Tuesday, 31 December 2013

You Don’t Even Know

You Don’t Even Know by Sue Lawson (black dog books)
PB RRP $ 18.95
ISBN 9781922179715
Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

This intensely moving novel reflects the sadness ad overwhelming emotions that conglomerate into pain during the grieving process.  Its themes cover loss, coping with death and dying, bullying, and the destructive results of parents’ expectations on their children.

An incredible journey of the Self is told through the character Alex from the Neurological Unit of a hospital in a before and after the accident sequence. He reflects on the way things are in his life and the way they are perceived to be.

Struggling to overcome his injuries, Alex also battles with guilt over his little sister’s death and the imminent passing from cancer of his room mate, Mackie, whose life and dreams are revealed through her journals. Alex also lives with his father’s blame for his sister’s death, and for not conforming to parental expectations as his brothers have. His mother escapes the grief of a dysfunctional family behind the pretentious fa├žade of her wealthy lifestyle, rigidly determined to keep up appearances.

Additional themes of identity and sibling rivalry flow throughout the story. The extremely gifted Sue Lawson has again captured the voice and thoughts of youth with great insight.

Monday, 30 December 2013

This Way Up

This Way Up by Kylie Dunstan (Windy Hollow Books)
HC RRP $25.95
Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

Grace and her family are moving again. But home now is a strange shadowy place full of echoes and cardboard boxes. What will it take to make it a real home?

This delightful and delicate book with the dominant theme of moving away from familiar things and people, also addresses the mixed emotions experienced by a child in a new environment. The design of the text on the pages is a brilliant choice. Its purposeful placement on the page identifies with the boxes and chaotic coming and going within the house.

The illustrations are stunning; so creative and beautiful. With great insight, coloured pages have been used as background throughout. This adds additional uniqueness to the already outstanding preparation and design of the whole book. Kylie Dunstan just keeps getting better. This is her fifth picture book. Look out for this creator’s work. She is destined to leave a bold mark on the history of Australian children’s books.

Sunday, 29 December 2013

Tilly and Billy Travel the World

Tilly and Billy Travel the World by Dawn MacKenzie with Angela Knights, illustrated by Kev Howlett (quikmark media)
PB RRP $ 12.95
ISBN 9780987599766
Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

This new junior fiction series introduces the Thomas family through character profiles. Each member has crime-solving skills. Dad James is an Australian forensic scientist and mum Alison a crime writer. Billy creates gadgets, and has won the junior inventor’s award. He has been recruited by the organisation Goodies Against Baddies (GAB).

Tilly, Billy’s clever older sister helps solve crimes, loves travel, karate, and dancing, and won the Smart Award for history and geography at school.

Meeka is their talking Meerkat whose other special abilities include a strong sense of smell and binocular vision. She was adopted by the Thomas family during their tour of Africa.

Last but not least is the baddie they chase, Odious McSlimey. His skin is green and belongs to the Anti Happiness Org (AHO).

Billy, Tilly and Meeka set out for Hollywood. The letter D in the word Hollywood has been stolen. They have only a few hours to find it. With their Go-Phone, solar powered backpacks and Meeka’s special potions, can the group catch the culprit and replace the letter in the short time they have?

This adventure series will appeal to fans of Zac Power. Reluctant readers will be drawn to its simple storyline, active characters and imaginative, vibrant coloured artwork.

Saturday, 28 December 2013

For All Creatures

For All Creatures by Glenda Millard, illustrated by Rebecca Cool (Walker Books)
PB RRP $ 16.95
ISBN 9781922077066
Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

Glenda Millard’s extraordinary affinity with the natural world is on display in For All Creatures. She also has a talent for utilising uncommon word forms and concepts. They appear to come easily to her and have served her well in her writing. This talent illuminates the pages of each book she creates. Using alliteration and assonance freely, the repetition of sounds is perfect for reading aloud.

For All Creatures was first published in 2011 and proved extremely popular due to its unique and clever text and Rebecca Cool’s stunning illustrations. Represented are birds and animals, things that sit, fly and crawl, and creatures of all descriptions and size. One could spend hours identifying the natural world involved and still remain excited by what they see.

Glenda collaborated with Rebecca on Isabella’s Garden. Her easily identifiable illustrative style translates the text perfectly using bold colours and lines, and intricately detailed characters, settings and backgrounds. This outstanding book that has several identical end pages that seem to embrace the contents was a CBCA shortlisted book. It comes highly recommended and ‘we are thankful’.

Friday, 27 December 2013

The Boy and the Toy

The Boy and the Toy by Sonya Hartnett, illustrated by Lucia Masciullo (Penguin Books)
HC RRP 24.95, PB 14.99
ISBN 9780670073627
Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

Sonya Hartnett has ventured into children’s writing with her first picture book, The Boy and the Toy. The writing is still the imaginative and meaningful prose that we have come to expect from this author. It’s the illustrations by painter Lucia Masciullo, the illustrator of the fantastic Our Australian Girl series that elevates Hartnett’s work to a higher plane with her perfect interpretation of the text.

This is a wonderful tale about human needs; friendship and its expectations.

The inventor is going away and the boy will be alone during his absence. He invents a machine/toy to keep him company and entertained during this time. But can a machine that can do everything be the perfect playmate/companion for a boy? Can it ever replace the unconditional love of a living, breathing being?

Emotive and wonderfully thought-provoking, with detailed full page colour illustrations, this book has an identical jacket to the cover, superb fly pages and priceless artwork on double-page spreads. It is one for collectors of fine children’s books. The paperback edition will be available in February, 2014.

Thursday, 26 December 2013

Star Wars: Jedi Academy

Star Wars: Jedi Academy by Jeffrey Brown (Scholastic Australia)
PB RRP $12.99
ISBN 978-1-74362-056-4
Reviewed by Jenny Heslop

Roan has been planning to follow in the footsteps of his father and older brother by attending pilot school after finishing primary. But his hopes are dashed when he’s not accepted and decides to take the place he has mysteriously been offered at Jedi School.

The mixed format – comics, reports, diary entries, newspaper pages, holomail – plays a large part in moving the story along and brings out the personalities of Roan and his class mates. I found it interesting how much the pictures of the characters (all different creatures from the Star Wars planets) influenced my perceptions and feelings about them.

School life is reassuringly the same everywhere, even at the Jedi Academy, and Roan faces the same sort of uncertainties that many young boys of middle school age face - feelings of isolation, dealing with bullies, popularity, girls and growing up.

I’m not an expert on the Star Wars world but there are many subtle jokes and Star Wars references (I did love the ‘barbaric Yawp’ nod to movie Dead Poets Society) and I’m sure Star Wars fans will uncover many more than I did.

Beneath the setting, strange creatures, planets and powers, this is ultimately a story about  fitting in and growing up. Even in a galaxy far, far away...

This fun read will be a hit with young Star Wars fans.

Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Alice-Miranda 2014 Diary

Alice-Miranda 2014 Diary by Jacqueline Harvey (Random House Australia)
HB RRP $17.95
ISBN 9780857980526
Reviewed by Marian McGuinness

Seeing this gloriously pink 2014 diary sent me searching for my own diary secreted away from prying eyes all those years ago. Mine wasn’t fancy; it was purely for personal, secret thoughts of my life as an eight-year-old. Fans of Alice-Miranda will delight in this hard-back, pink-spotted, gorgeously illustrated A5 diary. Perfect for a Christmas present or for a new start to the school year.

