mortal girl with no magical powers?  This is a fast paced and gripping read for fantasy lovers. Fans of Rebecca will be happy to read more of her adventures.

Sunday, 14 July 2013

Mucked Up

Mucked Up by Danny Katz (Allen and Unwin)
PB RRP $15.99
ISBN 978-1-74237-925-8
Reviewed by Ann Harth

It’s the worst day ever. It’s year-12 muck-up day. Tom Zurbo-Goldblatt and the rest of the school are targets for the mad seniors who are armed with eggs, baked bean goop, tomato sauce and anything else that splats when hurled. Worst of all is the Weapon of Mass Spray-Destruction filled with fish sauce.

Tom sneak-walks (snawks) through his day trying to survive his stint on yard duty, an assignment for I.T. called Me in 30 Seconds and the imminent break-up of the Students Combined Underground Movement (S.C.U.M.).

S.C.U.M. headquarters is smelly with fish sauce and Tom, Jarell, Jack S, Ravo, and Brisley are barely speaking to each other. Jarell and Jack S have hooked up and are too busy holding hands and staring at each other to notice anyone else. Ravo is dripping with everything the year twelves have to offer and smells like fish. Brisley, aka Milkbottle, has changed overnight - from pale goth to cute stunner and has joined the Hagz – The Hot Asian Girls. SCUM seems doomed.

Throw a greased pig into the mix and you will have a pretty clear idea of Mucked Up.

From the first invented word until the final giggle, I was captivated. Tom became my new best friend and I could hear his voice as if he were sitting on my shoulder. Each and every unique character made me smile when seen through the eyes of Tom Zurbo-Goldblatt.

Danny Katz’s first novel for teenagers, S.C.U.M., was a great success and I predict that Mucked Up will follow the same path. It will appeal to kids aged 12-16, but I am well beyond that and my grin was punctuated with belly laughs through the entire book.

Canadian-born Danny Katz made a name for himself in stand-up comedy in 1990 and is a columnist for The Syndey Morning Herald and The Age. He has written many children’s books: Spit the Dummy, Dork Geek Jew and also the Little Lunch series. Danny Katz’s style for teenagers is magnetic and unmistakeable.

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, was released in 2012. 

Saturday, 13 July 2013

Julius & the Watchmaker

Julius & the Watchmaker by Tim Hehir (Text Publishing)
HB RRP $19.99
ISBN 978-192207973-2
Reviewed by Wendy Fitzgerald 

Julius & the Watchmaker is the first novel by Melbourne author Tim Hehir. It is a Young Adult Sci-Fi adventure set in Victorian London in 1837. It is suitable for kids aged 12-18 who enjoy science fiction stories with imaginative history thrown in. This is the first story I have read that can be classed as steampunk. According to www.urbandictionary.com, steampunk refers to a subgenre of speculative fiction usually set in an anachronistic Victorian or quasi-Victorian alternate history setting.

Hehir’s style is fast paced and action packed. He plays with some fascinating ideas of time, time slips, travel, vortexes, time jumps into possible time lines, alternate futures and dimensions. His love for classics can be seen in his references to Dickens, Austen, Byron and Shelley. Three themes that come through are the effects of greed, control and the fight for survival.

Hehir’s main character, Julius is a reluctant hero who is initially the target for Crimper McCready and his gang of school bullies. Julius is not the sort of character who is actively looking for a wild adventure. He helps his grandfather by delivering books from his second-hand book shop, Higgins’ Booksellers in Ironmonger Lane. His main objective is to keep out of trouble.

But Julius’s life changes when the villain, Springheel appears at the book shop enquiring about a mysterious diary written by John Harrison. Springheel stands up to Crimper McCready with an obvious sense of power. Julius is impressed and wants to learn the secret to this power.

From there Julius is drawn into an unexpected and sometimes scary world of time travel, alternative realities, vortexes, doppelgangers, flying machines, Grackacks, ruffians and mayhem- all centred around the workings of a magical spinning pocket watch.

Julius finds himself caught between Springheel and his offsider Clements and Professor Fox and champion boxer, Mr Flynn. Springheel and Clements are out to manipulate time and to control London and the world. Professor Fox is part of the Guild of Watchmakers who are the guardians and their aim is to protect the timeline from manipulation by criminals and rogues like Springheel.

