Saturday, 31 August 2013

My Dinosaur Dad

My Dinosaur Dad by Ruth Paul (Scholastic NZ)
PB RRP $15.99
ISBN 978-1-77543-174-9
Reviewed by Jenny Heslop


Every Dinosaur in this irresistibly cute book has a Dad who is special in his own unique way. Each sounds different, looks different and moves differently. As the young reader turns each page, the sparse text and vibrant pictures shows this variety of dads.

With an even rhyme and consistent rhythm, the text describes straight-forward concepts:

    This dad is tall,
    this dad is squat.
    This dad is huge,
    this dad is not.

And yet the story builds up to an exciting level until the last two pages provide a conclusion which is both surprising and satisfying.

The colourful illustrations show dinosaurs with plenty of personality and other animals alongside them. There is a grumpy tortoise on the whistling dinosaur page who is just delightful. Young children will find this a highly entertaining book, especially dinosaur mad boys (or girls) who may well find similarities with their own dads - prickly, tickly, snoring, tall or hungry!

This is a perfect book for fathers to read to their littlies. Perhaps this Father’s Day?

Friday, 30 August 2013

Literary Lunch: Society of Women Writers

The next meeting of the Society of Women Writers NSW Inc will be held on Wednesday, September 11

Venue: Dixson Room, State Library of NSW, Macquarie St, Sydney
Workshop (10 am – 11.50) Presenter:  Rebecca Huntley on Writing Non-Fiction: Migrant Experiences in a New Land. (No Need to book - everyone is welcome).

Literary Lunch:   (12.30- 1pm)

Poetry Awards & Judge's comments:  Mark Tredinnick 

'Poetry Without Borders'  with Guest Poets Carmel Summers, Beverley George, members of the Society and guest poet from Canberra, Kathy Kitual, presenting a variety of poems to prove that 'poetry is for  everyone'.

Cost: $50 for members or $55 non-members. Workshop only:  $20 members or $30.00 non-members. Special  Lunch & Workshop price: $65/80.  NB Please note new price changes and earlier booking time.

Bookings required before 10am Thurs. 5th September:

PLEASE BOOK BY EMAIL 
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.  More information on website: www.womenwritersnsw.org  

Enquiries: Felicity Pulman: 9948 5914

Every Breath

Every Breath by Ellie Marney (Allen and Unwin)
PB RRP $18.99
ISBN 978-1-74331-642-9
Reviewed by Ann Harth

Ellie Marney has what it takes to captivate a young adult audience in Every Breath, the first book in the Every series.

Rachel Watts and her family have been forced to leave their failing farm and move to an affordable place in Melbourne. Rachel is miserable, missing the space, the freedom and her four wheeler. Her parents and brother are exhausted from long shifts in unfulfilling jobs and Rachel deals with high school and much of the housework. The family, once close and relaxed, now snipe at each other daily.

Even though money is tight, each night Rachel takes dinner to her neighbour, James Mycroft, a 17-year-old classmate and forensic genius. Mycroft’s orphan status and haunted past make him a complex and fascinating character and Rachel’s conflicting and growing feelings for him give this book a wonderfully romantic twist that keep the pages turning themselves.

When Dave, a homeless man and friend of Mycroft’s is brutally murdered, Rachel and Mycroft are the ones to discover the grisly scene. Though the police decide it’s a random sport killing, Mycroft suspects there was a stronger motivation and convinces Rachel to help him check it out. She is swept into the complex crime investigation, and the two of them set out to prove the killing had a more specific motive than cruel sport.
In their pursuit of the truth behind the murder, Rachel and Mycroft follow a web of intricately woven clues that lead them through the streets of Melbourne, the hospital’s mental health unit and end in a terrifying and riveting scene at the zoo.

Every Breath moves at a blistering pace, made even more intriguing by the strong characters of Rachel and Mycroft. Mycroft’s battle with his painful past and the couples’ growing attraction for each other add an element of emotional conflict that takes this book to a deeper level.

I would highly recommend this for a young adult audience. This book is a powerful crime novel entwined with a sizzling romance. Readers of Every Breath will wait eagerly for Ellie Marney’s next book, Every Word.

Ellie Marney is a native Queenslander who grew up with her nose in a book. She has travelled all over the world, but now lives in Melbourne. Every Breath is her first novel for young adults. For more information on Ellie Marney and her Every series. Please visit www.elliemarney.com

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. 

Thursday, 29 August 2013

Eco Warriors



And here's the full schedule!

Sunday 1 September

Sneak Peek
Tania McCartney’s Blog taniamccartney.blogspot.com
                     
Review
Boomerang Books Blog blog.boomerangbooks.com.au

Giveaway

Article: Mixed Media Illustrations for Picture Books
Angela Sunde Under the Apple Tree

Monday 2 September

Book Review and Book Giveaway
Kids Book Review kids-bookreview.com

Article: Eco Tips for Little Readers
Sheryl Gwyther’s Blog sherylgwyther.wordpress.com

Article: Bringing Up Eco Warriors
The Book Chook www.thebookchook.com

Review
Books for Little Hands booksforlittlehands.blogspot.com.au

Article: Literature Supporting Sustainability
Children’s Books Daily www.childrensbooksdaily.com

Author Interview
Alison Reynolds www.alisonreynolds.com.au

Tuesday 3 September

Giveaway
My Little Bookcase www.mylittlebookcase.com.au

Review and Article: 5 Multi-Media Writing Tips

Review and Article: Writing for the National Library of Australia

Review
Elaine Ouston Blog elaineoustonauthor.com

Review and Giveaway
Soup Blog soupblog.wordpress.com

Black Tengu

Samurai Kids: Book 8 Black Tengu by Sandy Fussell, illustrated by Rhian Nest James (Walker Books)
PB RRP $15.95
ISBN 9781922077622
Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

The Cockroaches and Sensei are on their way to the Tateyama Mountains. But that is not where Sensei takes them. They find themselves at Ezo, the island where Sensei grew up. He has carried many secrets with him, some that Niya can’t access with his thoughts. These secrets have stolen the master’s sleep and made him determined to cleanse himself of his demons and free himself of the past.

They are not welcome at Fuyama Castle and Sensei is initially thrown in jail due to his past misdeeds. Lord Fuyama gives him the option of fighting to the death with the Dragon Master, but Sensei is still determined to resolve his issues without blood being spilled. Here we discover what caused the terrible burden of guilt Sensei has carried with him all these years. This is relayed to the Cockroaches with the usual stops and starts in Sensei’s storytelling.