It has a week-by-week calendar for all the special occasions in the year including Australian holiday dates. It is filled with plenty of space for personal details, the reader’s family tree and favourite activities. There are quotes from the Alice-Miranda series, quizzes, drawing instructions and even an “Application for Enrolment” to fill in for Winchesterfield-Downsfordvale Academy for Proper Young Ladies. Young diary-keepers can also try their hand at the assortment of recipes, like “Nana Jones’s Marble Cake” and “Easy Spaghetti Bolognaise.”

This beautifully detailed, pink-ribbon-bookmarked diary is just waiting to have a name printed in ‘This Diary Belongs To …”

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Alice-Miranda Shines Bright

Alice-Miranda Shines Bright by Jacqueline Harvey (Random House Australia)
PB RRP $15.95
ISBN 9781742752907
Also available as an ebook
ISBN 9781742752914
Reviewed by Marian McGuinness

For a seven-year-old, Alice-Miranda is certainly savvy. This is Jacqueline Harvey’s eighth book in the popular and award-winning series. It doesn’t matter what order you read these books in. They’re quite “stand-alone” and handily accompanied by a “cast of characters” just in case the reader needs a little reminder.

Alice-Miranda Shines Bright is set back at school. It’s nearly the end of the school year and Alice-Miranda is puzzled as to why her friend Jacinta’s moods have become “darker than a thundercloud.” For the first time ever, the chirpy Alice-Miranda has “absolutely no idea of what to do next.”

With the plot of pre-teenage angst threading along in Jacinta’s story, there are other mysteries to solve. One of their neighbours, Reginald Parker (who has been in a coma for three years) has gone missing. Alice-Miranda and her friend, Millie, soon get onto the case. They ride their ponies, Bonaparte and Chops across the hills and through the woodlands while they communicate on walkie-talkies.

As they follow the clues to solve one mystery, another is evolving. The girls have found a teeny entry into a cave in the hills and have discovered gold. The trouble is, there are a few other interested and greedy people after it as well.

What has happened to Reginald Parker and why is Jacinta so moody? With her usual bright and bubbly demeanour, Alice-Miranda goes headlong into adventure and takes her readers with her.

Jacqueline Harvey’s Alice-Miranda series is hitting the high time overseas, and so it should. There’s innocence mixed with adventure and a rollicking good time for the reader, 8+.

Monday, 23 December 2013

Music School: The Grimstones 4

Music School: The Grimstones 4 by Asphyxia (Allen and Unwin)
PB RRP $14.99
ISBN 978-1-74331-625-2
Reviewed by Ann Harth 

Can music change the weather? Martha Grimstone knows it can and is determined to harness her musical skills to save her family’s home from the violent storms that plague them.

In the fourth book of The Grimstones series, Music School, Martha Grimstone attends the Queen’s Music Academy in the big city. She moves into Lady Sterling’s manor where she has her own wing and learns to live in luxury.  Although she misses her family desperately, her music lessons are critical to ensure the safety of the people she loves.

Before he died, Martha’s father could manipulate the weather with his own compositions performed on the Epithium. He left his music and instrument with his family and, to control the weather, Martha must decipher the strange symbols he has scattered throughout his work. She is convinced that she will learn all she needs to know at the Queen’s Music Academy.

Martha’s teachers are committed to developing the talents of the students so they can perform in front of huge audiences and travel the world bringing fame to themselves and the school. This doesn’t interest Martha. She studies hard and improves her technique but, instead of following the rigid rules of the academy, she finds the courage to break with strict tradition. Martha proves to herself and the school that her own brand of unique music is more powerful than anyone realised.

Martha’s resolve to uncoil whirlwinds and save her valley from destruction was inspiring and I was absorbed in her journey from the first page. Although this book is suitable for children aged 8-12, its appeal will reach all ages.

Music School is a gothic novel and one of the most impressive I have read. Asphyxia has fashioned puppets of The Grimstones and other characters and has used these for the artwork that adorns this clever book.
Asphyxia has been an Australian circus performer specialising in trapeze, double balance and hula hoops. She is now a puppeteer and has toured all over the world with Sky Works, her performing arts company. It took Asphyxia 18 months to fashion the set and develop her show, The Grimstones – Hatched. She has toured with this all over Australia. Asphyxia is deaf. For more information about The Grimstones and this fascinating creator, please visit her website www.thegrimstones.com 

Ann Harth is a published children's author, freelance editor, ghostwriter 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, is now available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble. 

Sunday, 22 December 2013

Thunderbirds —The Comic Collection

Thunderbirds —The Comic Collection by Gerry Anderson (Egmont)
ISBN 978 1 4052 6836 3
HB $39.95 RRP
Reviewed by Nean McKenzie

This collection of classic comics is presented in a beautiful hardback edition, containing 288 pages of quality original artworks. A brief introduction explains the history of this popular futuristic British series from the 60s and 70s. The TV Century 21 (TV21) series cartoons are in chronological order, beginning with The Earthquake Maker and finishing with the Lady Penelope comics. All are set in the 2060s, one hundred years in the future from when they were written.

Thunderbirds were created in Britain by Gerry Anderson in 1964. They were a popular TV series with spin-off toys from the show. The first edition of Thunderbirds comics came out in January 1965 and quickly became quite influential and a best seller for boys. The final issue of TV21 came out in 1969, but in the 1990s more Thunderbird comics were published when there was renewed interest in the TV series.

This book provides hours of entertainment for comic lovers. The detail in the pictures is faithfully reproduced in imaginative colours, tones and textures. Several comic strip artists' work is reproduced, most notably Frank Bellamy in the earlier comics. Other artists include Graham Bleathman and in the later editions, John Cooper, Eric Eden and Frank Hampson. Also included in this edition are labeled cross-sections of the Thunderbird rocket ships 1,2,3 and 4 and 5, Tracy Island and Lady Penelope's Car — Fab 1.
It will be interesting to see how these comics appeal to the kids of 2013. In the 1960s there was great excitement about space travel and the future. Do we feel the same way forty years later? Or can this book help re-create inspiration for reaching out to the stars? Maybe this would be a good thing.

This is a book that many parents will enjoy looking back on. It also provides an opportunity for older children and teenagers (particularly boys) who are into comics, to discover something a bit different. There is so much to see in this collection, and the adventures can be read over and over again. 5,4,3,2,1 ... Thunderbirds are go!

Saturday, 21 December 2013

Baby Bedtime

Baby Bedtime by Mem Fox, illustrated by Emma Quay (Penguin Books)
Padded Cover RRP $24.99
ISBN 9780670075195
Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

Baby Bedtime is a tender and gentle expression of love from a mother to a baby – no matter what form or shape the baby takes. Here it is a purple elephant. Every line of Mem Fox’s delicate rhyming verse is a caress of love; the cuddle, the tickle and stroke is a hymn to love. From the singing of songs her mother sang to her, to reading a book or listening to the child breathing, every action speaks of love.