Julius & the Watchmaker captured my imagination and I found it to be an engrossing read.                                                                              


Friday, 12 July 2013

The Littlest Bushranger

The Littlest Bushranger by Alison Reynolds, illustrated by Heath McKenzie (The Five Mile Press)
HB RRP $14.95
ISBN 9781743464977
Reviewed by Vicki Stanton

The Littlest Bushranger is a glorious celebration of imagination. Jack is left to his own devices when his sister Lil starts school. Lil leaves him her telescope to look after and when it is snatched from him by a ‘dark shape’, Jack’s run-of-the-mill backyard becomes a rapidly changing landscape of deserts, swamps and rainforests inhabited by giant snakes and bunyips. He rides after the ‘Outlaw’ on his trusty white steed, sword in hand. The rescue is completed just in time for Lil’s arrival home from school.

Heath McKenzie’s fun and colourful illustrations bring to life Alison Reynolds’ text as Jack’s rollicking adventure unfolds. The scene is set perfectly with the initial illustrations including the normal paraphernalia of an Australian backyard: hoses, bikes, sandpits, brooms and paddling pools. These, and his imagination, provide all that Jack needs to fulfil his adventure.

I am a sucker for a beautiful book and this falls into that category. Hardback and with fully illustrated endpapers and high quality paper, this books makes a perfect gift or is one to remain a treasured item on the book shelf for years to come. And at $14.95, it is quite a steal.

Thursday, 11 July 2013

East of the Sun, West of the Moon

East of the Sun, West of the Moon by Jackie Morris (Walker Books)
HC RRP $24.95
ISBN 9781847802941
Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

East of the Sun, West of the Moon is inspired by a fairytale which could be Beauty and the Beast intertwined with something more. It is an exquisite retelling of a tale of love, loyalty, trust and daring; a dedicated quest that takes years to accomplish.

The girl is on the cusp of adolescence when the bear calls her to join him on a journey beyond her comprehension. Yet she is beguiled by him, and knows that this is what she has been born for. Without hesitation, she leaves her parents and home to travel with him to a castle east of the sun and west of the moon. She soon recognizes love as her motivation.

Her quest is filled with dilemmas and dangers, questions, challenges and choices, and a supreme evolution of self. The girl will be forced to examine herself, the bear, and a greater love. She will follow her dream and her heart, making an unexpected life-changing choice that will finally set her free.

This outstanding publication from Frances Lincoln Children’s Books is simultaneously an adventure and a coming-of-age story. It is filled with mystery and romance, and written in lyrical prose by artist Jackie Morris whose scenes are painted canvases - vivid and bewitching. Magical and mysterious, the story will remain unforgettable as will the beauty of the artwork that accompanies the text. 

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Portraits of Celina

Portraits of Celina by Sue Whiting (Walker Books)
PB RRP $16.95
ISBN 9781922077479
Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

The multi-talented Sue Whiting has produced a riveting read full of intrigue and mystery. The outstanding cast of characters in perfect co-ordination with the excellent writing and exceptional storyline sends the reader spiralling through a ghostly tale of murder and retribution.
  
The spirit of Celina who has been dead for over forty years, has invaded Bayley’s life. Bayley is identical in appearance and the same age as the dead girl when she disappeared. The opening of an old trunk containing Celina’s clothes releases hidden secrets and unspoken of mysteries.

 What does Celina want of Bayley? How can she go about solving a forty year old mystery and getting justice when she’s struggling to cope with a desolate mother who has lost the plot, an older sister who is bent on self-destruction, and a younger brother who needs her as the family grieves over the accidental loss of a father.

This is an extremely well-crafted novel that will keep the reader turning the pages from the first sentence to the last word as it exposes portraits of Celina, and the role that Bayley must play in freeing her. 

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Verity Sparks, Lost and Found

Verity Sparks, Lost and Found by Susan Green (Walker Books)
PB RRP $16.95
ISBN 9781921977886
Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

Verity Sparks is a perceptive and intelligent fourteen year old with amazing gifts, especially the ability to find lost things. In the previous book, The Truth about Verity Sparks, her real identity is revealed but she loses her gift for finding lost things after the death of her half brother, Alexander. But she found her father whom she believed to be dead, and a new life away from the struggle for survival. The story is set in Melbourne, 1879.

In book two of Verity Sparks, Papa Savinov wants Verity to become a lady so he’s overjoyed when she is accepted into Hightop House Academy for Young Ladies. But the Academy is not what it is touted to be. She is confronted by bullying, spite and jealousies in various shapes and forms. The Academy’s overall credentials, staff and activities are suspect. This sets off another investigation by Verity with the help of her teacher, Miss Deane.