As usual the group faces many challenges, including one against the great higuma bear. Sensei comes away from his village freed from his past but not free of the Dragon Master. The Cockroaches prove that they are now self sufficient and have learned well the lessons taught to them by Ki-Yaga, for they know that he will not always be with them. Niya is given the student, Sakito of the wolf spirit to train, a boy that  fits in perfectly with the rest of the band.

It is after Niya joins Sensei in a purifying fire walk that things shift. Sensei’s role of teacher and instructor ends and the Cockroaches know they are now capable of carrying on without him.

Sensei’s last challenge is to defeat the Dragon Master. But it is Niya’s intelligence, wisdom and courage, learned from his master that resolves the final battle.

 Is Sensei the Black Tengu? This also, is revealed at last.

This is the last book in a sensational series which has conveyed to readers the value of virtue mainly compassion, patience and honour, through its meaningful storyline and subtle prose.

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Welcome Home

Welcome Home by Christina Booth (Ford Street Publishing)
HB RRP $26.95 PB RRP $16.95
HB ISBN 978-1925000085 PB ISBN 978-1925000092
Reviewed by Francine Sculli

Welcome Home is an important book about an issue that is not always easy to convey in children’s literature, but author and illustrator – Christina Booth – has carved a story so rich in meaning and message that it should be read to every generation.

Welcome Home is told through the eyes of a young, nameless boy. Every day he hears the calls of a female whale echoing down the river, softly lapping at the mountains. The boy listens intently as her calls change from pure joy to sadness and pain. Trying to decipher the calls that only he can hear, the boy feels the whale’s pain and listens to her story.

The whale carries history to the river – a place where her ancestors were once driven out by early settler whalers, mindlessly slaughtered and displaced. The boy feels it all, as the whale comes to him every day, searching for meaning and forgiveness, and a return to the place they once called home.

The whale tells the boy that they wanted to come home but they did not feel safe and the boy hangs his head. Saddened by what the men had done to her, he whispers a soft sorry as she swims away, her flukes clapping like thunder.

But the next day, as if the boy’s sorry was enough for her to feel safe again, the whale returns to the river with a call that is gentle and soft. The boy sees that the call was not meant for him this time, but the small baby whale that she has given birth to in the river. The boy and bystanders watch as the whale and her child swim through the waters, full of forgiveness and new beginnings. She tells the boy that they are safe now, and he welcomes them home.

Booth tells the story in a soft and unobtrusive way, but still her message is heard. The warm, forgiving and endearing nature of the whales, and the understanding and connectedness of the boy, which she paints so poetically, are powerful enough to show the mindless nature of whaling and what is needed to move forward. The words Booth chooses are nothing short of perfect and beautiful. But it is her illustrations that are a form of poetry in themselves – soft, washed out watercolours, intricately telling with their hues of grey, white, black and blue. They are images that tell of the whales joy and pain and of a future that does not need to be so horrific.


This important book is the perfect catalyst for educating and introducing children to the effects of whaling, to instil in them a care for our natural world and to spread the story that we must care for our animal world. It is a story perfect for the classroom and the family bookshelf, but one that should be read to adults and children alike. 

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Big Red Kangaroo

Big Red Kangaroo by Claire Saxby and Graham Byrne (Walker Books)
HB RRP $ 27.95
ISBN 9781921720420
Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

Claire Saxby is a prolific creator of children’s books whose work covers many genres. Her latest book Big Red Kangaroo is created in highly original parallel format with one page of text telling the story to entertain, while the parallel text defines, informs and educates.

It introduces Red, the leader of the mob, and his followers in sparse and precise storytelling prose. The opposite page elaborates on the word ‘mob’; what mobs or families are made up of, when they are most active, their feeding patterns, the strength and leadership of the dominant male, and the importance of the tail of the red kangaroo.

‘His hops are long. Each landing pushes air from his lungs, each bound fills them’. These gems of information flow through the opposing narrative throughout the book.

The illustrations by Graham Byrne are reminiscent of Ron Brooks’ haunting artwork in Fox by Margaret Wild. The powerful opening lines of the book also bring to mind the opening in the same book.

The outstanding artwork is created with charcoal and digital media using earthy colours with shades of ochre dominating. This is a high quality production and one which should do well in publicising Australia and her unique fauna.

Monday, 26 August 2013

How to be Invisible

How to be Invisible by Tim Lott (Walker Books)
PB RRP $ 16.95
ISBN 9781406324235
Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

Tim Lott ventures away from his adult novel writing with this first Young Adult title, How to be Invisible.  It’s an outstanding novel with the same brilliance as his other writings, with his characters still as captivating as ever.

Strato Nyman is a gifted and talented thirteen year old boy who moves with his parents Melchior and Peaches from South London to Hedgecombe, a country village with a public school. Here a change comes over him. He walks with a slouch, he mumbles and chews things. He just doesn’t fit in and isn’t challenged intellectually.

Something has happened between the couple that is kept secret from the boy, and that something widens the already impossible-to-span chasm between the them. Verbal battles increase, so do lengthy silences. Melchior has left his job as a scientist and Peaches is working on a book which promises to be a best seller, but she refuses to tell Strato what it’s about. No one is happy.

Strato’s life becomes more complicated when he’s bullied by Lloyd Turnbull who has been in an accident resulting in a damaged and stunted arm that he’s obsessively self-conscious about. This bulling causes Strato to wag school and during one of his jaunts through the small town with thirty bookshops, he walks into a musty, darkened one, and picks up the book, How to be Invisible.

He wants to know about things other than physics and statistics about the universe, which consume his conversations. He wants to know why his parents are fighting, why Lloyd bullies him, who the school bus driver really is, and what secrets does his teacher Dr Ojebande hide.

He learns from the old tome how to make himself invisible and this makes up for his lack of visibility in life. He starts to get answers to his questions and this brings about great change to all the people involved when both good and bad secrets are revealed. But the greatest reveal is that ‘one thing can be two things at the same time’, proving things are never what they seem.

This is an interesting and quite unique book. A great deal of information used as backstory, revolves around the universe and its patterns, laws, and structures of which Lott uses in great detail to keep his main character in the spotlight. All the strings in this book are connected to one another in beautiful and fluid prose. The characters are outstanding; the messages are powerful and meaningful. This is a treasured read which will be revisited again.

