Thursday, 31 December 2015

The Last Kids on Earth

The Last Kids on Earth written by Max Brallier, illustrated by Douglas Holgate (Egmont UK)
PB RRP $16.95
ISBN 9781405281638

Reviewed by Liz Ledden

The Last Kids on Earth is an action-packed middle grade adventure novel described by its publisher as The Simpsons meets The Walking Dead. It does indeed meld humour with a heavy dose of monster and zombie slaying. At 13, protagonist Jack Sullivan is at the upper end of the intended eight plus readership. He not only has to survive a zombie apocalypse, but wishes to impress girls along the way. Enter June del Toro – a smart, sneaker-wearing, student newspaper editor (own spin-off series please!).

Jack teams up with science-loving best friend Quint, reformed bully Dirk and pet monster Rover to battle the zombies and monsters who menace the town, and to try and save June (who clearly doesn’t need saving, as she points out). Despite being 13 years old, the characters drive a vehicle called Big Mama and also have a tree-house dwelling, sure to appeal to readers’ own wishes for greater independence.

References to things like Cherry Pepsi, Oreos and middle school, mark this book as undeniably American, yet the good versus evil battles, humour and friendships hold universal appeal. US-based author Max Brallier has been paired with Melbourne illustrator and freelance comic book artist Douglas Holgate, whose dynamic drawings complete with comic-style speech bubbles work wonderfully to enhance an already very lively story.

This would be a great book to entice mid to late primary school-aged reluctant readers who still prefer a graphics-laden narrative, or for those who have ploughed through Andy Griffiths’ Treehouse series and are ready for something new.

Wednesday, 30 December 2015

The Nutcracker

The Nutcracker written by Margrete Lamond, illustrated by Ritva Voutila (Little Hare Books/Hardie Grant Egmont)
HB RRP $24.95
ISBN 9781742977782

Reviewed by Liz Ledden

This beautiful reworking of the classic Hoffman’s tale, The Nutcracker, combines Lamond’s lyrical language and Voutila’s stunning illustrations to draw out the original story’s emotional heart.

Gentle, thoughtful Marie is enamoured with the carefully crafted wooden toys made by family friend Mr Drosselmeier. Her patience and appreciation of details is in contrast with the greedy, selfish nature displayed by her brother Fritz, who dismisses Marie’s enchantment with a wooden nutcracker topped with the sweet yet sad face of a boy. When he purposefully breaks it, it’s hard to not to feel for Marie as she tenderly cares for the toy and wishes he was a real boy – a friend with qualities just like hers.

The ensuing battle with the mouse king and dreamlike adventure with the nutcracker reveals Marie’s bravery and loyalty. Readers are transported on a wondrous journey, where Marie finds someone who loves to ‘delight and dawdle’ as much as she does.

The much longer word count than most picture books will suit the attention spans of school aged children, particularly those around the seven mark. This is a ‘forever’ kind of book with major shelf display appeal – a timeless classic to be treasured and passed down to the next generation.

Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Beauty and the Beast

Beauty and the Beast retold by Margrete Lamond (story by Jeanne-Marie Leprince De Beaumont), illustrated by Anna Pignataro (Little Hare Books)
HB RRP $12.95
ISBN 9781921894886

Reviewed by J. Wishart

From the ‘Once upon a timeless tale’ series published by Little Hare books, Beauty and the Beast offers a timeless tale of love, integrity and duty. Retold by Margrete Lamond (from the original story by Jeanne-Marie Leprince De Beaumont), with full page illustrations by Anna Pignataro, Beauty and the Beast is attractively hardbound, and would make a good stocking-filler or gift book for readers who might like to collect the series.

Pignataro’s illustrations are a striking combination of watercolour and collage, with still-visible sketch-lines that give them movement and immediacy. The muted colours mixed with snippets of vintage fabric also highlight the artwork’s handmade quality; and effectively complement the story of a once-wealthy merchant’s daughter, who is condemned to live out her life with an unappealing suitor.

The personal qualities of the cast are well contrasted by Beauty’s two aspiring, and later, bitter and jealous, sisters, while Beauty is characterised by her consistent humbleness and loyalty to her father. She willingly sacrifices herself to live with the Beast, and, in time, comes to fear him less. As with many beloved fairy tales, things are not what they appear to be – but Beauty is ultimately rewarded for her honesty and open-heartedness.