Although Verity no longer has the ability to find lost things, her power of observation is better than ever. The investigation leads them into a chain of mysteries and the uncovering of truths, lies and misconceptions. Verity is determined to solve the mystery of the missing jewellery and a new person joins Verity’s household.

This series has a fantastic leading character and a splendid supporting cast. The storylines are riveting and fast-paced, intelligent and extremely absorbing. They are ideal for the 12+ age group.

Monday, 8 July 2013

Wildlife

Wildlife by Fiona Wood (Pan MacMillan)
PB RRP $16.99
ISBN: 9781742612317
Reviewed by Wendy McLean

Fiona Wood started out in life as a script writer, and has written scripts for many well-known TV shows including, Something in the Air, The Secret Life of Us, Home and Away, Neighbours and more recently for The Reef Doctors. Fiona describes her switch from script writer to YA author as ‘more a very lucky accident than a decision.’

I am very grateful for her ‘lucky accident’ because her two YA books, Six Impossible Things and Wildlife, are two of the best examples of contemporary YA fiction I have read. Fiona’s first novel was shortlisted for the CBCA Book of the Year, Older Readers 2011 and with very good reason.

Fiona Wood’s second novel Wildlife, a companion novel to Six Impossible Things, is a fantastic follow on which may even be more powerful than her first novel. Wildlife is set in the Victorian wilderness, where sixteen year old Sibylla Quinn and her peers from Crowthorne Grammar are spending a term at an outdoor education camp. Sibylla is used to blending into the background while Holly, her extroverted best friend, seeks and thrives on attention. The tenuous balance in their friendship shifts the day Sibylla appears on a billboard as the new face for a global advertising company. She attracts attention from her classmates and the most popular boy in Year 10, Ben Capaldi, which she finds confusing and uncomfortable. With this shift in social order, Holly and Sibylla’s friendship is tested, and finally emerges as the toxic relationship it has always been.

Lou (from Six Impossible Things) is new to Crowthorne Grammar, having transferred schools after the accidental death of her boyfriend Fred. While Sibylla is dealing with her new position in the social hierarchy and with friendship and sexuality, Lou is still dealing with her grief and anger. Her only aim is to endure the term and remain separated from her peers while she reconciles her loss. However, the sheer proximity to Sibylla, Holly and the other students forces Lou to engage with them and become embroiled in their relationships. Lou forms a connection with Sibylla’s genius childhood friend Michael and as Sibylla and Lou’s lives become intertwined over the term she realises she can move forward without ever forgetting Fred.


Wildlife covers a number of challenging themes, which are heightened by throwing the characters into a challenging environment. Themes include friendship, love, self-image, sexuality, and grief and loss. Fiona Wood explores these with sensitivity and an authenticity that will make you cry with Lou as she grieves, scream at Holly as she manipulates Sibylla and thank Michael as he leads Lou on the path to recovery.

Wildlife is a both heartaching and heartwarming; it is a story of both loss and love. Fiona Wood has handled these challenging themes with compassion and thoughtfulness, and experience and authenticity. Wildlife is an honest and raw coming of age book that will stand the test of time.

Sunday, 7 July 2013

eSide

eSide by Goldie Alexander (A Five Senses Publication)
PB RRP $17.99
ISBN 978-1-74130-774-0

Sam and her best friend Melody live in the colourful beachside town of Squeaky. Sam’s mum Kate runs the Conch Café, the bustling meeting place for Squeaky’s weird and wonderful collection of residents. There’s Bob Rampol, the friendly senior citizen who watches the world from his favourite spot on the café’s balcony, waiter Manuel Alphonso Demetrious, world famous opera singer Mrs Canzone, and the Affington brothers - muscle bound twins who run the local fitness centre.

But all is not well in Squeaky. Mrs Canzone’s lost her voice,  the twins’ fitness centre is failing as client after client suffers sprains, strains and breaks. Manuel, (or Manny) has burned his arm so badly he can’t work in the café, and Kate is struggling to keep the place running on her own.