Sunday, 25 August 2013

Tom Gates Best Book Day Ever (so far)

Tom Gates Best Book Day Ever (so far) by L. Pichon (Scholastic Australia)
PB RRP $7.99
ISBN 978-1-74362-014-4
Reviewed by Jenny Heslop

Tom Gates is back in this novella sized story of huge ideas, books, an alien scale monster and embarrassing setbacks.

It’s book week at Oakfield School and all the students are excited about dressing up as their favourite character for the book parade. Tom has an excellent idea for a costume but is his mum capable of helping him pull it off? Will his costume beat annoying classmate Marcus Meldrew’s? And is the prize worth all that he goes through to get it?

I really enjoy the Tom Gates books. Tom is a well-drawn character dealing with all that life throws at him - teen anxieties, embarrassing parents, grumpy sister, Marcus, school, sport and teachers. Nothing ever quite goes his way and he is constantly embarrassed by the circumstances which he finds himself in. But he carries on regardless, optimistically.

Full of humour, pictures and Tom’s insight on life, Tom Gates Best Book Day Ever (so far) is a really entertaining book. The layout with its line drawings, different fonts everywhere, speech bubble and doodles, will attract those looking for a light read and the content will hook the readers into the rest of the series.

Saturday, 24 August 2013

The Secret Seven series


The Secret Seven series by Enid Blyton, illustrated by Tony Ross (Hodder/Hachette)
PB RRP $9.99
Reviewed by Hilary Smillie



The Secret Seven novels, second in popularity to Enid Blyton's Famous Five, were first published in 1949 and have remained continuously in print. There are fifteen books in the series and I am reviewing the first seven which, I think, is a most appropriate number.
Tony Ross' lively illustrations will appeal to young 21st century readers and in addition to each adventure story there is the bonus of extra stories, a quiz, insights into Blyton's life and details of how fans of the Secret Seven can form their own secret club. I wondered at the start whether modern Australian children would find these stories enjoyable and addictive. Will they be eager to read on?
Enid Blyton has been accused of a limited vocabulary in her works and certainly I discovered that she uses a number of words repetitively; there is a great amount of author intrusion; and children will find that the characters are allowed a great deal more freedom than is the norm for today. But with regard to the latter factor, her stories would be very much diminished as the freedom is a necessary and exciting ingredient. The consumption of the sugary food the Seven eat will no doubt appeal, too (though not the penchant for sardine sandwiches!).
Blyton's style might be somewhat dated, but she has a genius of creating adventures from very simple settings. Bringing seven characters to life with individual traits is no easy task, but generally she brings it off. Along with several black and white drawings within each story, Tony Ross has included portraits of the members of the Secret Seven and Scamper the golden spaniel (I guess it is a cocker spaniel) on the back cover, which will help kids to relate to the characters,
A few of the club members tend to be somewhat one-dimensional but most are strong characters, particularly Peter, the club's leader, and Blyton has captured wonderfully the way kids interact with each other. The rudeness, bossiness, loyalty, friendship, quarrels and teamwork reflect typical behaviour. On many occasions, the repetitiveness and author intrusion cements each step of the adventure. The importance of Scamper is an endearing touch.
The members of the gang, Peter, Janet, Jack, Barbara, Pam, Colin and George plus Scamper, all meet in the garden shed at the home of Peter and his sister Janet. Peter and Janet had come up with the idea of a secret society, with its S.S. button badge each child wears, and the use of a password before admittance to the shed. They have made it comfortable with cushions etc and a lot of the fun is generated by having plenty of food and drink to consume. This information is repeated in various ways in the first two chapters of each novel. Jack's sister Susie who badly wants to belong to the society, adds extra conflict to each story with her interfering ways. Somehow the children manage to track down criminals faster than the local police who are ever-grateful.

Book 1. The Secret Seven (ISBN 9781444913439). When the children return from making snowmen in a field opposite an old house, Jack discovers he has lost his badge. As Peter can get very annoyed when rules are broken, he goes back to the field that night to find it. While there, a van with two men pulls up outside the house and then he hears high pitched noises and the sound of the men panting as if in some kind of a struggle. Jack had hidden behind a hedge, and starts to feel afraid, so at the first opportunity, he heads home as fast as he can.
Thus begins the Secret Seven's first investigation, and although some may be clever enough to guess what is going on at the house, it nevertheless has been written with plenty of intrigue and suspense which will keep the reader turning the pages.


Book 2. Secret Seven Adventure (ISBN 9781444913446). This adventure has the Secret Seven on the trail of a jewel thief. The background setting is a circus which makes it even more fun to read. Blyton's imagination and story-telling skills are employed to great effect.



Book 3. Well Done, Secret Seven (ISBN 9781444913453). A runaway boy with a kitten who seeks refuge in the tree the Secret Seven are temporarily using as a base in the hot weather, instigates another assignment for Peter and Co. I found this storyline implausible. It seemed to me absurd that a small boy would not have been taken back to e.g. Peter and Janet's house for safety reasons, but instead, left to sleep up in a tree. But children will probably view it as an extra thrilling and scary element.

Book 4. Secret Seven on the Trail (ISBN 9781444913460). This story has a lot of intriguing elements. Jack's annoying sister, Susie, forms her own club and fools the Seven into investigating imaginary crooks at Tigger’s Barn. However, the Secret Seven discover something is going on there and set out to unravel the mystery connected to stolen goods. Some of their antics around the train line are potentially dangerous but Blyton's characters are sensible and come to no harm.


Book 5. Go Ahead, Secret Seven (ISBN 9781444913477). The seven decide to practice their sleuthing skills, but unfortunately George who is given the task of shadowing, is pounced on himself. A nasty young man marches him home and complains about George's behaviour. Poor George is immediately banned from the club by his father. I found this parallel dilemma a good ploy, although the way it came about highly improbable. Nevertheless, it leads to the club members discovering a dog stealing racket. Solving it proves perilous but once again all turns out well in the end, especially for George.


Book 6. Good Work, Secret Seven (ISBN 9781444913484) Peter and Janet are in the back seat of their dad's car when it is stolen, then abandoned. Bringing the perpetrators to justice is a challenging and dangerous task for the Seven. Blyton ramps up interest by setting it around Guy Fawkes night preparations, complete with fireworks and bonfire. A safety code at the end of the chapter list cautions children and is a thoughtful addition.


Book 7. The Secret Seven Win Through (ISBN 9781444913491). While the Secret Seven's shed is being painted, the children use a cave, which Scamper discovered, as their new meeting place. But someone else is using it at night, eating their supplies and messing up their carefully arranged belongings. At first the club members think Susie has somehow found their cave and taken books and cushions away, but they are wrong. Step by step the children discover the real culprits and why they are using their cave which has another entrance. Once again Blyton uses background to hook children and give them enormous reading pleasure.