This telling of the well-known tale is refreshed with light humour, and condensed to the length of a middle-grade reader – also making it an ideal book for busy grownups to enjoy over a cup of tea. With illustrations that evoke the mystery and opulence of the Beast’s mansion and the drama of the dilemmas faced by the characters, this charming version of the classic tale will be sure to please.

Monday, 28 December 2015

My Wibberly Wobberly Tooth

My Wibberly Wobberly Tooth by Kate and Charli Armon, illustrated by Kate Armon (Little Steps Publishing)

PB RRP $14.95
ISBN: 9781925117493

Reviewed by Anne Hamilton

The Tooth Fairy dons a Ninja costume as well as a superhero disguise in this super-fun book about losing a tooth. The rhyme is simple, the rhythm gallops along and the stylised illustrations are reminiscent of children’s crayon drawings.

It’s the bounce and romping delight of the text that’s so appealing as it reveals why it’s so difficult to spot the Tooth Fairy in action. Yep, the secret is she’s as small as a crumb.

There’s a lot of reassurance for little people that the lost tooth won’t create a permanent gap in your teeth. It’s gone to make way for another tooth already growing underneath.

The book contains 8 pages of special craft. Instructions are given on how to create a ‘Tooth Fairy’ pillow to keep your wibberly wobberly tooth in once it’s come out.

Sunday, 27 December 2015

Where Do Teachers Go at Night?

Where Do Teachers Go at Night? by Harriet Cuming, illustrated by Sophie Norsa (Little Steps Publishing)

PB RRP $16.95
ISBN: 9781925117424

Reviewed by Anne Hamilton
Fantastamogorical flights of fancy roll through this fun and appealing book. It begins by posing a question: ‘Where do teachers go at night?’ The answers are as wild, imaginative and varied as crocodile-wrestling in Kakadu, sipping tea in Belgravia and skinny-dipping in the Caribbean.

Each bright and cheery spread features an art teacher, the PE guy, the librarian, the scientist, the music teacher and the teacher who has a pet frog. They are pictured in a variety of glamorous locations and are generally engaged in thrill-seeking activities.

The rhyme scheme is complex (Mumbai and Versailles, Tahiti and sushi, Scandinavia and Belgravia) but should appeal to pre-schoolers and young school entrants who like wrapping their tongues around big or exotic words.

The last page features a rough world map, showing the locations of the teacher’s nocturnal visits. There is lots of opportunity for geographical discussion in this book.

Saturday, 26 December 2015

The Cat with No Tail

The Cat with No Tail by Kate Ilich, illustrated by Lexie Watt (Little Steps Publishing)

PB RRP $16.95
ISBN: 9781925117455

Reviewed by Anne Hamilton

The realism of the accomplished illustrations add a special touch to this book about a Manx cat—a breed of feline without a tail.

The themes of this rhyming story are about difference, acceptance and friendship.

Meg is a cat with a short, rabbit-like puff of a tail. Her owner lets her out one day for a play. But what should be a fun time turns into repeated episodes of embarrassment based on her appearance. A magpie, a dog and a snake all laugh at her for her strange look. Miserable and lonely, Meg wished for two things—a tail and a friend.

After a wild storm, she hears squawking, barking and hissing. The bird, the dog and the snake are all in trouble. It doesn’t take Meg long to rescue them. They apologise for devaluing Meg’s appearance and not valuing her willingness to help. Soon they are all friends.

The target audience for this book is 3–6 year olds. The language level seems a little high at times for that group. The rhyme scheme is strong and easy; however, the rhythm in many cases doesn’t flow easily. Free verse might have been a better choice. However, the robust themes and the skilful illustrations balance this out.  

Friday, 25 December 2015

Star Wars: Where’s the Wookiee?

Star Wars: Where’s the Wookiee? written by Katrina Pallant, illustrated by Ulises Farins (Chirpy Bird/Hardie Grant Egmont)
HB RRP $19.95
ISBN 9781760126490

Reviewed by Liz Ledden

Just in time for the latest Star Wars film release is this find-a-book, where the aim is to spot Chewbacca on each page as he is ‘pursued across the galaxy’ by bounty hunters. From Ewok Village and Jedi Temple, to the Death Star and Jabba’s Palace, readers will find themselves immersed in a complex range of worlds that will appeal to those with a prior knowledge of Star Wars, or have an interest in learning more about it.