It seems a dark cloud hovers over Squeaky, but Sam and Melody suspect there’s somebody behind the town’s run of bad luck- the terrifying Hecate Badminton. Hecate has one thing on her mind - Eternal Life. And it seems Sam and her mother Kate have the secret right there on the counter of the Conch Café…

When the café burns to the ground, Sam and Melody are forced into action - armed only with a rudimentary understanding of Tae Kwan Do and a mysterious monitor given to them by magician, The Great Franco, the girls venture into strange virtual worlds where they meet Hecate, and confront evil head on.

eSide is a tale of witchery and digital adventure told with quirky humour.  Goldie Alexander’s story is dense, with scenes and detail lovingly rendered in a unique voice. Mid to upper primary readers will enjoy the novel’s cast of crazy, nasty, nutty and nice characters, and intricately imagined virtual worlds.


Saturday, 6 July 2013

The Bear Went Over the Mountain

The Bear Went Over the Mountain [with CD] by Louis Shea (Scholastic Australia)
PB RRP $16.99
ISBN 978-1-74283-371-2
Reviewed by Jenny Heslop

Louis Shea is fast becoming one of my favourite illustrators of picture books inhabited by animals. And The Bear Went Over the Mountain is fantastic. Every page is filled with the most wonderfully expressive animals, from a yawning beaver, to a protective penguin, to a rhino intent on winning, to a very surprised salmon. The pictures are colourful, bold, detailed, confident and incredibly entertaining.

The text is an amusing take on the classic song by the same name and starts with the bear, but then has different animals continue in relay around the world’s settings. So the bear goes down from the mountains to see what is in the forest, then a fox goes from the forest to see what is on the beach, there the turtle goes to see what is in the ocean, and so on.

The MOTH flew through the storm
To see what he could see.
What do you think he saw?

CHAMELEONS in the jungle,
Their camouflage was a bungle!
Golly Gosh! Oh my! Oh me!
It was a sight to see.

Young children will love this picture book. There is so much to see in the illustrations and it’s fun to read aloud. But if you are asked to read it too many times, put on the accompanying CD and let Jay Laga’aia sing it for you. He performs the song really well and has a fabulous voice that most children will recognise as belonging to a favourite Play School presenter.

I highly recommend this book and CD.

Friday, 5 July 2013

The Girl in the Basement


Today Buzz Words reviews Dianne Bates' new book, The Girl in the Basement, as part of Dianne's blog tour. You can read yesterday's blog tour visit at author Chris Bell's site. Tomorrow Dianne will be interviewed by Elaine Ouston

Comment on any of the blogs or websites (including Buzz Words Books!) throughout the tour to go in to the draw to win a free copy of the book. 

The Girl in the Basement by Dianne Bates (Morris Publishing Australia)
PB RRP $24.95
Ebook $4.99
ISBN 9780987543417
Reviewed by Vicki Stanton

Dianne Bates’ new thriller The Girl in the Basement is a page turner that once started you will not be able to put down. Sixteen-year-old Libby is snatched off the streets by a man and spends the next few months swinging between terror and calculating her escape. Extra dimensions are added when Psycho Man, as Libby thinks of him, kidnaps a young boy to complete his family.

Bates pulls off a major writing coup: she successfully flits between the heads of Libby and her kidnapper giving us insights into the motivations and emotions of both. A lesser writer would have failed in this but it is testament to Bates’ skill that the head hopping enhances the story. I identified strongly with Libby’s ordeal. Memories of her own loving family strikingly contrast with Psycho Man’s warped version.

The mind of a psychopath is an unnerving thing to delve into. The accommodation of his distorted sense of reality into his life view is chilling, and fatal to others. Since I always hate to know the ending of a book, I won’t tell you whether Libby survives or not but if you are after a light read then this is not the book for you. There is violence, brutal at times, and more than one death (but no sex). The violence is always in context and never gratuitous.

This is definitely a book for older readers or adults and one that is particularly timely given the recent release of three women kept captive in Cleveland.  While the events in this book are fictional, it is a disturbing reminder of the depths humans can plunge to. Fortunately, it is also a reminder of the strength of character and tenacity we can summon in the face of the most cruel circumstances.

Books are available from any bookstore in Australia, many online stores as a paperback (including Amazon) and eBook, and from Morris Publishing Australia.  

Thursday, 4 July 2013

Nerdy Ninjas vs The Really Really Scary Guys

Nerdy Ninjas vs The Really Really Scary Guys by Shogun Whamhower, illustrated by Heath McKenzie (Scholastic Press)
PB RRP $9.99
ISBN 978-1-74283-027-8
Reviewed by Jenny Heslop

When diving into a river, a ninja should check 
that the water is deep enough, and that 
there are no submerged shopping trolleys.
The Ninja Warrior’s Handbook, Volume 27

The Nerdy Ninjas are back again and continuing their training with Sensei Lee, which is lucky as they are about to become embroiled in their scariest adventure yet!