Summing up, I can see why this series is so successful despite dated/English elements and overuse of particular words. Blyton is a magical storyteller. She knows what thrills children and no doubt at the time she was producing her work, her stories brightened the severity of life in post-war England. She also manages to unobtrusively weave in moral issues - respect for elders, work before play, fairness and forgiveness of which many parents would whole-heartedly approve. To date over 500 million copies of Enid Blyton books have been sold, outselling any other children's author. That's a good enough recommendation for me.

Friday, 23 August 2013

The View from Ararat

The View from Ararat by Brian Caswell (University of Queensland Press)
PB RRP $22.95
ISBN 978 0 7122 3067 7
Reviewed by Beverley Boorer

Anyone who read the first in the series of these three YA sci-fi novels from this award winning author will not need any introduction to Deucalion, the planet that is 34 light years away from Earth and populated with gentle creatures that are totally telepathic with each other.

The View from Ararat continues the story, but is set some hundreds of years later when the planet is firmly settled. The C-ships from Earth keep on coming, but one day a mysterious warning of a disease called the Black Crystal Death (CRIOS) arrives. Only a few people take it seriously and insist that the newest refugees remain isolated until they are sure that the disease has not arrived with them. Of course, the worst case scenario comes true and the disease wipes out about a third of the human population before it can be identified. The planet descends into chaos with little real leadership and few people left who have the ability to find out the cause of the disease and look for a cure.

The story shows just how easy it is for civilization to collapse, no matter how well established it is. The book is not written with normal chapters but reads more like a series of log entries by different characters that include the place and date of writing. These are headed for instance, Erin’s Story and told from her viewpoint. However, other entries may simply be headed “Erin” and these tell us something about the character and the story, but not from her viewpoint. Each entry advances the story and gives the reader information about that character and others. This gives the author the ability to jump from one part of the story to another without it seeming piecemeal.

The story is well-researched and gives a lot of detail, with cryogenics being the mode of travel. Frozen sleep enables the same set of characters to arrive at a distant planet without having aged. The mystery of CRIOS is slowly unfolded and keeps the reader on tenterhooks, or at least curious as to what it is and what the effects will be. The ease with which it escapes from the refugee camp and infects so many other people makes for gruesome reading, but it is so realistic that it makes the reader shudder. It could so easily happen like that in real life. Interwoven throughout are the lives, thoughts and feelings of the many people involved and the start of telepathy for the human race.

The third in the series will be eagerly reached for.

Beverley Boorer is a published children’s author. Details of her sci-fi books for children, the Jeddon Series are available from her website.   

Thursday, 22 August 2013

The Dreams of the Chosen

The Dreams of the Chosen by Brian Caswell (University of Queensland Press)
PB RRP $22.95
ISBN: 978 0 7022 3605 1
Reviewed by Beverley Boorer

Brian Caswell has done it again with this third and last book in the Deucalion series for young adults. This far-flung planet has had time to recover from the Black Crystal Death (CRIOS) that decimated the human population in the second book of the series and life is now sanitized and a bit stagnant to many of the population. Telepathy has become accepted and greatly enhances their way of life.

New – but untried - technology means spaceships should now be able to reach Earth in one year, but the CShips from Earth stopped coming hundreds of years ago and no one knows why. Did the mother planet suffer so terribly from CRIOS? Has there been an Apocalypse or some kind of meltdown? It is time to use that new technology to find out. A team is chosen and sent, still using cryogenics for the year’s travel.

But things go terribly wrong for the team that finally lands on Earth. Their lander is wrecked and they only have minimal contact with the Mother Ship. They know that something is terribly wrong on Earth, but they don’t know what, how it happened or who they can trust out of the various people groups that are left.

This story shows that new technology is not so very useful when the rest of the planet has been plunged back into the new Dark Age. However the skill of telepathy is very useful, even though anyone who has it is regarded with the utmost suspicion. Without it, the team would be lost.

Most technology has disappeared from Earth due to the meltdown that occurred centuries ago and no one knows anything about what is left. Knowledge – and anyone who has it - is viewed with distrust and suspicion. Most books from the past have been burned but there were some who worked to keep the knowledge safe and hidden for future generations, even though they did not understand it themselves. The team from Deucalion gradually finds out what has happened, but now they must devise a plan to save themselves and their friends from the few Families who control the world in this new and dangerous era. They must also ensure that enough knowledge remains to guide the enlightened few into a new Renaissance period when the time is right.

There are many heroes and heroines in the story, some of whom give their lives for what they believe. The Dreams of the Chosen makes a satisfying ending to this brilliant series.

Beverley Boorer is a published children’s author. Details of her sci-fi books for children, the Jeddon Series, are available from her website

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Chasing the Valley

Chasing the Valley by Skye Melki-Wegner (Random House Australia)
PB RRP $17.95
ISBN 9781742759548
Also available as an ebook
ISBN 9781742759555
Reviewed by Marian McGuinness

With comparisons to Percy Jackson and The Hunger Games, Skye Melki-Wegner’s first published book Chasing the Valley has a lot to live up to. And that’s where the doubt ends. As soon as I started reading Chasing the Valley I was seduced by the inventive, gripping storytelling and by the calibre of protagonist and storyteller, 16 year-old Danika Glynn.

Told in first person, it’s Danika’s story. She is a scruffer, a homeless teen whose parents were killed during raids on her town by King Morrigan of Taladia. Like any despot, the king keeps his people subservient. His means are unorthodox. He uses alchemy bombs dropped from biplanes that are ‘loaded with spellwork and magic tokens that burst like confetti through the streets.’

As Danika hides in the sewer to escape the latest bombing, she happens upon a group of teens planning an escape. It’s a crew of five, and Danika is not welcome. Their aim is to escape to the sanctuary of the Magnetic Valley. Its hillsides are lined with magnetic rocks that interfere with the magic dropped by the King’s biplanes.

Each teenager develops a proclivity in the form of a tattoo. It is symbolic of the powers they can use in their future, be it wind, water, flame, darkness. Danika proves herself invaluable as the crew escapes when she uses her past as an illusionist, along with her ingenuity, but everything comes at a price. As the refugee crew makes its way to the Magnetic Valley they are pursued by the King’s hunters. There are many graphic scenes, as nothing will stop their reign of terror.

