Monday, 31 August 2015

Mr Huff

Mr Huff written and illustrated by Anna Walker (Penguin Viking) HB RRP $24.99 ISBN 9780670078042                                                  
Reviewed by Dianne Bates

Contained in the pages of this wise picture book is a wonderful idea which is sure to appeal to many children (even adults)! Bill is a boy who’s having a bad day. Absolutely nothing goes right for him at home or at school. When he awakes it’s ‘cloudy, with a chance of rain’. Hovering over him, like a storm cloud is a black shape – like a cloud, one which follows him all morning. By recess at school, the cloud has grown into an enormous size and has tiny feet that continue to follow the poor boy.

Bill’s unable to articulate the thing that’s following him.
Relentless, the thing – given the name Mr Huff – follows Bill to bed and – hatefully – is there the next day. Bill wants to be rid of it, and it is only when he accepts Mr Huff, taking it by its puny hand, is he able to do so. Next day, happily, ‘the day was cloudy, with a chance of sunshine.’

For any child who is finding life difficult – indeed for anyone suffering the blues or even a black depression – this book was especially written and illustrated for them. As with most people in Bill’s situation, the sufferer does attempt to be rid of the heaviness. But as you read on, the gentle message of this book is revealed: only when you confront your feelings are you able to go forward as Bill does.

In keeping with the heavy mood Bill feels for most of the story, Walker has kept her watercolour palette dark and simple. There are splashes of colour and even some humour (the enormous Mr Huff sleeping under Bill’s bed, determined to stay in his life) so there is always hope.
This is a splendid, poignant book which can be read simply as text, or it can be used by parents and/or therapists to help a small child overcome his or her unhappiness. My only criticism of the book is that the typeface is far too small, especially for young readers.

Sunday, 30 August 2015

The Bravest Dugong

The Bravest Dugong by Alec Trost, illustrated by Graeme Compton (Little Steps Publishing)
PB RRP $16.95
ISBN: 9781925117370

Reviewed by Anne Hamilton

A dugong leaves the sea and goes dancing, parachuting, surfing, visiting a zoo, painting and cooking Cos Lettuce Pie (a dugong favourite). Charlie D is the dugong and he’s off on an adventure to see the world.

 

The gorgeous, high-energy illustrations are the highlight of this story, which is seeded with environmental facts as it moves through Charlie D’s activities on land.

 

Two final pages on the ‘Gentle Giants of the Sea’ are particularly useful for those interested in more information about dugongs. This section of the book provides handy teacher notes to help early readers negotiate the text.


 

Saturday, 29 August 2015

Bucket Sheep

Bucket Sheep written and illustrated by Jemma Phillips (Little Steps Publishing)
PB RRP $16.95
ISBN: 9781925117387

Reviewed by Anne Hamilton

A theft, a chase, a sneeze, a happy ending.

 

This simple story features a sheep with a cunning plan: to gain an entire blue bucket of hay for herself. While the farmer isn’t looking, this sheep tries to gobble as much feed as possible. But, in its haste to get to the very last titbit, the bucket gets stuck on its head.

 

The world goes blue and the sheep sets off in fright.

 

The farmer and his wife try to help but, every time they get close, the sheep runs away. Eventually the tickle of the remaining hay gets too much and the sheep sneezes off the bucket.

 

Much of the delight of this early reader comes from the realisation the story is based on a true incident at ‘Marble’s Run’ farm near Bendigo in Victoria.

 

Delicate illustrations exude a warm simplicity in perfect harmony with the gentle tone of the story. In addition, cute little Sedgwick the Mouse is hiding on every page, waiting to be found by observant readers.



Thursday, 27 August 2015

Time for Bed, Daddy

Time for Bed, Daddy by Dave Hackett (UQP)
HB RRP $24.95
ISBN 978-0-7022-5381-2

Reviewed by Elizabeth Kasmer

Time for Bed, Daddy is a humorous, fun filled picture book that turns the traditional bedtime routine on its head. Bright cartoon-like images and visual jokes follow a likeable and patient little girl with the monumental task of persuading her reluctant Daddy to -- go to bed!

Parents will smile knowingly as this resourceful little girl uses every trick in the book to coax Daddy through the nightly bedtime routine with bubble bath, jokes and horsey rides. Finally, there is a quick monster check under the bed, a story to be read and a bedtime song to be sung. But, just as the little girl thinks the job is complete, Daddy appears, and he’s out-of-bed!