The muted blue and brown colour palette and intricate illustrations suggests a more challenging search and find book that mid-to-late primary schoolers can engage with. Guns, explosions and ‘fist-fights’ in the cantina also suggest the book is aimed at older readers who are already au fait with such things.

Cleverly, the book enables longevity by providing a page of nine other characters aside from Chewbacca who can be found on each page. Additionally, there are tick-lists for each ‘world’ at the end of the book with additional objects to be discovered.

Star Wars fans new and old who have well and truly found Wally will enjoy this interactive activity book.

Thursday, 24 December 2015


Tabby by Stephen Kok, illustrated by P.R Dedelis (Sigmate Studio) RRP AUD $18.95 ISBN 9780994289902                                                                  
Reviewed by Ellie Royce

This graphic novel Tabby is a classic tale interpretation of Romeo and Juliet where two rival cat family groups are challenged to get along together despite their differences. Tabby’s idyllic world is changed when a new family of cats move into the neighbourhood and Tabby Junior falls in love with a cat from the other family!

The 70-page novel is fast- paced and full of images complex enough to inspire thought and stimulate the imagination. Language is clear and connects the images to form a coherent, flowing story-line which poses some interesting moral questions and deals with some important emotional issues in a fun, engaging and easily understandable way.

Graphic novels have earned their place in promoting literacy and as Tabby is an Australian- created graphic novel – not Japanese Manga  or American Superheroes -- it surely deserves a place in Australian libraries and classrooms, as well as on the bookshelves of reluctant readers and lovers of visual storytelling. The great little section at the back of the book which follows its evolution and shows the development of the characters and story is an extra bonus!

It is recommended for readers between 7-12 years.

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Midget Bones' Diary

Midget Bones' Diary by Robyn Osborne (Puppy Care Education)
PB RRP $31.99
ISBN 9781922187987

Reviewed by Ashling Kwok

Midget Bones' Diary is an unusual book to say the least. It follows the trials and tribulations of 'The Bones' as he adjusts to life outside the animal shelter he has called home for many years. Being fostered and playing happy families was not something Midget had planned on.

Midget isn't a big fan of change and enjoyed his time playing top dog at the shelter. Life with humans was fraught with difficulties and he was unaccustomed to such close human interactions and not prepared to share his new home with a large and unwanted kennel companion from the shelter.

Midget Bones' Diary is written by an award-winning Australian writer and teacher, with an obvious love of dogs. She has had four other books published and is a regular contributor to Dogs’ Life magazine.

This book is suitable for young adult and older readers who enjoy reading amusing animal tales. It is written in a diary entry format and features a full year of entries. The language is simple and suits this style of book which is odd, given that the entries are ‘written’ by a dog.

What bothered me about this book is that Midget Bones was edited with the US market in mind so there is American spelling throughout. If you can get past that, you will probably enjoy reading this original story which is written in a very usual way.

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Buzz Words Magazine

Do you know that as well as this daily children's book review blog, Buzz Words has a twice monthly online magazine for those in the children's book industry?  

Buzz Words online magazine is full of up-to-the-minute news, opportunities, markets (Australian and overseas), competitions, interviews, book reviews, publisher profiles, industry people profiles, courses, conferences and much more for those in the children’s book industry. It’s a fabulous way of promoting your latest book or book launch, too. 

If you want to be informed and helped, you can’t afford not to pay $48 for 24 issues p.a. For a obligation-free copy, contact the editor, Dianne (Di) Bates

In the Skin of a Monster

In the Skin of a Monster by Kathryn Barker (Allen & Unwin 2015)
PB RRP $17.99
ISBN: 9781760111717

Reviewed by Jade Harmer

We meet seventeen-year-old Alice in the remote outback Australian town of Collector. Three years have passed since her identical twin sister inexplicably took a gun to school and killed seven fellow students, and Alice is still trying to make sense of it all and distinguish herself from the murderer whose face she shares in the eyes of a broken town.

We meet Lux in the guise of a seventeen-year-old boy in a dangerous, distorted version of Collector, built on surreal dreamscapes and nightmares riddled with imagined monsters such as the girl in the brown school dress.

Events quickly takes a fantastical turn as Alice becomes trapped in Lux’s world, and even there, she finds herself mistaken for the monster that plagues her.

In the Skin of a Monster questions perception and reality in what is an original and intriguing debut novel from Kathryn Barker which I found to be a challenging read.
Alternating between the perspectives of Alice and Lux, a story emerges with the potential to confuse a reader in much the same way that Barker’s characters are confused by their circumstances.