So many questions set up. When the crew finds the King’s biplane wrecked in the forest, why is the pilot missing? Why were the alchemy bombs still attached? And who is the mysterious traveller Lukas, the boy with alchemy charms around his neck and the proclivity of a bird?

This dystopian fantasy has themes of survival, heroism, magic, betrayal and a touch of romance. It’s a riveting read for teens and almost teens. Author, Skye Melki-Wegner’s star is rising and I can’t wait to read the next two in her stellar trilogy.


Tuesday, 20 August 2013

The Princess and the Pirate

The Princess and the Pirate: Book One of The Chronicles of The Knights of Katesch by Royce Bond (Morris Publishing Australia)
PB RRP $20.00
ISBN 9780987543400
Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

Here is the first of a fantasy series filled with action, adventure and space wars, whose battles are so descriptive it is like watching an adventure of Zena in full battle mode.

Beloved Queen Hibana is one of the famed Knights of Katesch. She sees herself equal to her people. Her husband was killed ten years ago in an ambush along with all his men. The wizard Maligor is her greatest enemy and power battles have been raging for countless years in the attempt by Maligor to control all the dimensions in space.

Hibana is murdered in battle by a Kladath assassin and her daughter Hepzebah, inherits the powers owned by her mother, adding to the ones she already owns. Maligor wants her dead too. But he underestimates who he’s dealing with. Hepzebah and her supporters are helped secretly by Maligor’s wife, Legonin, who longs to see her husband’s treachery come to an end.

Captain Sergio Andronovich is a smuggler, space pirate and blockade runner. He is more than he seems and his eyes are filled with Hepzebah. He is a crafty, resourceful person who is ready to stand by his love and even die for her as she battles to destroy the evil one.

This is a complex pirate adventure with murder, intrigue, betrayal and tension throughout. There are many sub-stories and plots weaving in and out which add additional suspense to the galloping pace of the story. With excellent main characters and even some terrific minor characters that will surely reappear in the future titles, this book offers escapism into a fantasy world of space wars and other dimensions where anything is possible.




Monday, 19 August 2013

Engibear’s Dream

Engibear’s Dream by Andrew King, illustrated by Benjamin Johnston (Little Steps Publishing)
HB RRP $24.95
ISBN 9781921928901
Reviewed by Emma Cameron

While crammed with excellent graphics that will instantly attract little boys, it isn’t only those young enough to be learning to count to ten who will find this delightfully humorous tale appealing. I think the older the reader the more they can appreciate the work and story, and therefore believe its greatest appeal will be to those of primary school age. (Oh, okay, any male who’s maintained the boy within will probably never outgrow it either!)

Engibear, like many boys, is a classic dreamer who loves to invent and then build things. Told in verse that scans well, his epic begins with his decision to invent a ‘Bearbot’ to help him with future creations and, in his meticulously organised workshop, he sets to work preparing plans for ‘Bearbot Type One’. Once built, however, it appears that Type One is ‘not without faults’ and, ‘KABOOM!’, Engibear must immediately begin work on ‘Bearbot Type Two’.

With disastrous yet funny failures along the way, the conclusion eventually sees Engibear’s tenacity win out. Bearbot Type Ten is a huge success. Hurray! And, just as any success deserves, the last four pages revisit the exciting journey to reflect on issues that occurred from prototype to final model via each type’s blueprints being provided, highlighted with numerous technical but easily understood notes and specifications.


Besides excellent characterisation of Engibear and each Bearbot, illustrations of the disasters also give readers much to laugh over. My favourite is that of a crinkled Type Seven lying ‘flat as a plate’ after inadvertently landing in the path of a bulldozer. My favourite non-disaster illustration is inside Engibear’s home where walls hold portraits of ‘Alexander Graham Bear’, ‘Thomas Beardison’, ‘Bear Brunel’, ‘Bearstav Eiffel’ etc. I thoroughly recommended this book for 3-10 year olds.

Sunday, 18 August 2013

The Secret Tunnel

The Secret Tunnel by Mitchell Stone, illustrated by Nicki Jones (Little Steps Publishing)
PB RRP $14.95
ISBN 9781921928949
Reviewed by Emma Cameron

While many students don’t believe the rumours, the story opens by telling readers that beneath the classrooms, playground and Principal’s office of Lionfield Public School ‘ran a secret tunnel’, so there are no doubts about its existence. Five simple and easy to follow chapters then give a story of about 1500 words that tell of how Edward and Sophie journey through the tunnel.

They first believe it exists when they hear the sports teacher and science teacher talking of it. Only the sports teacher knows the code that opens the entrance though he mentions “something about” another opening. Edward and Sophie find out the code when they spot the call number on the spine of a library book entitled Tunnels. Once inside they close the door and can’t reopen it so must find the other opening to get back out. 

Journeying along, their sense of hearing and smell confirm where under the school they are, for example, canteen, staffroom, playground etc. Just as they reach the tunnel’s end they discover the science teacher is in there. He says “No student has ever seen my private lab before and it must stay that way.” Edward and Sophie agree to keep his secret and know that, in return, they will not be in trouble for having entered the tunnel.


The 45 pages are so filled with brightly coloured pictures they dominate the text and this is likely to be especially attractive to young readers who may find text filled early chapter books still a tad daunting. Before the story begins is an invitation to readers: “Peer through the pictures, in front and behind… How many spiders can you find?” which is likely to be seen by young readers as an extra bonus.

Saturday, 17 August 2013

The Four Seasons of Lucy McKenzie

The Four Seasons of Lucy McKenzie by Kirsty Murray (Allen and Unwin)
PB RRP $14.99
ISBN 978-1-74331-702-0
Reviewed by Ann Harth

When Lucy McKenzie’s sister is in an accident in France, Lucy is forced to stay with Aunt Big in a big, old, country house filled with mysteries. To make matters worse, Aunt Big doesn’t seem to be any more thrilled with the situation than Lucy.

Lucy is miserable, worried about her sister and missing her family, until one night she hears someone calling from downstairs. She follows the sound of the voice to the dining room where all four walls are covered in murals of the countryside. Each wall depicts one of the four seasons. The voice is coming from the springtime painting where a young girl waves and calls. Lucy steps through the wall and into the early 20th century. There she meets April, Tom and Jimmy Tiger who teach Lucy how to love and live in the country. Lucy finds a source of untapped courage inside of her and learns to appreciate the thrill of adventure as the four of them climb trees, ride horses and swim in the river.