This delightful story celebrates the special bond between dads and their kids and will appeal to both children and adults alike. Young children will love the role reversal aspect of the story and will no doubt be inspired to act out the story (which happened in my household with hilarious results).

Time for bed, Daddy is both written and illustrated by Dave Hackett (Cartoon Dave). Dave has appeared on Australian children’s television and is a popular speaker at conferences and literature festivals across the country.  For more information visit: www.cartoondave.com

Elizabeth Kasmer is a Sunshine Coast based writer of children’s and young adult fiction. www.elizabethkasmer.com



Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Frankie and Joely

Frankie and Joely by Nova Weetman (UQP)
HB RRP $19.95
ISBN 978-0-7022-5363-8

Reviewed by Elizabeth Kasmer

Set in a small Victorian country town during the week between Christmas and New Year, Joely invites best friend Frankie for a holiday at her Aunt and Uncle’s farm. Joely introduces Frankie to her country cousins, Thommo and Mack, who both begin to compete for the beautiful Frankie’s attention. Tensions rise further when local bad boy, Rory, decides to make a move on both girls. When it is revealed that Rory has been leading the girls on, without the other knowing, hidden jealousies threaten to shatter their friendship. 

The story is written in third person omniscient and told mainly from Frankie and Joely’s perspectives. The constant change in point of view gives a fascinating insight into the complicated dance between teenage girls as they explore the intense love they feel for each other along with equally strong feelings of annoyance, jealousy and competiveness. The rural town setting, the stifling heat, dust and flies add a believable and uncomfortable atmosphere to the story as these two girls attempt to navigate their personal problems.

Mother/daughter relationships are also explored with Frankie’s aloof and unreliable mother and Joely’s anxious and overprotective mum nicely contrasted with the warmth and tenderness of Joely’s Aunt Jill, whose kitchen and home cooking provide a refuge for the girls.

The novel gives interesting insights into both Frankie and Joely’s struggle for self-awareness in a world filled with boys, family problems and testing emotions. It also reminds older readers of the power and importance of first friendships. This is an honest and beautiful story about female relationships aimed at junior to middle teens.

On her webpage, Nova Weetman states her goal as a writer is to: “Write stories that snuck into a reader’s heart so they’d fall in love with them.” She has certainly achieved this with Frankie and Joely.

Elizabeth Kasmer is a Sunshine Coast based writer of children’s and young adult fiction. www.elizabethkasmer.com




Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Winell Road: Beneath the Surface

Winell Road: Beneath the Surface by Kate Foster (Jet Black Publishing)  PB RRP $32  ISBN:  9780994318725 

Reviewed by Elaine Harris

Although it is not the norm to introduce the reviewer before the book, in this instance I hope you will permit an exception.

I accepted the challenge to review Kate Foster’s debut novel simply because it was a challenge. Excepting Terry Pratchett and some early Jackie French, I have read little or no sci-fi – and they might be better described as fantasy and cross-over respectively, although labels can be misleading. In other words, apart from the UFO mentioned in the blurb, I had absolutely no idea what to expect.

Winell Road: Beneath the Surface is great fun, well-paced – you need those few thinking spaces provided – and full of the unexpected. There is a complex mystery to solve as well as a quest to fulfill. Not only that, but the action begins in the opening paragraph.

My first reaction was: is the language in this book clich├ęd? No. It might be considered so if it were a straightforward narrative; However, in spite of being written largely in the third person, what the author is doing here is telling the story through the thoughts, words and actions of the protagonist, Jack Mills. You hear his voice, think his thoughts and share his doubts and concerns. Many authors aspire to this technique, not all succeed.

Despite the “Encounter” on page one, Jack is bored, bored, bored! His parents are boring; ditto the neighbours, as is his little dead-end street. All of this changes when Roxy moves in next door and the Freogans (pronounced free-o-gans) come to call.
As the story unfolds, you discover that Mum is a fanatical gardener as well as a cook rivalled only by Letitia Cropley in “The Vicar of Dibley”, while Dad is a mad inventor whose weird contraptions never sell. Or are they? You also learn to trust no-one and that nothing is what it seems.