The impeccable illustrations have been created by the stylish and innovative illustrator and writer Emma Quay, whose work has been purchased by the Victoria and Albert Museum, shortlisted for the CBCA Book of the Year Awards, chosen as CBCA Notable Books, and who has collaborated with writer Andrew Daddo and a string of other authors in creating all types of books for young children. It has been produced in a delightful, soft blue padded cover.

Here Emma’s illustrations are born through imagination and the use of acrylic paints, pencil, and Photoshop. The patterns and textures are from knitting by Byrnece, and objects found in Op Shops such as handkerchiefs, doilies, lace, belts and baskets. It is the ideal present for new born babies, or a simple expression of love.

Friday, 20 December 2013

I Want a Pet

I Want a Pet by Lauren Child (Walker Books)
HC RRP $9.95
ISBN 9781847803344
Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

In this mini edition made for small hands, the girl wants a pet. All the adults in her family have an opinion on what is and isn’t suitable. But the girl has a mind of her own. She considers an African lion, a sheep, a wolf, an octopus, a boa constrictor, or a bat. There is always a reason why none of them will do. Can the pet shop lady come up with a solution?

Lauren Child has used her usual Charlie and Lola formula of writing and illustration to create a story with a nameless girl. This time adults are included in the story and pictures. The illustrations are hilarious. So are the girl’s comments about the negative response to her suggestions which are added at the bottom of each right hand page. The cover is hard for durability for these little books will be opened many times.

Thursday, 19 December 2013

How to Train a Train

How to Train a Train by Jason Carter Eaton, illustrated by John Rocco (Walker Books)
HC RRP 24.95
ISBN 9781406350784
Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

Some children have cats for pets; others have dogs which they train. But what happens when a child wants a train for a pet. How do you train a train? How can you know which one suits you?

The reader is taken through an imaginative adventure full of the fantasy of choosing a train. That train then becomes the child’s companion in all things. The text is not to be taken literally of course, but the imagination can make anything real.

The magnificent illustrations by John Rocco begin with the covers that depict the children riding trains as if they were horses. The colours are sensational and sit proudly amidst the illustrations on the glossy paper. Some are full page illustrations and the minimal text is happy to give space to the visual depiction of the story.

Children who love trains will be excited by this book for it has been beautifully designed and produced, and is definitely one for lovers and collectors of fine children’s picture books.

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Matilda Saves Santa Claus

Matilda Saves Santa Claus by Alex Field, illustrated by Sophie Norsa (New Frontier Publishing)
HB RRP $24.95
ISBN 9781921928604
Reviewed by Vicki Stanton

Matilda Saves Santa Claus is a simple Christmas story for preschoolers. Matilda Mouse is poor but leaves the last of her milk and her only mince pie for Santa. What she really desires is a Christmas tree. When she ventures into the forest to search for one, she finds Santa's sleigh trapped in vines. Matilda gnaws and gnaws through the vines until Santa is free to continue his journey.

Matilda returns home exhausted and without a tree but when she wakes in the morning , she discovers not only a beautiful tree in her house but presents galore and a thank you note from Santa.

Young children will enjoy this Christmas story with its simple message of the value of helping others. The plot is uncomplicated and the text sparse making this a book that emerging readers could tackle themselves. The book is well presented with its hard cover and illustrated endpapers and Sophie Norsa's vivid pictures reflect the text and fill the pages with colour and life. I particularly like the double spread when Rudolph and Matilda first meet. Most importantly, the thought that a creature as small as a mouse can save Christmas is a concept that will delight all young readers.

We Wish You A Ripper Christmas

We Wish You A Ripper Christmas [with CD] by Colin Buchanan & Greg Champion, illustrated by Roland Harvey (Scholastic Australia)
HB RRP $19.99
ISBN 978-1-74283-723-9
Reviewed by Jenny Heslop

We Wish You A Ripper Christmas is a fun Aussie take on the popular Christmas song . This entertaining picture book tells the story of Santa Wombat searching for his missing Christmas list:

    He searched for his list
    On that hot summer night,
    While koalas hung tinsel
    And Christmas tree lights.

Harvey’s illustrations are well loved for their unique Australian flavour as well as for their humour and fabulous Aussie animals. This book is no exception. Soft watercolours illustrate the bush setting of this Christmas story with wonderful detail bringing out the great character of the animals and their surroundings.

The words fit so well into the tune of We Wish You a Merry Christmas that it is a joy to read/sing aloud. The added bonus of the CD, sung by author Colin Buchanan, means everyone can sing along. This picture book would make a happy addition to any Aussie Christmas book collection:

    We wish you a ripper Christmas
    A full-bore ripper Christmas
    A deadest rip ripper Christmas 
    And a snappy new year!


Oliver by Birgitta Sif (Walker Books)
PB RRP $16.95
ISBN 9781406345360
Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

Oliver lives in a world of his own. He shares this space with his chosen toys and books. Together they go on adventures, visit faraway places and discover the world. One day as Oliver plays alone something happens, and a new adventure begins for him. The greatest discovery for Oliver now is that there are others just like him.

This is a deeply moving book about being different.  The illustrations by the author are expressive and detailed for she knows her character intimately. Sif has used earthy colours and muted shades to represent Oliver’s state of being. The double page spreads show Oliver’s world in differing settings. The fine quality paper adds to the stylish presentation that makes this book stand out.  It comes highly recommended for reading this book is an adventure in itself.

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Redcap’s Christmas

Redcap’s Christmas by Susan Cason, illustrated by Ben Wood (Omnibus Books)
HB RRP $15.99
ISBN 978-1-74299-021-7
Reviewed by Jenny Heslop

Redcap is a lively elf who has always dreamed of working in Santa’s workshop in the North Pole. The only trouble is that in the hectic week before Christmas they are not hiring. How will Redcap convince Hiram to let him in to become part of Santa’s work force? And once there, how will he stay out of trouble long enough to meet Santa, Redcap’s greatest wish. Will his new friend Jellybean be any help to him at all?

Redcap’s Christmas is a bright, bubbly and happily adventurous Christmas story. Each of the seven chapters is a short story of its own as Redcap tries to complete tasks he thinks will please Hiram and Firem, Santa’s closest helpers.There is a wonderfully old-fashioned feel to this book which occurs in part from the story-telling style and in part from the layout. A nice sized hardcover book, each chapter is preceded by a full colour illustration previewing something up-coming in the chapter. Then Wood’s soft pencil sketches continue to be sprinkled throughout.

This is an attractive book full of elves, goblins, trolls, and the wily North Wind, all fabulously named (including Cranberry the reindeer keeper and Quagmire, one of the trolls), along with plenty of Christmas magic. In the front there is a full colour map of the area surrounding Santa’s workshop in the North Pole where all of Redcap’s and Jellybeans adventures take place.

Redcap’s Christmas is gentle enough to be read to six year-olds and the offbeat, quirky humour means older children will enjoy it too in the weeks leading up to Christmas.

How to Make Small Things with Violet Mackerel

How to Make Small Things with Violet Mackerel by Anna Branford (Walker Books)
PB Fold over Flap RRP $ 19.95
ISBN 9781922179401
Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

In this interesting craft book Violet Mackerel shows readers how to make her favourite small things to use, wear, and to give. Young girls will love the creative ideas that will stimulate the use of imagination and lateral thinking. In an era of electronic over-indulgence, books like this will induce children to actually make things for themselves and get personal satisfaction from the results.