Time goes more quickly for Lucy’s new friends in the past and, although she is only staying with Aunt Big for a few weeks, she is able to visit them once in each of their seasons. She helps them to conquer bushfires and floods and, through her knowledge of the family’s history, learns that she must pass on a warning to the people she has grown to love.

The Four Seasons of Lucy McKenzie is a riveting read filled with mystery and twists as well as the satisfaction of watching the relationship between Lucy and Aunt Big blossom and grow. Kirsty Murray’s attention to detail in this book encourages the reader to skip back and forth between decades with ease and believability. Although the clues were all there, I was kept guessing and enthralled until the very end.

I would highly recommend this book to 9-12 year olds. It will be particularly appealing to those with a vivid imagination and the love of adventure.

Award winning author, Kirsty Murray has written fourteen books for children and teenagers. Her first novel, Zarconi’s Magic Flying Fish won the Western Australian Premier’s Book Award in 2000. She lives with her husband, a puppeteer, in a house filled with books and puppets. Kirsty Murray offers writing workshops and can often be found wandering through a bookstore or library.

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. 

Friday, 16 August 2013

Zac and Mia

Zac and Mia by A.J. Betts (Text Publishing)
PB RRP $19.99
ISBN  9781922147257
Reviewed by Wendy Fitzgerald

Zac and Mia is the third Young Adult novel by Perth author, A.J. Betts and also the 2012 winner of the Text Prize for Young Adult and Children’s writing. It is suitable for readers 15 years and older.

Zac Meier, a 17 year old boy, is trapped in a hospital room recovering from a bone marrow transplant- a very invasive procedure used to treat leukaemia. The patient’s bone marrow is sucked out and a donor’s marrow is pumped back in. You might think this does not sound like a very exciting plot... but I urge you to keep reading.

After the bone marrow transplant Zac has to stay in isolation to give the cells the best chance to settle into his body. Hence he is trapped in this small hospital room for a total of 47 days- 33 of those days he has the annoying company of his anxious mother. In the room next door to Zac another patient is being admitted. We hear her before we see her. This young girl is angry. She shouts at her mother and insists on playing jarring loud music that beats rudely through the wall. However, an intriguing friendship develops between kind, gentle Zac and wild, enraged Mia. A timid knock on the wall leads to a note, messages on Facebook and a sharing of feelings much deeper than usually experienced.

Zac and Mia don’t meet properly until they leave hospital. Both kids have difficulty finding where they fit back in the ‘normal’ world. Not only do they have to deal with their own medical problems but it’s also hard to juggle the concerns, fears and reactions of their friends and families. Zac and Mia’s unique bond helps them to put many of these things into perspective.

Betts cleverly uses first person duel narratives to tell this story. She quietly moves from Zac’s perspective to Mia’s allowing us to get inside the mind of each character. A.J. Betts has painted Zac and Mia with strong colours. I was drawn into their lives. I felt their anger, injustice and pain. I empathised with both families. I admired the courage, the honesty and the sense of hope. But I also laughed at the humour and cheered for the successes. These two characters will stay in my heart.

A.J. Betts has written two other YA novels- Shutterspeed and Wavelength.

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Mouse in Space!

Mouse in Space! by Geronimo Stilton (Scholastic Press)
PB RRP $12.99
ISBN 978-0-545-48191-5
Reviewed by Jenny Heslop

A wave of burglaries has swept over Mouse City and frightened mice are turning to Safe Squeak antitheft systems to protect themselves. Unfortunately, as Geronimo Stilton, editor of The Rodent’s Gazette discovers, these security camera are creating an even bigger danger to Mouse City and its rodents.

Once again, it is up to Stilton to join forces with Kornelius von Kickpaw, 00K, secret agent for the government of Mouse Island, and the beautiful and charming 00V, to save their city from the evil Dr Wicked. This time Geronimo’s tasks involve intensive astronaut training and then a fur-raising shuttle flight to outer space. Geronimo is not sure if he is up for this mission.

The Geronimo Stilton series is a great series for the lower to mid primary ages. Full of colour illustrations, jokes, word play and danger, and sprinkled with fabulous spy gadgets and facts about space, Mouse in Space is a fun addition to the series.

Mouse in Space is an entertaining read and will appeal to both boys and girls. There is also plenty of variety to keep readers engaged within the wider series – from books narrated by Geronimo or his sister Thea, to their caveman ancestors, and also a fantasy series and graphic novels.

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Blog Tour: The Princess and the Pirate

Today Buzz Words Books is thrilled to be participating in Royce Bond's blog tour to launch The Princess and The Pirate – Book one of The Knights of Katesch (Morris Publishing Australia). (And comment on this post and go in the draw for a free signed copy.)

Royce Bond’s new sci fi/fantasy novel The Princess and the Pirate is a swashbuckling adventure of a Pirate, a Princess and their followers as they fight to save the universe from evil forces. It is the first book in a series called The Knights of Katesch. The books are the chronicles of  The Knights of Katesch who, for time out of memory, have fought the wizard Maligor across all the dimensions of the known universe.

After the death of her mother Hibana, one of the famed Knights of Katesch, at the hands of a Kladath assassin, Princess Hepzebah faces the fight of her life. As the new queen, she has inherited her mother's powers. The space pirate Captain Sergio runs the blockade to bring an unearthly army to fight the last battle against Maligor's hordes. He has plans for this young queen, but his plans are hijacked and they are thrust into an inter-dimensional battle for the future of the known universe.

Welcome Royce and thanks for popping by Buzz Words Books.

My pleasure and thanks for asking me to visit. I hope I can inspire others to pursue their dream of becoming an author.

Did you submit your manuscript to many publishers before you had an offer to publish?

I had submitted The Chronicles of the Knights of Katesch to nine publishers and each said no. Then I gave up submitting and kept writing and editing to improve the story. I write not to be published, but just for the pure enjoyment of writing. I absolutely love slipping into my world when I write. Publishing is the icing on the cake, because now others can enjoy my world as well.

How did you become a writer?

I used to watch a television series called The A Team. In 1985 I decided I’d like to write a series of television scripts called The Beetlejuice Pirates. They would be a bumbling space version of The A Team. I actually finished my first episode, but then lost it when we moved from Brisbane to Rockhampton.

I still wanted to write but changed from a television script to a short story. I called it The Time Warriors. I finished it and then went on to writing weird stories about the time I spend working on market gardens in the bush.

Did you have to do much research for this book?

I am a medieval re-enactor and often train with swords, axes, and bows. I have researched this craft and the era when it was practised. I consider my whole life to be the research. I have day dreamed most of my life, as well as immersing myself in fantasy/sci fi movies and television series.