I found myself questioning whether Alice ever had a twin, or if in fact she was the very monster she feared, living in a delusional, drug-addled state.

By the novel’s conclusion, some readers may be frustrated to find that the answers Alice seeks to find are by no means tied up in a nice, neat bow, but as she attempts to return to her life in the real Collector, there is a sense that she and her town, real and imagined, can begin to heal.

This book is suitable for a young adult and adult readership.

Monday, 21 December 2015

Adelaide’s Secret World

Adelaide’s Secret World by Elise Hurst (Allen & Unwin 2015)
HB RRP $24.99
ISBN: 9781743313350

Reviewed by Jade Harmer

Adelaide’s Secret World by Elise Hurst is a striking picture book that subtly portrays themes of loneliness, courage, and friendship.

Adelaide is a quiet, creative protagonist who evokes a sense of hope and longing. Over time, she has become an outsider, observing the city from her secret world with curiosity and intrigue. She sees herself as one of “the quiet ones” – one of those she notices who, like her, take the time to see, hear and feel the world around them, but who have lost their voices.

The question asked is can Adelaide find a way to step from the safety of her secret world and connect these kindred spirits?

The answer is magical and inspiring, especially for those among us who can relate to the journey of “the quiet ones”.

Hurst’s oil painting illustrations create a soft, dream-like world filled with a captivating sense of richness and wonder, complemented by rhythmic, poetic language.

This is a special story about finding ones place in the world and being comfortable enough in your own skin to reach out to others for friendship, comfort and a sense of belonging.

This is a book for encouraging children and adults alike to embrace their own unique voice.

Sunday, 20 December 2015

Reindeer’s Christmas Surprise

Reindeer’s Christmas Surprise by Ursula Dubosarsky and Sue deGennaro (Allen & Unwin 2015)
HB RRP $19.99
ISBN: 9781760113025

Reviewed by Jade Harmer

Reindeer’s Christmas Surprise is a beautiful picture book that’s bound to capture a child’s imagination. Written by Ursula Dubosarsky and illustrated by Sue deGennaro, this book conveys a sense of spirit and warmth, and is perfect for sharing.

Reindeer with his red and white striped skivvy and bauble-adorned antler, is adorable.
He delivers cheer to his special friends – Cat, Dog and Guinea Pig – with the loveliest, most thoughtful gifts, but when he returns home to sip on his iced chocolate and gaze at his perfect tree, he finds that there’s still something missing...

Reindeer’s Australian home is a long way from his family in the snowy North Pole, and without them, his heart can’t help but feel a little empty. But at a time of wonder and heart-filling surprises, a special visit from the North Pole is just what Reindeer needs.

Dubosarsky and deGennaro have successfully balanced a sense of wonder and magic with a poignant reminder of what a challenging time of year Christmas can be for those who spend it alone.

With its catchy refrain and festive red-spotted end papers, this book is bound to become a holiday favourite, and I have a feeling that readers of all ages will particularly enjoy guessing just what Reindeer’s family have left on his doorstep in that big, velvet sack…
“What’s inside –
What can it be?
Open it and
You will see!”

Saturday, 19 December 2015


Perfect written by Danny Parker, illustrated by Freya Blackwood (Little Hare Books/Hardie Grant Egmont)
HB RRP $24.95
ISBN 9781921894848

Reviewed by Liz Ledden

This beautiful, evocative picture book perfectly captures the magic of childhood. Parker’s simple yet thoughtful words conjure the fun and freedom of a day filled with creative pursuits and adventure, without an electronic device (or an adult!) to be seen.

Three siblings and an adorable, loyal cat have the space to do and dream as they scribble, mix, climb and run through Blackwood’s depiction of a country cottage and idyllic landscape, in her inimitable, signature style. Even my five year old co-reviewer recognised her art – ‘it’s Cleo!’ she exclaimed, in reference to Blackwood’s illustrations in The Cleo Stories.

The gentle narrative is divided by a wordless, double-page spread in the book’s centre, which provides an aerial view of the children’s surrounds. Their world spans the beach, farmland and a hilltop village – a dreamlike childhood setting. This signifies their return home and the onset of rain, and a reflective, cosy ending to their day. It does indeed look perfect.