It’s a how-to hand-make collection of terrific projects which focus on reconstructing old things and making them into new ones, or using what you have to make something pretty or useful.  The items include hair slides, note books, matchbox drawers, wrist warmers from ‘socks without partners’ and a list of other great stuff.

Each project lists what you will need, with an easy to follow, step by step instructions in pictures. You can’t go wrong. With Christmas coming on these fantastic and inexpensive ideas can be made as gifts for friends and family.

Monday, 16 December 2013

How Tom Beat Captain Najork and his Hired Sportsmen

How Tom Beat Captain Najork and his Hired Sportsmen by Russell Hoban, illustrated by Quentin Blake (Walker Books)
HC RRP $ 24.95
ISBN 9781406343830
Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

Tom loves to fool around - with everything. He is fearless and loves to challenge life. His Aunt Fidget Wonkham-Strong wants the fooling around to stop so she sends for Captain Najork and his hired sportsman to combobulate Tom.

But Tom is a master at fooling around. It’s what he loves and he’s not reforming easily. The challenge begins between Tom and the hired sportsmen. Who will succeed in this tug-of- fooling around? Will the stickler for obedience Aunt F W-S get her comeuppance?

This is a fiercely entertaining and clever book. The language is unique and the artistry of Quentin Blake is also in a class of its own. It’s a funny book about the importance and benefits of play and having fun.

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Amazing Monty

Amazing Monty by Johanna Hurwitz, illustrated by Anik McGrory (Walker Books)
PB RRP $12.95
ISBN 9780763665616
Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

Monty is a first grader but an excellent reader. He reads everything from posters to signs. It’s this ability that allows him to read the notice saying a new home is wanted for two parakeets in a cage. But things take a surprising turn and the birds become the class pets.

Great changes are taking place in Monty’s life and he’s concerned about several things. He is the last in his grade to lose a tooth, and he’s going to be a big brother. Will the baby have asthma like he has? Will he have to share his parents with his sibling? And where will his grandparents sleep now when they visit?

This is an interesting series of First Grade Adventures which address themes that concern the very young. This is the third book and the fourth, Magical Monty, is due soon.

Saturday, 14 December 2013

Joshua Dread — The Nameless Hero

Joshua Dread — The Nameless Hero by Lee Bacon (Hardie Grant EGMONT)
ISBN 978 174297412 5
PB $16.95 RRP
Reviewed by Nean McKenzie

For those not familiar with Joshua Dread from the first book in the series, he's the twelve year old son of super-villains who has super powers himself — he can make things explode. He lives in a town called Sheepsdale where he hangs out with Milton (a normal kid) and Sophie, the daughter of Captain Justice, his parents' arch nemesis. This story begins on the last day of school before Summer break. The kids are looking forward to a long relaxing holiday, but that seems unlikely when they are attacked by a mutant shark librarian. Then Joshua receives a mysterious note inviting him to a Summer camp for Gyfted children. 

At the camp, Joshua finds he has been selected to form the greatest super hero team of all time, along with Sophie, a teen celebrity called nFinity and Miranda, whose superpower is foresight. Milton is also allowed along and they are suited up in lycra. Circumstances throw them into action and they are whisked off to New York to battle a super-villain called the Multiplier. Joshua's heroic deeds launch him into the public eye as the Nameless Hero. His high profile doesn't help the team camaraderie, with jealousies springing up. Joshua also discovers his old enemy Vex, has resurfaced to cause more mayhem in the world. 

Action packed, this installment in a series obviously far from finished is highly entertaining. It explores everyday issues such as family expectations and peer pressure in a very non-everyday family and group of friends. At home Joshua contends with zombies in the basement, a homicidal pot plant and a eager but dysfunctional robot called Elliot. His parents actually seem quite OK with him turning to the good side. In fact, they don't seem too villainous at all.

After some anxious moments, Joshua and his friends dispatch the bad guys, but Vex is still at large and business clearly still unfinished. Readers will need to wait to see what happens next, but in the meantime it seems the super kids can enjoy their Summer break.       

Friday, 13 December 2013

The Octopuppy

The Octopuppy by Martin McKenna (Omnibus Books)
HB RRP $24.99
ISBN 978-1-74299-015-6
Reviewed by Jenny Heslop

Edgar wants a dog but instead he gets Jarvis. Jarvis is an octopus. A very smart octopus, but as hard as he tries, a determined Edgar cannot teach Jarvis to behave like a dog.

The Octopuppy is a sweet and quirky tale about accepting someone as they are, not turning them into your ideal, and about saying sorry. The relationship between Edgar and Jarvis is portrayed beautifully in the illustrations as is Edgar’s increasing frustration and Jarvis’s zany character.

There is so much to discover in the detail of the illustrations. They are bright, imaginative and very entertaining. The storyline provides much to think about and discuss and the characters of Edgar and Jarvis are strong, endearing and very likeable.

The Octopuppy is an entertaining story with a unique twist on familiar themes such as wanting a pet and disappointment. It is a story young children will love.

Thursday, 12 December 2013

The Iron Man

The Iron Man by Ted Hughes, illustrated by Laura Carlin (Walker Books)
PB RRP $19.95
ISBN 9781406329575
Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

The first publication of this book was in 1968. Since then it has been reissued several times with a different illustrator each time. This edition won the V and A Best Illustrated Book of the Year. With Laura Carlin’s insightful and edgy interpretation, at times, stark and dark approach, it is easy to see why this prize was given.

It tells the story of a giant Iron Man who appears out of nowhere, falls off a cliff and breaks apart, then reassembles himself. He goes about eating everybody’s farm equipment and anything made of metal that he can find. The villagers try to trap him but he breaks free from the hole he’s fallen into. He is befriended by Hogarth, a young boy who later enlists the help of the Iron Man to defeat the space-bat-angel-dragon that descends from the void of space and threatens all humanity. But there is much more to this story than this simply explained plot.

Many have classed this extraordinary book as science fiction, others as a fable. No matter how you look at it, it is a great imaginative piece of work that can be translated in many ways. I see it as a question of, how much does the planet have to suffer before mankind decides to live in harmony and peace?

To read any of Ted Hughes’ work is to experience a great mind. He was British Poet Laureate from 1984 till his death in 1998. His work is immortal and re-reading any of it is like experiencing his work for the first time.

Little Mates: Worrying Will; Xylophone Xavier

Little Mates: Worrying Will by Susannah McFarlane, illustrated by Lachlan Creagh (Scholastic Australia)
PB RRP $4.99
ISBN 978-1-74283-740-6
Reviewed by Jenny Heslop

Little Mates: Xylophone Xavier by Susannah McFarlane, illustrated by Lachlan Creagh (Scholastic Australia)
PB RRP $4.99
ISBN 978-1-74283-741-3
Reviewed by Jenny Heslop

Little Mates, the fun alliterative Australian series, is getting close to the end of the alphabet. The two newest books feature Will, a worry wombat and Xavier, a swordfish who loves to explore.