Can you tell me about the main character and what you like/dislike about her?

My main character is Hepzebah. I find her a complex character, as well as an exciting one. She is quite an emotional person, because of the experiences she went through as a young child and teenager, but has chosen to lock this emotion away behind a wall in her mind.

I like her strength of character. And how she allows the most unlikely of characters (Sergio) to come into her life and affect her in such a way that she commits her life to him – even though at times she threatens to kill him. Of course, she would never do this. Although she does often have outbursts of emotion directed at him, for example when she single handedly destroys his castle. She is ferociously loyal to those she loves and is very independent.

Is there something that sets this book apart from others?

Yes. This book can be read on a number of different levels, depending on the age and experience of the reader. I know of ten year olds who have loved it and the oldest reader I know of is 85 years old.

Other adults have commented on how complex the characters and plot are, while younger readers revel in the fast paced action. The reader gets out of the story what they are looking for. It caters for a huge variety of interests. It’s a huge amount of fun to read and you can quickly get into this world and not want to come out of it. Even though I have written this book, I still love reading it whenever I get a chance.

Do you have any tips for writers about the writing process or the path to publishing?

a) Create a world you want to live in.
b) Create characters you want to be.
c) Create adventures/action you would like to be involved in.
d) Let your writing goal be enjoyment, not publishing, because when you enjoy the experience of writing, then your readers will enjoy what you have written.
e) Edit, edit, edit.
f) Writing is an apprenticeship. Very few people are so gifted as to pick up a pen and become instant stars.
g) Surround yourself with books, movies, and television series in the genre you wish to write in.
h) There is nothing new under the sun, so take ideas from what others have written, and change it to make it your own.
i) When you get rejected, don’t give up. Keep writing.
j) Enjoy your writing.

The Princess and the Pirate is available from your local bookstore.
Signed copies are available from the MPA website.

Follow the blog tour get some great writing tips, read reviews, and learn more fascinating information about Royce Bond. Comment on this post and go in the draw for a free signed copy.

BLOG SCHEDULE:

Monday August 12 Morris Publishing Australia Interview
Tuesday August 13   http://diannedibates.blogspot.com.au/ Interview
Wednesday August 14 http://www.buzzwordsmagazine.com Interview
Thursday August 15  http://www.elaineoustonauthor.com Interview
Friday August 16  http://www.melissawray.blogspot.com.au Interview
Saturday August 17  http://www.losangzopa.wordpress.com Review
Sunday August 18   http://www.kids-bookreview.com Interview

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Conspiracy 365 Black Ops #2: Hunted

Conspiracy 365 Black Ops #2: Hunted by Gabrielle Lord (Scholastic Australia)
PB RRP $14.99
ISBN 978-1-74283-519-8
Reviewed by Jenny Heslop

Cal is still undercover on Shadow Island. Beneath the surface of this tropical paradise is a labyrinth of tunnels and caves, strange machinery, advanced robotic gadgets and many secrets to be unwrapped. Whatever Damian and his crew of teen leaders have planned for the world, it doesn’t look good.

Cal, Ryan and Sophie need to locate a group of captured runaways, free the prisoner on rock island and work out what is being planned for the elite teams of kids who have been trained inside the mountain. And they are running out of time. Even more pressing than the ninety-day deadline they seem to be working to, the volcano on the island is making some serious rumblings. Will Cal be able to get everyone off the island in time?

Written in short bites of time and action, Hunted is a book which keeps readers engaged, on the edge of their seat, and wanting more. Like the first in the series, Missing, the story ends on a heart-stopping cliffhanger.

But it is not only the action which will keep readers coming back for more. The plot is full of intrigue, riddles, codes and other puzzles to keep the mind racing along with the heart. It is lucky that the trilogy’s conclusion End Game, is not far behind.

Gabrielle Lord, an Australian author, is well known for her gripping adult crime novels. She has written 17 books in the Conspiracy 365 series for young adults.

Monday, 12 August 2013

Harvey, the Boy Who Couldn’t Fart

Harvey, the Boy Who Couldn’t Fart by Matthew Johnstone (Walker Books)
PB RRP $ 14.95
ISBN: 9781922179197
Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

Harvey is a happy boy with only one problem. He can’t fart. The dog and cat can (silent and deadly ones), his parents can and his brother Max – especially in the bath. His sister does when no one is around and grandpa’s ‘trouser trumpets’ are pretty toxic.

Poor Harvey feels left out. Grandpa has a solution. He goes into his shed and after a lot of banging and crashing he comes out with a tool that will solve Harvey’s problem.

This is a hilarious, fun-filled story for younger children on a seemingly gross but natural bodily function. The illustrations of the expressions and reactions of both people and pets are priceless!

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Between the Pages

Between the Pages by Joan van Loon illustrated by Chantal Stewart (New Frontier Publishing)
HB RRP $24.95
ISBN 9781921928444
Reviewed by Emma Cameron

This story opens with Billy and Jack traipsing through a windy and rainy forest in their pyjamas, complete with bulging nappies underneath. Their first encounter is to be swept into the air by what Billy tells Jack is ‘a blind bat’ . Jack says to keep going and turning the page sees them falling into a python nest on the ground. This time it’s Billy who urges them to move on.

The next page turn sees them sliding down a tree, away from the snake this is now chasing them from the branches above. By fleeing in this manner they come face to face with a tree dragon. Their simple solution of turning the page means Jack is bumped into the butt of a tree where chicks are nesting. An angry grunt from their mother and a page turn reveals they are emus and prompts another repeat of the ‘turn the page’ refrain.

Besides also having to turn the page to save them as their boat is about to pitch over a waterfall, the two adventurers must also turn the page to escape a crocodile, then leaping lizards, red-back spiders and frogs until all animals are after them in a pack. Never fear, the turn of a page is all it takes to see them floating down and landing on their bed. It’s here that Jack says ‘Oh no, it’s …” and the last page is turned to see Billy say “the END.”


Vivid and colourful illustrations full of action are in keeping with the very fast pace of Jack and Billy’s page turning adventure. The facial expressions of not only the boys but also each animal they encounter add to the excitement, fear and discovery. The cute final picture of the boys sitting tucked side by side in bed holding the book open in front of them is matched with an equally cute punch line of “Turn it over. Let’s read it again.”