Thursday, 17 December 2015

Laugh Your Head Off

Laugh Your Head Off – Funny stories for all kinds of kids by Andy Griffiths, Andrew Daddo, Frances Watts, Sam Bowring, Randa Abdel-Fattah, James O’Loghlin, Judith Rossell, Tristan Banks and Lollie Barr (Pan Macmillan Australia)
ISBN 978-1-74353-787-9

Reviewed by Ramona Davey

Imagine a book full of stories from all of your favourite funny Australian authors. That is what this anthology, Laugh Your Head Of, offers.

Here are nine funny stories that include a robot programmed to put his sister’s head in the toilet, a grandpa who keeps getting one-up on his grandson, a talking rock that manages rock stars, a café owner who likes his café dirty to keep the customers away, a boy whose silly face got stuck in the wind (well his mum did warn him), a boy who wants revenge on his teacher, an over-enthusiastic fairy, a plan to nit infest the whole school and a space mission with five kids, a monkey and some strange visitors.

The comic-styled three colour illustrations by Andrea Innocent are scattered throughout the book breaking up the text for those readers who might find too many words daunting.

The bonus about one book with many short stories is that you can read one in a night. This is a fun-filled chapter book for primary aged children aged six years and above.

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

The Creatures of Dryden Gully

The Creatures of Dryden Gully by Aunty Ruth Hegarty, illustrated by Sandi Harrold (Scholastic Australia)
PB RRP $15.99
ISBN 978-1-76015-199-7

Reviewed by Jenny Heslop

There is a meeting in Dryden Gully and Joey is impatient for it to end. He would really rather be practising hopping so he can leave his mother’s pouch and bound around the valley like his mother does. But then he hears Mopoke Owl talk about welcoming strangers to Dryden Gully and he listens more closely. He is proud of his valley and very interested in meeting new creatures.

When he gets a glimpse of them he is amazed. Unlike any animals he has seen before, they have come from across the sea as a gift from the royals to the country. And now he longs to have four legs, to run like these strange new babies. He sneaks off from Mumma to follow them. But soon the Royals run from poachers and are far out of sight leaving Joey alone. Will Mumma be able to find him in time?

The Creatures From Dryden Gully is a gentle story about differences and having your own unique qualities. There is always curiosity in the new and the strange and, in this case, the Natives and the Royals. These differences should be welcomed and celebrated.

The pictures are strong, uncluttered and filled with colour. Close ups of the animals illustrate who they are, (the animals are not named in the text) and add to the characters of the Natives and Royals.

This is an indigenous title by an Aboriginal elder who was a child of the Gunggari Nation and the Stolen Generation. Aunty Ruth Hegarty grew up in an institution and used her vivid imagination in stories, becoming a popular story teller. Her children’s stories are not from the Dreaming, but are mostly about Australian bush animals. She hopes children will learn lessons of great importance from these stories.

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Santa’s Busy Reindeer

Santa’s Busy Reindeer by Ed Allen, illustrated by Nathaniel Eckstrom (Scholastic Australia)
HB RRP $16.99
ISBN 978-1-74362-418-0

Reviewed by Jenny Heslop

Ed Allen has produced another sweet reverse counting picture book version of Ten Green Bottles and this time it is especially for Christmas. Here, Santa’s reindeer are busily getting ready for the festive season as one after another drops off the page for different reasons, until finally the last (red-nosed) reindeer couldn’t reach very far, and there were no more of Santa’s reindeer left to put up the Christmas Star. Santa has to round them all up to pull the sleigh.

The illustrations set a playful tone, soft and light, with the reindeers going about their business with humorous consequences. As in the other versions, each reindeer has distinct characteristics which can be followed throughout the pages until it is their turn to disappear from the story. On every page also, the corresponding number is hidden somewhere.

The wording can be a little awkward at times, the rhythm is often lost in order for the rhyme to work, but this can be overlooked as it is a sweet Christmas book and sure to engage the very young with counting, funny situations and delightful pictures.

Monday, 14 December 2015

The Twelve Days of Christmas

The Twelve Days of Christmas by Alison Jay (Koala Books)
HB RRP $19.99
ISBN 978-1-74276-114-5

Reviewed by Jenny Heslop

The Twelve Days of Christmas is a classic Christmas carol which most people know well. On each of the twelve days of Christmas, a man buys a gift for his true love, each one getting bigger and more extravagant.