In Worrying Will, this worrisome wombat worries about everything from water consumption, to wonky wheelbarrows, to what to wear. And when he worries, he wobbles and gets lots of wrinkles. And there is nothing more adorable than Creagh’s illustrations of a wombat with wrinkles. Unless it’s his illustration of Whitney working on Will’s wrinkles ... with a rolling pin. Once again, it’s friendship to the rescue as Will’s friends rally around to help him work through all his worries.

I was looking forward to seeing how the trickier letters at the end of the alphabet would be treated and Xylophone Xavier did not disappoint.

Xavier is a swordfish (xiphius gladius) who loves to explore and collect xylophones of all sizes, from XS to XXL. Join Xavier and his friends in this tongue twisting adventure – their most excellent and exciting one yet.

Little Mates are fun with clever wording and distinctively colourful and busy illustrations. This is a great series for young children, full of Australian animals with boundless curiosities and large personalities in a tiny book format.

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

My Merry Christmas

My Merry Christmas by Rosie Smith, illustrated by Bruce Whatley (Scholastic Press)
HB RRP $16.99
ISBN 978-1-74283-801-4
Reviewed by Jenny Heslop

As Christmas approaches, everyone prepares in their own way. And although we may all get ready differently, the end result is much the same. When Christmas comes we all gather to share the joy together.

My Merry Christmas is a deceptively simple story told with sparse, well chosen text. There are three to four words on every double spread, accompanied by beautifully illustrated animals – bold, yet gentle and soft. The text and illustrations go hand-in-hand, with as much of the story is told through the pictures as through the words – just as I’ve come to expect from this well known author/illustrator team.

My Merry Christmas is perfect for the very young. It expresses a wonderful message about the festive season. If you only buy one Christmas book this year, make it this one!

King Pig

King Pig by Nick Bland (Scholastic Press)
HB RRP $24.99
ISBN 978-1-74283-495-5
Reviewed by Jenny Heslop

King Pig can make his subjects, the flock of sheep, do anything he wants them to do. Except for one thing. He can’t make them like him. He has tried everything he can think of but: ‘They never listened properly, no matter how loudly he shouted.’

Then finally, one little sheep speaks up and suggests King Pig could try being nice. And after sulking for a little while, King Pig does feel a little sorry for his actions and begins to try to make amends.

King Pig behaves like a child might when trying to make friends or impress others; from showing off his fancy clothes to the annoying way he tries to attract the sheep’s attention. He has a lot to learn.

King Pig is a clever story with a simple message children will recognise. It is fun to read and Bland’s illustrations are beautiful, humorous and imaginative, making this a picture book well worth sharing with kinder aged children.

Nick Bland is the author/illustration of the popular The Very Cranky Bear and The Very Hungry Bear and many others.

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

My Christmas Crackers

My Christmas Crackers by Bronwen Davies (Scholastic Australia)
HB RRP $9.99
ISBN 978-1-74283-958-5
Reviewed by Jenny Heslop

    Q: Why does Santa always come down the chimney?
    A: Because it soots him.

Everyone loves a good laugh at Christmas time. Christmas crackers, pulled with a crack and a bang, are traditionally packed with charms, funny hats and jokes for family and friends to share around the dinner table. The riddles which make up My Christmas Crackers are exactly the sort of silliness which may lurk in these bonbons.

This attractive hardback has thick strong pages which will endure many page turnings and are filled with bright, shiny illustrations. These are simply drawn and eye-catching in their boldness. My Christmas Crackers is a vivid, glossy joke book, just right for the young and young at heart this silly season. It would make a great Christmas gift.

    Q: What’s brown and hides in the kitchen at Christmas?
    A: Mince Spies.

EJ12 Girl Hero: Spooked!

EJ12 Girl Hero: Spooked! by Susannah McFarlane (Scholastic Australia)
PB RRP $12.99
ISBN 978-1-92193-150-5
Reviewed by Jenny Heslop

Shine’s EJ12 (known also as twelve-year-old schoolgirl Emma Jacks), is now the leader of her own team. She is very excited about being OM (On Mission) with her friends, but is she brave enough for this particularly scary mission? She cannot watch the whole of Fright School, a scary zombie movie that everyone else seems to have watched. So will she find the courage to see this scary task through?

Across England, castles are being broken into at the stroke of midnight by Lady Darcy Kerrin, the ghost of historic bad girl and lady-in-waiting to the queen. Lady Darcy is also believed to be one of the original members of Shadow, the evil agency that Shine is battling against.

This mission gives EJ12 a chance to see her friend EK12, solve more baffling codes and discover some truths about her own ancestry, but she and her team are working against the clock to outsmart some very scary spirits.

Spooked! is the 17th title in this popular spy series for young girls and this one will give an edge of thrill as ghosts, bats and haunted castles come into play.

Monday, 9 December 2013

Ella and Olivia: The Christmas Surprise

Ella and Olivia: The Christmas Surprise by Yvette Poshoglian, illustrated by Danielle McDonald (Scholastic Australia)
PB RRP $7.99
ISBN 978-1-74283-921-9
Reviewed by Jenny Heslop

Ella and Olivia, the two young girls who star in the Australian series for five plus readers, are back in this seasonal special.

In The Christmas Surprise the two sisters help their mother get ready for Christmas. They decorate the tree, ice the Christmas cupcakes and help make up the spare room for Nanna and Grandad who are coming to stay.

But even all this activity cannot distract them from wondering about the presents beneath the Christmas tree. Will anyone notice if one or two are opened early? If they sneak down at night to try, will they ruin Christmas?

Ella and Olivia are not always perfect children, but do try to be good. These five and nearly eight year-old sisters are part of a realistic family and circle of friends which young readers will be able to relate to.

The series features simple, fun stories, told in large, bold, easy-to-read type along with pictures and borders which create attractive pages for beginner readers. There are already nine titles in the series and I’m sure there will be more to come for followers of Ella and Olivia.

Lizzy Bennet’s Diary

Lizzy Bennet’s Diary by Marcia Williams (Walker Books)
HC RRP $19.95
ISBN 9781406346947
Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

Lizzy Bennet’s Diary was inspired by the reading of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Told in a lively confiding narrative tone, this superbly entertaining book is written in diary form by Lizzy Bennet. The entries are accompanied by letters referred to in the book, invitations to the balls, notices and other interesting documents. These come in fold outs, open ups and lift-the-flap forms.

The diary, given to Lizzy by her father, was to be used to write a novel to fill the boring hours at Longbourn. But when Mr Bingley moves into Netherfield Park, accompanied by the haughty but rich and attractive Mr Darcy, things spark up and the diary entries begin.

Austen’s clever language and sharp wit (which Marcia Williams stays true to) makes the words sizzle on the page. The entries concerning Mrs Bennet’s, Lydia and Kitty’s mortifying behaviour, added to Mary’s righteous indignation, command laughter as does the greater part of the narrative. The asides in pictures and comments are incomparable.

Readers familiar with Pride and Prejudice will love this book. New-comers to the work will warm to it with interest in the language, the depiction of the characters, and the brilliant illustrations and design that result in a fantastic publication.

Without Me?

Without Me? by Kayleen West (Wombat Books)
HB RRP $18.95
ISBN 978-1-921632-53-2
Reviewed by Peta Biggin

A young child is feeling unwanted and unloved, so he decides to run away. As he begins his journey he reflects on the other members of his family and what his leaving will mean to each of them. Eventually he comes to the conclusion that the only way to lessen the impact of his absence is if everyone comes with him! Pretty soon he realises how loved and important he really is and that life would be better for everyone if he just stays home.