Most students at St Hall’s (the ninjas school) have heard the rumour that an horrific troll lurks in the basement of the building. When Pongo learns the truth behind this rumour, he and his fellow Ninjas must face their fears - which is quite a long list for Veejay - to help save the world from the beastly intruders lurking in Forest Forest.

When a scream is heard from Forest Forest, Jake sends a text to gather the ninjas at their secret hideout. Unfortunately Veejay is not allowed out after seven, Ben has been scared by the cape he found (labelled “If found, please return to troll”), and Pongo is so busy boing-boinging on his pogo stick that he doesn’t hear his mobile phone.

Maybe they really are the worst ninjas in the world, but always lurking in the shadows nearby is a highly trained SNOT (Secret Ninja Operational Team) ninja who is - rather luckily - on their side and ready to lend an invisible hand.

Nerdy Ninjas vs The Really Really Scary Guys is a great read for upper primary age. The silliness of the humour is spot on for boys at this age. It is full of fun, disgusting bits, ghoulish monsters, humourous pictures and sprinkled with rules for ninjas, teachers, and ‘stuff kids should know’.

The personalities of the four boys are developing in this second book and I particularly love the distractions Pongo finds which make him late for school every day. It will be fun to see where book 3 takes the Nerdy Ninjas next.

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

SWW Literary Lunch

Notice of the Annual General Meeting the Society of Women Writers NSW Inc

Wednesday, July 10
Venue: Dixson Room, State Library of NSW, Macquarie St

Workshop (10 am – 11.50) Presenter: Mark McCleod: "Writing to Engage Young Minds" - workshop:  $15.00 (No Need to book - everyone is welcome) Convenor: Beatrice Yell - 9452 2299

Literary Lunch:   (12.30- 1pm)

Member Talk: (1- 1.20 pm) Patricia Barton: Why God Hates Me - memoir

Guest Speaker: (1.25 - 2 pm) Dr Joanna Penglase:  Orphans of the Living: Growing up in Care in 20th Century Australia

Cost: $40 for non-members, $35 for members, $15 (workshop only)

Bookings required before 10am Mon 8 July to:

PLEASE BOOK BY EMAIL IF YOU HAVE ACCESS TO A COMPUTER
Contact Name: SWW Lunch Booking
Email address: swwlunchbooking@gmail.com
Mobile phone: Text message to 0403 177 208
Your text message should be addressed to swwlunchbooking or swwlunch and should contain: date, your name and number.


Interview: Dianne Bates

Today Buzz Words Books is hosting Dianne Bates on her blog tour for her latest title, a YA novel, The Girl in the Basement. It is released this month by Morris Publishing Australia and is now available online and in bookshops. 

Dianne Bates is well-known in the children’s book world, having published over 120 books and won the Lady Cutler Award for distinguished services to children’s literature. She lives in Wollongong NSW with her award-winning YA author husband, Bill Condon. Di has won numerous grants and awards for her books, some of which have sold overseas and in translation. You can find out more about Di, her books and other projects at Enterprising Words.

Welcome to Buzz Words Books, Di. Your new novel, The Girl in the Basement, is very timely with the recent release of the three women kidnapped in Cleveland, Ohio. Where did you get the idea?

The Girl in the Basement is based on the real-life discovery in 1987 of a Polaroid photograph picked up by a shopper in a Florida (US) car park. It showed a girl around twenty, and a boy around ten who were both bound and gagged and who appeared to be in the back of a van. Disturbed by the photo, the finder took it to police.  Hundreds of stories about the picture were run in national media. It was also featured on the TV program, Missing People. The boy was thought to be Michael Henley, who had gone missing from a camping trip 17 months earlier. The girl, identified as Tara Callico, had disappeared 75 miles away a year earlier while out cycling. Both Michael and Tara were from New Mexico but were unrelated. For their parents, it was the first inkling of what had happened to them.

I remember being very distressed by the story and often wondered if either of the victims were ever found. As it turned out, there were numerous unconfirmed sightings of Tara in 1988 and 1989, mostly in the southern half of the United States. However, she has never been found, alive or dead. Remains found in the Zuni Mountains in June 1990 were eventually identified as Michael’s. It is believed he died of natural causes. Thus the identity of the boy in the photo is still unknown.