The counting and the repetition within the lyrics make it perfect for a picture book but the absolute delight (and cleverness) of The Twelve Days of Christmas is the illustrations. There is so much to marvel over on so many different levels.

At first glance they are old-fashioned paintings; beautiful, glowing scenes, cracked with age. But the closer you look, the more you see. From the hustle and bustle of Christmas preparations in the town to the quieter, but still active, country life, there is so much going on around the man and woman as they walk through the story.

Every page provides a clue to what the next gift will be – on the page before ‘six geese a-laying’ two geese float on the river as the couple cross a bridge. Hidden away on every page is Father Christmas, and he is not always easy to spot!

Also hidden away on most pages are little humorous scenes – such as a policeman chasing a turkey down the street – and links back to precious gifts. And I’m sure much more that I have missed. These are illustrations which can be studied for great lengths of time.
So many themes of Christmas are included; families, carolling, gifts, and parties. 

This is an engrossing book for quiet contemplation as well as for reading to young ones during the December preparations.

Sunday, 13 December 2015

Dinosaur Disco

Dinosaur Disco by Deborah Kelly, illustrated by Daron Parton (Random House)
HB RRP $24.99
ISBN 978-0-85798-136-3

Reviewed by Jaquelyn Muller

I can easily see a run of dinosaur onesies flying off the shelves, as kindergartens and foundation classes stage their own dinosaur discos, thanks to this fun, rhythmic story by Deborah Kelly and Daron Parton.

I can’t imagine trying to work tricky dinosaur names into a flowing, engaging rhyme, but Kelly has created an entertaining and educational text that will delight younger readers.

The fully bled pages of illustrations by Parton beautifully represent each dinosaur character. The bright textural pages delightfully place them in a social scene that assists with understanding dinosaur characteristics like size, diet and physical attributes. 

Kelly has understood this age group’s love of music and movement by creating a disco setting, allowing for humorous images involving flared pants, gold chains and polyester shirts, now thankfully as extinct as the animals wearing them. The facts at the end of the book will make this a great addition to classrooms and give plenty of opportunities for further learning and discovery.

Clear, large text makes the rhyme easy to read among the rich bright palette of aubergine, orange, green and red and the sprinkling of light across each page keeps us under the ‘mirror ball’ throughout the book.

Deborah Kelly’s previous titles include The Bouncing Ball, Jam for Nana and Haiku Journey. She will be releasing Ruby Wishfingers in 2016 with Wombat Books. Daron Parton’s alphabet book Alligator in an Anorak was released in October 2014.

Saturday, 12 December 2015

Winston Knows

Winston Knows by Jan Gaebler Smith illustrated by Marie Jonsson-Harrison (My Literary Adventure) PB RRP $14.95 ISBN 780994228901

Reviewed by Dianne Bates

This is a debut children’s picture book collaboration between former journalist, librarian and bookseller Jan Gaebler Smith and international photographic model and artist, Marie Jonsson-Harrison. 

Written for children aged three to eight years, the story is a simple one about an indoor cat, Winston, who never gets to go on walks. He stays at home: (‘Winston lay (sic) sleeping in Nick’s favourite chair.’) Nick and Nora are Winston’s owners and owner, too, of a dog Betsy which they take walking every day. The book shows the couple and Betsy in a variety of places such as the beach, the pet shop, fish shop and post office while Winston continues to sleep. But when the trio arrives home, we see Winston living vicariously.

The book illustrations feature the vibrant colours of Marie Jonsson-Harrison’s unique and quirky naïve art style of painting and ceramic mosaics which are very cleverly and seamlessly blended together. Each of the illustrations, particularly those featuring the walk, is full of details which most children will love poring over. Of special note is that the pages of the book are all high quality durable gloss paper which will never tear or get dirty, ideal for small fingers.

This is the first book published by My Literary Adventure, a new bespoke publishing and literary association based in Australia. Its website says, ‘We seek to facilitate a collaborative creative culture between authors, illustrators and readers.’ Winston Knows is available through

Friday, 11 December 2015

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Old School

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Old School written and illustrated by Jeff Kinney (Puffin) PB RRP $14.99 ISBN9780143309000

Reviewed by Dianne Bates

What more can you say about the tenth book in a series which will make history by being published simultaneously in more than 90 countries around the world than it’s going to be another best-seller. The series by American Kinney has sold close to five million copies in Australia alone so hip hip hooray to an author who has got middle-grade (and older) children reading.