On the surface, this book is about realising your importance to other family members and, conversely, their value to you. Underneath that, it also touches on the wisdom of thinking a situation through and seeing things from another’s perspective. There is nothing didactic about the text, however.  Rather it is a gentle and light-hearted story that will appeal to any child.

Wait 1 minute…
If my puppy went without me, who would feed him?

He likes the treats I give him, especially the big juicy bones; you ought to see his tail wag.

I guess I better take him with me.

With beautiful, full-page illustrations throughout this would make a really enjoyable read-aloud book for lower primary children and younger.  The language is also straight-forward enough that it could potentially be attempted by early readers.

Kayleen West’s initial dream was to write and illustrate for children but instead she ventured into a career in fine art and later graphic design. Returning to her original passion in 2009, Kayleen is now a published children’s author and illustrator working on her fourth children’s book. She also writes Christian content for magazines and blogs. She can be found online at: http://kayleenwest.com.au/portfolio/

Sunday, 8 December 2013

The Disappearance of Ember Crow

The Disappearance of Ember Crow (The Tribe: Book 2) by Ambelin Kwaymullina (Walker Books)
PB RRP $19.95
Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

‘Ember is missing’ are the words that extract Ashala from the wolf pack she escaped to and draw her back to the Tribe. The rebellion continues in its attempt to overthrow the Citizenship Accords that make those born with ability an Illegal in a world after the cataclysmic Reckoning.  Ashala is focused on finding her best friend Ember after receiving a memory stone brought to her by a dog, containing Ember’s memories with a cryptic and unsatisfactory message. She seeks help from her spirit grandfather, the Serpent in the lake, and sets out with her love Connor to find Ember and answers.

Shattering revelations of an incredible magnitude shift the entire story. It is sent off in an unexpected direction when clues left in the previous book are picked up and expanded on. Explosive secrets withheld by Ember are exposed as her place in the Tribe is threatened, and the Balance severely tested. But friendship, faith, forgiveness and unity are strong weapons against acts of the past and threats to the Tribe’s future.

The second book in this spectacular series is even better than the first. The language retains the lyrical prose and stunning descriptions of the first book. Get settled in a comfortable chair or against pillows for there’ll be no breaks during this riveting read. Look out for Book 3: The Foretelling of Georgie Spider out soon, followed by Book 4: The Execution of Neville Rose. Ambelin is touring December 2013.

The Bouncing Ball

The Bouncing Ball by Deborah Kelly, illustrated by Georgia Perry (Random House Australia Children’s)
HB RRP $19.95
ISBN 9780857980045
Also available as an ebook
ISBN 9780857980052
Reviewed by Marian McGuinness

It’s one of those great moments of co-ordination when you are little and can finally bounce a ball. When ‘a small boy found a small ball’ on Kelly’s opening page of her picture book, there’s great excitement in the simple use of language to: pick up, bounce, throw and catch the ball. The boy has control over the red ball until it bounces away. Thus begins the first adventure in the story as the ball bounces ‘between two cars … into the gutter … down the drain,’ and ‘out to sea.’

The next turning point in the plot is when the ball is found on a beach by a ‘small girl’ who then uses different actions while having fun, as the ball is ‘skimmed … buried’ and ‘brushed.’

A third turning in the plot occurs when the girl loses the ball as it bounces through the window of a truck.

Kelly uses the conjunction ‘until’ as a page-turner taking the reader on the tangent of other adventures … ‘until’ the ball bounces ‘down a slope off a rock and into a river … never to be seen again.’ The very last page has one word beneath the vivid illustration of a child in a wooden boat following a floating ball along a river bathed in sunset. ‘Until …’, thus allowing the reader to create their own versions of ‘until’ and continue the ball’s journey with their own scenarios.

Illustrator, Georgia Perry’s background in illustration, animation, photography and installation combine in this beautifully designed, evocative and textured picture book. Her bold and bright illustrations not only enhance the rhythm of Kelly’s words; they also add humour to the ball’s various journeys.

What’s also great is the picture book’s wide appeal. Children of all cultures and socio-economic backgrounds can connect with the experience and joy of playing with a ball.

The endpapers are filled with different coloured balls; enough for everyone’s imaginative adventures.

Saturday, 7 December 2013

The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf

The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf (The Tribe: Book 1) by Ambelin Kwaymullina (Walker Books)
PB RRP $19.95
ISBN 9781921720086
Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

This stunning novel is a pass-the-parcel package. Each chapter unwraps and exposes a surprise. This keeps the reader in a page-turning frenzy. Ambelin Kwaymullina’s first novel is one of great imagination and creativity. It is set in a new world, the old having been destroyed by cataclysmic floods. This alternate society is governed by leaders that enforce Accords to maintain a balance between people and nature.

Ashala Wolf is a Sleepwalker; the wolf her spirit guardian. She is the leader of the Tribe, a group of Illegals that live in the Firstwood. She is captured by the Chief Administrator, who with a forbidden machine is determined to steal her secrets and thus destroy the Tribe.

The story is a thriller and simultaneously a love story. Its themes of power and manipulation, sense of place, belonging and identity are entwined in an expansive storyline about freedom and its necessity. Ambelin has used myths from her rich cultural Aboriginal ancestry, and employed the natural world and the vibrant earth as threads to bind everything together. Her poetic use of language and emotive descriptions build extraordinary scenes that incorporate unique characters with spirit guardians, fantastic abilities, mystery and adventure.  

This is the first in a series of four books. Ambelin has also produced four impressive picture books and is currently touring.


WeirDo by Anh Do, illustrated by Jules Faber (Scholastic Australia)
PB RRP $12.99
ISBN 978-1-74283-758-1
Reviewed by Jenny Heslop

It’s Weir’s first day in a new school and he knows he will have trouble living down his name – Weir Do. He does not understand why the rest of his crazy family has normal names, Sally and Roger, while he got lumped with his mother’s maiden name as a first name. But he does manage to get through the day, make a new friend and even impress the seventh-best-looking girl in the class.

As soon as I saw the author’s name and the moving animated cover of a bird on Weir’s head I was eager to read it, expecting a funny story. And I was not disappointed. WeirDo is full of the dry humour Anh Do dishes up in his comedy. This humour, mixed with Weir’s crazy and embarrassing family, awkward school life and the wonderful illustrations by Jules Faber, makes for a very entertaining read. With as much illustration (in black, white and red) as text, children between six and eight will be comfortable reading this alone. The humour is beautifully suited to this age group.

Anh Do is a comedian, television personality and award-winning author. WeirDo is the first book in a new series.

Friday, 6 December 2013

Where’s Santa? Around the World

Where’s Santa? Around the World by Louis Shea (Scholastic Australia)
HB RRP $15.99
ISBN 978-1-74283-685-0
Reviewed by Jenny Heslop

Santa and Mrs Claus are going on holiday. As they travel they are shadowed by Naughty Nat and Mr Paws who want to swipe Santa’s list to add their names to the Nice list. As well as these four characters, there are plenty of other delights to find on each page in this entertaining look-and-find book. From the Great Wall of China, to the tombs in Egypt and the historic site of Stonehenge, the reader must search through humorously detailed illustrations to spot up to 600 different things.