In The Girl in the Basement the story is narrated by a teenage girl, Libby, who is taken on the night of her 16th birthday. Her kidnapper is a serial killer looking to start a ‘family’.

It must have been difficult to get into the minds of two such different people.

Yes, it was. I must say I struggled more with the teenage voice than I did with that of the kidnapper who Libby thinks of as ‘Psycho Man’ but whom she eventually comes to call ‘Papa’. I was helped in my writing to understand the psychology of a captive by reading several books written by Jaycee Lee Dugard, Natascha Kampusch and Sabine Dardenne who were held by different psychopaths at different times.

Why do you think teenagers would want to read a book about a kidnap victim?

Wikipedia reports dozens of cases of kidnapped victims over the past century; some have been found alive but many were murdered. More than any demographic, young women are likely to be victims of crime, especially kidnapping, so it’s not surprising that teenage girls would have a fear of being abducted by a stranger.

The Girl in the Basement sets a scenario of how the combination of being a teenage girl, over-indulging in alcohol, being alone, being in the wrong place and being very unlucky, can predicate abduction. My book also shows a young woman’s resilience in dealing with her captor and how she sustains herself with the hope of being rescued.

Is there a hopeful ending to your novel, or would that be giving too much away?

Since it’s a thriller I really can’t divulge the ending, but I can tell you that Libby never abandons hope. Like most teenage girls, she is fiercely independent, brave and resourceful.

Can you talk about the writing of the book and the drafting processes?

Finding the impetus for writing was easy enough; the first real problem was to decide on and find the narrative voice. Both Psycho Man and Libby demanded to be heard so I finished up having multiple voices, Libby telling her story in first person present tense, the kidnapper’s story being told in third person present tense. I wanted show Libby always living in the moment, whereas the kidnapper, being more elusive and anonymous, needed to be presented in a cloak of mystery. The use of present tense means there is more immediacy to the story as events unfold.

There were countless drafts of this book. Before submitting it to a publisher, I not only underwent weekly copy-editing workshops, but I also paid for the finished draft to be assessed by a professional, in-house editor. She made many suggestions, all of which I followed to finish with a manuscript I finally decided was publishable.

Thanks for dropping by Di and all the very best on your tour. You can see yesterday's interview with Di at author Alison Reynolds' site. Tomorrow Di will be interviewed by Chris Bell.

Comment on any of the blogs or websites (including Buzz Words Books!) throughout the tour to go in to the draw to win a free copy of the book. 

Books are available from any bookstore in Australia, many online stores as a paperback (including Amazon) and eBook, and from Morris Publishing Australia.  

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Mr Tripp Goes for a Skate

Mr Tripp Goes for a Skate by Sandy McKay illustrated by Ruth Paul (Walker Books Australia)
PB RRP $11.95
ISBN – 9781921529733
Reviewed by Emma Cameron

Using the same characters as the highly successful Mr Tripp Smells a Rat, this book sees Mr Tripp and Room Five learning about the invention of the wheel. Told in three chapters, each with their own titles, this book will have beginner readers able to easily follow the story of how studying the wheel is more fun when incorporating an event like “Wheels Day” so everyone can get involved.

For some reason, however, Mr Tripp is less enthusiastic about riding in the playground than everyone else is. Everyone brings something different to ride on wheels day. Bikes, rollerblades, scooters abound. Mr Tripp’s skateboard, however, brings real drama. He tries a number of ways to avoid riding it, until Miss Filipo insists he do so. And he crashes.

Fortunately, Mr Trip’s fall is without injury and he can laugh about it. Readers will be relieved and the use of jokes and riddles, as well as familiar themes of school, transport and safety, makes for an engaging, entertaining and accessible way for readers to move from shorter stories to chapter books. Text, however, isn’t all that there is to keep readers on track.

Oodles of clever and funny illustrations show plenty of action to go with each scene’s text, giving numerous enjoyable visuals. Besides making the overall appearance of an early chapter book far less daunting than they could be, illustrations also ensure readers will take breaks between paragraphs, allowing them to build familiarity with the chapter book experience more easily.

This book is sure to bring out confidence in beginning readers and thereby a desire to try more books. This can only be a good thing. As such, this book is highly recommended for every school library at the very least but also an ideal gift for children just who are spring boarding into longer works.