This book will work wonderfully read aloud in class. There are enough cliff-hanger chapter endings to keep them begging for more. It will also promote discussion about making snap judgments while providing plenty of scope for related art projects.
Then there is the wordplay. The vocabulary is rich and varied without being off-putting. Winell Road is an anagram and there are other word puzzles scattered throughout the book. The author’s love of philology and etymology shines through without being intrusive; you can follow up as much or as little of it as you choose.

Kate Foster plans two or three sequels to the novel. I wish her the very best of luck.



Monday, 24 August 2015

Shoctopus: Poems to Grip You by Harry Laing, illustrated by Clinton De Vere (Bunda Books, 2015)
PB RRP $20                                                                                                               
ISBN 9780980435023

Reviewed by Dianne Bates

Some time ago I was privileged to be entertained in my own home by Canberra poet, comic performer and creative writing teacher, Harry Laing, who recited a number of his quirky and humorous verse. The man is a natural performer! So it’s wonderful that he has now produced his first collection of children’s verse to accompany him as he tours schools and other venues with his show.

The cover of Shoctopus is bright and appealing and as one flicks through the 95 page book, it’s apparent that much thought has gone into making the book as child-friendly as possible. It’s attractively designed with frequent black and white illustrations. It’s also apparent that the collection has many different topics and poetic styles; dipping into it is a pleasure.
The first poem in the collection is ‘Dangerous Words’ made up of rhyming couplets with lines such as
‘Words can be MEAN, 
words run FERAL                                                                                             you play with words at your peril’

Laing has obviously played with words in all of his child-accessible poems. He tells poems from the point of view of a ‘Supertap’, a leech, a worm, and even a wheelie bin. There are raps such as ‘Billy Rap’, limericks, shape poems, a poem that looks like the forest it is about, even life stories (such a ‘Potato Story’), a prose poem and more. Quite a few of the poems are about animals – skink, Pobblebonk frog, a blowie (called Chloe) and an emu; and there are poems from the point of view of objects such as toothbrushes, tyres and trees. A few poems reflect children’s lives; one such poem is ‘It Doesn’t Make Sense’ about a kid falling out of bed.  My only quibble about the collections is that it would have been good to have read more child-narrated poems like this one.

The main message of Laing’s collection is that this poems in this collection are great for reciting aloud, and they ought to be read. There’s no doubt that they will be popular with most readers, even adult ones.

Price of Shoctopus is $20 plus $3 postage & packing available for purchase on Harry Laing’s website www.harrylaing.com.au. The poet is available for writing workshops and performances in schools and can be contacted at harrylaing@bigpond.com

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Keeper of the Crystals: Eve and the Runaway Unicorn

Keeper of the Crystals: Eve and the Runaway Unicorn by Jess Black (New Frontier Publishing)
PB RRP $ 14.99
ISBN 9780957988415

Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

Eve is staying at her Granny’s place in a town full of old people, with the exception of Oscar, who lives next door. ‘You are never to go into the attic!’ is Granny’s rule. Tell children not to do something and they will go straight and do it. Eve is bored and she and Oscar decide to explore the forbidden attic.

Eve takes the keys while Granny is sleeping and it’s in a locked metal trunk that she finds the crystal unicorn. The bright light generated by the unicorn is a portal into a strange and mysterious land. Eve and Oscar land on sand in the desert of Panthor near the Borderlands, and embark on the adventure of their life. Panthor is a land where animals and people live in harmony, and communicate through their thoughts.

 Eve discovers that the imprint of the crystal unicorn stays on her palm. This has a significance that is revealed later in the story.

Greeted by Callie, one of the outliers, Eve is surprised to learn that her arrival was foretold in a prophecy. Her coming means the return of the unicorn, and freedom for the people from the king who has enslaved them.

The children go to the Lakes of Trapor in the heart of the Borderlands and into forbidden territory, to find the unicorn and overthrow the king. Will they succeed in their quest? Can they find a way to return home?

This fantasy adventure for the 7+ age groups is the beginning of a series where animals, people and other living things, live in harmony. Eve for some unrevealed reason is chosen as the Keeper of the Crystals. Each story has a new and challenging quest. It has mystery and intrigue, secrets and revelations. This book ends with a dangling teaser alluding to Granny and why the unicorn crystal was discovered in her attic. The next book, Keeper of the Crystals: Eve and the Fiery Phoenix, is also out now.