This is a great book for school aged children and will even keep adults busy as well. Although not as hard as the Where’s Wally books, the pictures are teeming with interesting mini-scenes, interactions and some truly hilarious moments. I’ve always enjoyed Louis Shea’s sense of humour and this book is no exception. It would make a great addition to the Christmas books on the shelf and with the long days of summer holidays approaching, this book could come in handy.

How to Wash a Woolly Mammoth

How to Wash a Woolly Mammoth by Michelle Robinson, illustrated by Kate Hindley (Koala Books)
PB RRP $14.99
ISBN 978-1-74276-077-3
Reviewed by Jenny Heslop

I’m sure many young children would not know how to wash a mammoth if they had to. And now here is an informative, entertaining and easy to follow guide, in step-by-step format: ‘Woolly Mammoths are quite big and wool is notoriously tricky to clean.’

Right from the front cover and initial endpapers – with bottles of Elbow Grease, Meadow Fresh, Tusk Whitener and Aquaphobic Dry Shampoo – this book promises fun and it does not disappoint. Young children will be instantly attracted to the two main characters, the girl and her woolly mammoth. They will also recognise the bath time rituals, along with the tricks which are employed in washing, (or avoiding being washed in the case of the mammoth).

This is funny, satisfying, uncomplicated and very enjoyable. I loved the whole reading experience, the steps (1 – 10) with accompanying figures, the illustrations and especially the voice of the girl which comes through so strongly. Don’t miss this book. You’ll regret it. (Who knows when you’ll be required to wash a mammoth.)

Thursday, 5 December 2013

The Little Prince

The Little Prince by Joann Sfar (Walker Books)
PB RRP 16.95
ISBN 9781406331981
Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

Adapted from the classic by Antoine De Saint-Exupery, this graphic version allows readers who get more from visual storytelling, the opportunity to enjoy the story and identify the significant themes and philosophical gems that flow through the book.

Translated by Sarah Ardizzone, it uses a singular prose that is close to the original, for the text in graphic novels needs adjusting to fit the panel-to-panel illustrations and minimal captions. The background colours used by Brigitte Findakly complement the mood of the text with the use of bold shades.

As the Little Prince goes through the planets in search of friends, themes including loneliness and the need to recognise the importance of what you have, become apparent. The difference between how adults see the world and how children view the same things, is a lesson both the pilot and the Little Prince learn, for ‘you can only see clearly with the heart. What matters is invisible to the eye’.

This is ideal for the 7+ age group and for fans of the graphic novel of any age, one of whom I am fast becoming.

EJ12 Girl Hero: Time to Shine

EJ12 Girl Hero: Time to Shine by Susannah McFarlane (Scholastic Australia)
PB RRP $12.99
ISBN 978-1-92193-138-3
Reviewed by Jenny Heslop

Emma Jacks has a secret identity. As well being as an apparently normal twelve-year-old school girl, she is also EJ12, a code breaker for Shine, an agency responsible for protecting the world from Shadows evil plans. In Time to Shine, both of Emma’s worlds are going through an upheaval as her close friend and Shine team-member, Elle (EK12), is moving to England. Emma is having trouble coming to terms with this and so begins the tale of the biggest change in her life – her recruitment to Shine.

As an Agent-in-Training, Emma is faced with many challenges and situations, the hardest of which is skydiving. But she faces them all with the same quick thinking, bravery and focus that singled her out for the spy agency in the first place.

When evil agency Shadow leaks oil into the ocean, demanding a ransom, Emma is thrown into her first mission. She hopes she is up to the task. After all, baby seal’s lives are at stake. This is the sixteenth book in the popular and entertaining series for young girls.

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Blog Tour: Kevin Burgemeestre and Kate

Buzz Words chats to Kevin Burgemeestre about his debut YA book Kate (Morris Publishing Australia). Kevin is no stranger to readers with over 60 published books that contain his illustrations. Kate contains five illustrations which were exhibited at the Stonnington Literature Alive exhibition earlier in 2013. He has recently turned his hand to writing. Kate was completed as part of a Copyright Agency residency at the University of New England in 2012. It is a story of growth and mistakes, danger and excitement, loss and discovery.

Comment on this post to be in the draw to win a copy of Kate.

1. Welcome Kevin. Please describe your new novel in five words or less.

Teenage mistakes not the end!

2. How did the ideas for your book come to you?

I am shocked how quickly we are willing to write young people off. Young people are meant to make mistakes. I made a ton of them.

I was aware that teenagers in our circle from happy families were making unexpected decisions. They were going off the map. They were getting into creepy stuff. I wondered if our teenage judgement is a little impaired. I also reflected on the importance of friendships in those years. I got Kate to collide into someone she may not even have given a second glance. Mum and Dad, who survived a war, told me that when the duck fat hits the fan it was often the people they least expected that stood up and did the right thing.

3. Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

I remembered what good companions our dogs were when I was going through my lumpy and bumpy teenage years. On a really bad day, ten minutes with one of our dogs would totally bring me out of myself. If you want a dog get a mutt from the pound, its got a harpoon pointed at its head. Full breed dogs will always find a home.

Be the friend to your friends. Be to them what you are looking for in a mate. Forgive a true mate even if they've hurt you. Find adventure, and I don't mean crazy danger, but try some things that take you a little out of your comfort zone. You will be surprised what you are capable of.

4. Why did you choose to write in this genre?

As an adult, I often reflect on my formative years. I was so lucky, and yet I saw what was happening to children from my neighbourhood, what they were going through. Not all of them survived, yet they were people just like me. How does that happen?

I also like teenagers, I have respect for the challenges they face. I like to listen to their stories and hear their opinions. I'm not sure adults often ask them what they think. I feel blessed that I came from simpler times, we had less, but the pressures were far less.

As part of the blog tour, we will give away a copy of Kate. To be in the draw, simply comment on the post and send an email of your comment to submissions@morrispublishingaustralia.com with the subject "Kate competition". Competition closes midnight EDST 17 December.

Kate by Kevin Burgemeestre  (Morris Publishing Australia)
PB RRP $22 (eBook coming soon)
ISBN 978-0-9875434-4-8

Kate is struggling to deal with her best friend leaving, a school bully and with the death of her mother. She believes that life is hard. Then a chance encounter with a battered, heroic hound she rescues from the streets, and Mal, a troubled young man with a dark past, leads Kate into more danger and excitement than she could have wished for.

She wonders about her unusual friendship with this damaged young man, but when things go really wrong, they’ll need each other ... and they’ll have to run!