Like all of the books in the series, the first book of which, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, was published in 2007, the story is about Greg Heffley, an ordinary boy who has a real talent for mischief and misadventure. The lined pages with hand-written text and frequent cartoons give the illusion that Greg is its author, especially as they are written in diary form. The only speech is depicted in speech balloons in the cartoons; the rest of the story is related in first person present tense which give immediacy to the story-telling.

In this latest book, Greg tells how his town (‘let’s unplug to reconnect") has voluntarily unplugged and gone electronics free. Is Greg cut out for an old-fashioned world, is the question. After all, it’s only for one weekend. Greg gets involved in community work and discovers how difficult life ‘in the good old days’ can be.

Written in a child-friendly style with black and white illustrations which are all humorous, this book is yet another world-wide winner. As Time magazine once said, ‘Diary of a Wimpy Kid is bent on world domination.

Thursday, 10 December 2015

The Crocodolly

The Crocodolly by Martin McKenna (Scholastic Australia)
HB RRP $24.99
ISBN 978-1-74299-071-2

Reviewed by Jenny Heslop

Adelaide is a very busy girl. She is always making things and is very ingenious. But she is not allowed to have pets. So, when a crocodile appears from an egg she was cracking to make a cake she hatches one of her plans to keep it by disguising it as a dolly. How long will she be able to keep this crocodile under wraps?

In an amusing string of events her secret is eventually discovered. And after annoying most of the people in town, Adelaide now needs to come up with a new plan to save her crocodolly.

This bright, glossy, loud story, full of off-beat humour is great fun. The illustrations of the trail of destruction left by Ozzy the crocodile give subtle clues as to how Adelaide’s problem will eventually be solved.

Young readers will enjoy the exploits of Adelaide as Ozzy stomps, squishes and rolls his way through the book.

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Deck the Shed with Bits of Wattle

Deck the Shed with Bits of Wattle [with CD] by Colin Buchanan & Greg Champion, illustrated by Glen Singleton (Scholastic Australia)
HB RRP $19.99
ISBN 978-1-74362-042-7

Reviewed by Jenny Heslop

Syd the Echidna is getting his shed decorated for Christmas when an unexpected willy willy blows through and scatters all his hard work. Dejected, Syd goes to bed. But while he sleeps, his friends sneak in and redecorate his home. What a wonderful surprise for Syd on Christmas morning.

Deck the Shed With Bits of Wattle is a classic Christmas carol cleverly rewritten with Australian flavour. It reflects the true spirit of Christmas, full of friendship and community with not a present or anything materialistic in sight. The Book is warm and fun with wonderfully drawn bush animals, from Syd the Echidna to Boss Cocky to the pygmy possums with their huge eyes holding brightly shining glow worms.

Australia flora also plays a large role in the story as the shed is decorated with wattle, bottle brushes, ferns and other bush flowers and foliage. Even the language is a fun play on Australian slang, ‘Whack some gum leaves in a bottle’ and ‘To help a mate who was in trouble’.

For a truly Australian Christmas, grab this book and sing-along with words and pictures which shine on every page. And when you get sick of all the Fa la la la la la la la la’s, whack on the accompanying CD and let the wonderful Colin Buchanan sing it for you. 

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

One Night

One Night by Penny Matthews, illustrated by Stephen Michael King (Omnibus Books)
HB RRP $24.99
ISBN 978-1-74299-027-9

Reviewed by Jenny Heslop

Every Christmas Eve in many farmyards, animals come together to remember a very special night a long, long time ago.

One Night is a beautiful Christmas story told from the point of view of the animals who helped, supported and gathered around the manger the night Jesus was born.
‘The horses gave up their stall for her,’ says an old draught horse. ‘They stood on guard outside the stable door.’

It is lovely and soft in both words and pictures, the water colour illustrations instantly recognisable in Stephen Michael King’s unique style. The pictures show the animals in their surrounds and echo the calm atmosphere of the text. Words tell the story in simple language, making it feel very intimate, as if the reader were standing behind the barn door listening to the animals. ‘And if you go into a farmyard on Christmas Eve, at that magical moment just before midnight, perhaps you will hear them talking.’

This is a beautiful, gentle Christmas story for the very young without a hint of the materialism which weaves its way into many of the Christmas stories now. Preschool children will respond to and easily engage with the animals and their special duties. One Night is a perfect picture book to add to the Christmas reading list.