Saturday, 10 August 2013

A Cyclone is Coming

A Cyclone is Coming by Darlene Oxenham (Fremantle Press)
PB RRP $ 9.99
ISBN 9781922089342
Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

Annie lives with her parents in a caravan in Useless Loop. Her plans to spend time at the beach are foiled by the broadcast that a cyclone coming. Her father has decided to secure the caravan to a scraper which weighs several tons, to keep it from being blown away. Any loose thing also needs to be secured, and the windows taped so they won’t shatter. A check is made on the emergency supplies.  Never having experienced a cyclone before, this is a scary adventure for Annie.

Safe within her secured surroundings, the cyclone passes. Annie has much to tell her class on her return to school after the holidays.

These are simple chapter books with interesting themes for young readers. The stories revolve around Indigenous culture, family, adventure, and stories passed on by the elders. The authors write about what they know and the prose is clear and easy to read, making them ideal for reluctant readers.

This series will be attractive to librarians, teachers and parents for inclusion in their reading choices. There are eight more books in the series and more information can be obtained through Fremantle Press.

Friday, 9 August 2013

Lilli and Shadow in Trouble

Lilli and Shadow in Trouble by Laura Dudgeon and Sabrina Dudgeon (Fremantle Press)
PB RRP $9.99
ISBN 97819220893
Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

These two books are from the Waarda series created in 2009 by Sally Morgan, the UWA Centre for Indigenous Studies and Fremantle Press. The series is composed of junior fiction titles written by emerging Indigenous writers ‘to encourage literacy and cultural awareness’. Waarda is Nyungar for talking and sharing stories. The series was created ‘in response to the lack of Indigenous resources available for first readers’.

Lilli is spending the school holidays up north with her Nan whom she loves dearly. But she equally loves her magical dingo cat friend and guardian spirit Shadow, who can change shape and disappear into hard surfaces like Nan’s mango tree which is his home.

But something is wrong with Shadow. A creature named Glog has taken over residence in the mango tree which strengthens Shadow. Glog has lost his former home in the mangrove swamp to other creatures, therefore is becoming weak and is fading.

Lilli gives Glog her lucky ribbon bracelet that her friend Alice gave her when they said goodbye. This strengthens Glog while Nan finds a new mangrove tree for him to move into. ‘As soon as we are together again, life becomes an adventure’ Lilli tells Shadow.

Laura Dudgeon is 19 years old and this is her second book. Her first book Lilli and her Shadow was published when she was sixteen years old.

Thursday, 8 August 2013

The Giant Bowl of Chocolate

The Giant Bowl of Chocolate by Marion Lucy, illustrations by Nathaniel Eckstrom (JoJo Publishing)
PB RRP $16.99; HB RRP $24.99
ISBN 9780987281340
Reviewed by Donna Austin

Chocolate or porridge for breakfast? Which would you choose? For Belle the answer is easy - chocolate, of course. Belle rejects the bowl of plain porridge for breakfast and sails for Giant land.where the Giant in residence has so much chocolate he is bored of it.

With the Giant, Belle explores his land of chocolate where she builds a tower of chocolate blocks, swims in chocolate milk and admires the chocolate sculptures in the garden. All the while, she is having her fill of chocolate until eventually Belle sails home with Giant who adores the porridge Belle makes for him.

Before Giant returns home he leaves an enormous bowl of chocolate for Belle. As she plays over the next few weeks, she eats and eats and eats chocolate until she can eat no more. A message in a bottle arrives from Giant with his thanks and a hint that she should try porridge with honey and cinnamon. This is a winning combination for Belle and the giant chocolate bowl becomes a giant drum.

Marion Lucy's text is carefully constructed and she uses some beautiful phrases. I particularly loved 'The freckled porridge glittered and shone'. Belle is an engaging and playful character whose love of chocolate, although immense, never comes across as gluttony despite the mammoth amounts she eats! The friendship with Giant is nicely portrayed and the book avoids overt didactism.

Nathaniel Eckstrom's illustrations are quirky and full of life and children will no doubt pore over them. The retro shades of blue, red and brown chosen give the book the comfortable feel of a 1950s picture book.

The spreads are nicely laid out with the text interweaving with the illustrations to exacerbate the playful feel of the story. Chocolate is a sure fire winner with most kids and this book is one they will enjoy.

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Crazy Relief Teachers: Mr Jackpot and the Stash of Cash

Crazy Relief Teachers: Mr Jackpot and the Stash of Cash by Matt Porter (Celapene Press)
PB RRP $12.95
ISBN 9780987367723
Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

The third book in the Crazy Relief Teachers series is just as outlandish as all the previous ones. Mr Jackpot, the game show host of Stash of Cash, is the new relief teacher to Grade 6B at Outback Creek Primary. The class is convinced that he has come to splash cash around to the most deserving, as this is what he does on his show. They get excited, especially Steele who dreams of getting new goal posts to replace the old rusted ones that were removed long ago so they can practice footy and take part in the Outback Creek Cup.

But the class’s first impression of him is that ‘his brain has spun up bankrupt’, for the challenges he sets out are as corny as the jokes and games they become part of. But in the Crazy Relief Teacher tradition, the class joins in the fun amidst endless, clever game show puns.

But there are surprises. Mr Jackpot invites the grumpy and long suffering Mr Thompson, whose house borders with the school oval, and who is always complaining about the footy being kicked into his yard, to appear on This Was Your Life. As in every situation, there are always two sides to every story. The content of the show reveals unexpected facts about Mr Thompson and family, and brings about a surprising resolution to Grade 6B’s goal post dilemma.

There are lots of laughs to be had, and the impressive word play at which Matt Porter is a master, keeps the reader cackling as they speed through the story.

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Hold on Tight

Hold on Tight by Sara Acton (Scholastic Press)
HB RRP $24.99
ISBN 978-1-74283-349-1
Reviewed by Jenny Heslop

What would happen on a windy day if you let go of Mum’s hand and blew away? This lovely poetic picture book explores the possibilities. Soft ink and watercolour illustrations fill the pages creating breeze and movement rustling though the book. The gentle pictures and pastel palette match the gentle weightlessness of the story. The imagination of these pictures is inspiring. The rhyme is good, but the placement of the text on the page ensures that it is the rhythm that dominates. And this increases the dreamy flow of the experience.

The language, storyline and illustrations all work beautifully together making this is a delightful book to be swept up into. And I love that we are brought gently, but firmly, back to earth at the end of the book. I’m sure any young child would love to be the child in the story, floating high above earth with the wind, autumn leaves, lady birds and raindrops.

Hold on Tight is a dreamy book, just right for all children who would love to fly.