To see more of Kevin's blog tour go to:

Tuesday 3rd Dec - 10  writing tips http://deescribewriting.wordpress.com

Wednesday 4th Dec - Interview http://www.buzzwordsmagazine.com

Thursday 5th Dec - Interview http://www.alisonreynolds.com.au

Friday 6th - article http://sherylgwyther.wordpress.com

Saturday 7th Interview http://bookmusterdownunder.blogspot.com.au

Sunday 8th Dec www.jackiehoskingpio.wordpress.com

Monday 9th Interview  http://www.kidsbookreview.com

Monday 9th Interview http://UncommonYA.com

Tuesday 10th Review http://www.melissawray.blogspot.com.au

Wednesday 11th Review www.karentyrrell.com

Thursday 12th Interview http://aussiereviews.com/reviews/blog/

Friday 13th Interview http://lorrainemarwoodwordsintowriting.blogspot.com

Saturday 14th Article http://clancytucker.blogspot.com.au

Sunday 15th Dec Interview http://www.morrispublishingaustralia.com/news-update-blog.html

Monday 16th Dec Interview http://diannedibates.blogspot.com.au

Tuesday 17th Dec Interview http://elaineoustonauthor.com.au

Don’t Wake the Troll!

Don’t Wake the Troll! by Ben Kitchin, illustrations by Ben Redlich (Koala Books)
PB RRP $14.99
ISBN 978-1-74276-060-5
Reviewed by Jenny Heslop

In a dark cave, deep in a mountain, a big and ugly troll sleeps on his hoard of stolen treasure. The dwarves want their gold and gems back. Are they brave enough to make the journey? Are they quiet enough to get through the twisting tunnels without waking the troll?

This is an action adventure with an exciting build-up of suspense. The language, structure and repetition give the story a lovely rhythm: “They hadn’t gone far into the dripping gloom when kerlunk, kerlunk, kerlunk.”

The dwarves have to stop and leave behind their bumping shields, then their swinging, tinging swords, then their creaking armour and so on until they even have to leave behind their spluttering, puttering torches. Little do they know this trail of belongings will be their saviour.

The illustrations depict great characters for these five brave dwarves and the humorous pictures add to the suspense of the tale without making it scary. This is a fun read for preschool children.

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

A Snugglepot and Cuddlepie Christmas

A Snugglepot and Cuddlepie Christmas by May Gibbs (Scholastic Australia)
HB RRP $19.99
ISBN 978-1-74283-022-3
Reviewed by Jenny Heslop

Christmas is just around the corner for Snugglepot and Cuddlepie in this seasonal edition of a May Gibbs' classic. They each have a list, but while Cuddlepie’s includes cleaning, baking and generally getting ready for Christmas, Snugglepot plans to eat, hang his pillowcase and search for hidden presents.But when Mrs Snake slides in will she ruin all Cuddlepie’s hard work, or can Snugglepot put right the mess and save Christmas before Cuddlepie gets home?

Snugglepot and Cuddlepie have been entertaining young children since first being published in 1918. This new Christmas story is based on Gibbs’ cheeky and adventurous characters and the iconic illustrations depicting the Australian bush are timeless. This would make a nice Christmas story to introduce the classic to a new generation of readers.

Book Uncle and Me

Book Uncle and Me by Uma Krishaswami (Scholastic Australia)
PB RRP $12.99
ISBN 978-1-74283-672-0
Reviewed by Jenny Heslop

Yasmin loves to read. She is easily sticking to her goal of a book a day for the rest of her life. And Book Uncle, who runs a free lending library on the corner of her street, always has the perfect book for her. But when he has to shut down his library by order of the city council, what can she, a nine-year-old girl, do to help change this decision? Could Yasmin and her friends possibly influence the upcoming mayoral elections to get Karate Samuel, an eccentric superstar who has said he will help Book Uncle, get elected?

Book Uncle & Me is a gentle story which demonstrates strongly the power that books and communities can hold. It is beautifully written and brings modern urban India to life through the characters and their setting. Through this story, the more adult concepts of elections and local government become understandable, interesting and relevant to the world children inhabit.

Short chapters, fabulous characters and lovely illustrations make this an enjoyable book for children from 8 up. Book Uncle and Me is the winner of the 2011 Scholastic Asian Award.

Monday, 2 December 2013

Kizzy Ann Stamps

Kizzy Ann Stamps by Jeri Watts (Walker Books)
PB RRP $12.95
ISBN 9780763669768
Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

It is 1963 and a historical era for African Americans. Prejudice and segregation is still rife, but Kizzy has been taught well by her family to treat all people equally and believe that one day, she will be treated as an equal. This is the premise of the story.

The only living thing that feels her and knows her completely is her border collie, Shag. The special bond between dog and human is one of the several moving and perhaps dominant sub-stories that are threaded into the happenings of Kizzy’s life and the era.

Kizzy Ann’s story is told in letters to her soon-to-be teacher at her new, integrated school. It continues via journal entries after all the class receives journals to record their work. This way we learn a lot about Kizzy’s life, her family and their moral codes. We also get an intimate look into white people’s attitudes and prejudices, but also their ability to accept change and evolve, especially in the face of kindness and compassion regardless of the colour from which these virtues come.

Jeri Watts has used her own life experiences to create characters that are totally convincing. This superbly crafted book is reminiscent of Alice Monroe’s magnificent character driven works. Watts has observed and listened to people just like Monroe had and has written about what’s imprinted in her memory and psyche.

Kizzy’s voice and emotions are captured and portrayed convincingly and with clarity. The beautiful language reflects the spiritual richness of the African American people and the moral laws they lived by. This is a book that will never leave my house. It will be frequently tasted, like a sweet that you can’t get enough of.

Pan’s Whisper

Pan’s Whisper by Sue Lawson (Black Dog Books/ Walker)
PB RRP $ 18.95
ISBN 9781742032061
Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

Perfectly constructed with sparse prose, Pan’s Whisper is another of the shortlisted titles for the Children’s Peace Literature Award for Older Readers. Sue Lawson’s magnificent portrayal of the damaged teenager Pan, her placement within a caring foster home environment and journey towards inner peace, is a meticulous piece of writing.

Deeply moving although extremely painful to read in places, this book is a prime example of showing not telling. The point of view changes and what Pan believes to be true conflicts with her sister Morgan’s telling of the same situation. How misunderstandings cause inner conflict and what one sees or hears is not always how things are the story’s dominating themes.

Some scenes are tragic and the reader becomes Pan; feels her suffering and is torn by the same feelings of loss, grief, and lack of self worth. The supporting characters are a fine construction, perfectly synchronized with the message the writer is trying to convey. There is so much in this glorious read that this reviewer cannot do justice to this compelling piece of work that will not be forgotten. That is what a writer lives for and Sue Lawson has accomplished this.

Sunday, 1 December 2013


Climb by Caroline Tuohey, illustrated by Emma Stuart (Little Steps Publishing)
PB RRP $16.95
ISBN 9781921928871
Reviewed by Anne Hamilton

With appealing rhyme and steady rhythm, Climb is a book for inquisitive and adventurous three to six year olds. However it shouldn’t be restricted to just those few. It’s also for shy and cautious children who need encouragement to be more active.

Perhaps it should come with a caution for those of a more daring persuasion who don’t need the slightest encouragement to set off skywards. Although mum exerts a quiet and watchful eye in the latter part of the book, her visual absence in the first part may need to be covered by a careful comment.

I loved the illustration on the front cover of the boy climbing the ladder to the wide white yonder. His expression is one of delight and curiosity. This sense of wonder pervades the book. Even when things go wrong with a slip at the gate, the boy’s pleasure never really wavers. (He’s got what it takes to take on Everest when he’s older: it’s not about the top, it’s about the joy of the climb.)

Emma Stuart’s watercolours enhance a lively and exuberant text.