Friday, 21 August 2015

Silly Squid! Poems about the Sea

Silly Squid! Poems about the Sea by Janeen Brian, illustrated by Cheryll Johns (Omnibus book from Scholastic Australia)                       

HB RRP $24.99                                               

ISBN 9781742990965

Reviewed by Dianne Bates

What a handsome book of poems for children this is, so lovely that the publishers (rightly) thought to present it in hardback. Flipping through the pages is an absolute delight as the full-page illustrations are colourful and beautifully depicted. And too, the design of the book is very appealing with hand-written font for the poems and facts about the sea creatures depicted on every page typed around the borders.

Each poem is devoted to a single creature, such as a crab, a sea star, Leafy sea dragon, whale, squid and many more. The poet forms vary from poem to poem but all are jolly and enjoyable. In ‘Stingray’ for example, there are three repeating lines interspersed with a three line rhyming line. ‘Shark’ is presented as quatrains with rhymes on the second and fourth lines. Each one of the poems has a light, deft touch and none of them is a line too long. Most of them are narrated by the sea creature they describe with each poem giving (accurate) factual information. Here’s just one example, from the poem, ‘Jellyfish’:
‘…we come in different sizes                                                            and people call us ‘jellies’.                                                              We have no bones, nor heart nor brain –                                        not even jelly bellies!’

Faced with information like this, a curious child is likely to go off to an encyclopedia (or Google) to check out if the facts are true, and might thus find out even more about jellyfish.

Researching and finding poems from hundreds of poetry collections in order to compile an anthology a few years ago, I looked at a wide range – and of course have included Brian’s poems in my book, Our Home is Dirt by Sea (Walker Books Australia, 2016). This latest collection by Brian is probably one of the very best single poet collections I came across. It’s highly recommended for readers aged 7 years and up.

Thursday, 20 August 2015

Emotions in Motion

Emotions in Motion by Rose Stanley, illustrated by Lisa Allen (Starfish Bay Children’s Books)
PB RRP $14.99
ISBN 9780994100290

Reviewed by Leigh Owen


Emotions in Motion is a picture concept book suitable for sharing with 4-8 year olds. On each double page spread an emotion is assigned a colour, a face and a feeling. Rose Stanley’s descriptions of feelings are particularly insightful and imaginative: Confusion feels like walking in a maze of trees that all look the same.
Ten emotions, both positive and negative, are covered.

Lisa Allen’s illustrations are simple yet show some delightful details that children will love to spot (look out for the dragon).The sweet line-drawn characters clearly convey facial expressions and colour washes are either soft or vibrant, to complement each feeling.

There are exercises and discussion points in the back of the book; however, a more natural approach would be to talk about each concept as read. The use of the ‘colour wheel’ at the end of the book doesn’t seem to add value to the core topic of emotions. Also the colour for ‘Peace’ is somewhat inaccurate – that is, stated as bright, sky blue but more of pastel green in the main illustration and wheel. This might be confusing for children still learning their colours.

The value of this book lies it its capacity to promote discussion in which children can verbalise their own feelings and begin to understand the strange and sometimes overwhelming forces that are emotions.


Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Muddle and Mo

Muddle and Mo by Nikki Slade Robinson (Starfish Bay Children’s Books)
HB RRP $25.99
ISBN 9780994100757
PB RRP $14.99
ISBN 9780994100740

Reviewed by Leigh Owen


Sometimes simple is beautiful. This is the case with the picture book Muddle and Mo.

In fewer than one hundred words author/illustrator Nikki Slade Robinson tells a tale of Muddle, the duck trying to understand what he is and why his friend Mo is so odd.  Your beak is too hairy…. You should eat worms.

In fact, Mo is a goat and Muddle is a duck, which of course, children will know right from the start but following Muddle as he puzzles over their identities is the fun of the story.

The illustrations mainly consist of just the two stylised animals in various comical poses on a textured brown background. The simplicity is charming and somehow comforting

I imagine children will soon be memorising this book and reading aloud to themselves. This is enabled, not only by the sparse story and illustrations but also the large clear text and the use of different fonts for the speech of Muddle and the speech of Mo. As a reader I enjoyed coming up with voices for the two characters; the energetic duck and the more lay-back goat.

Muddle and Mo is a delightful book begging to be read aloud to 2-6 year olds.


Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Pig the Fibber

Pig the Fibber by Aaron Blabey (Scholastic Press)
HB RRP $16.99
ISBN 978-1-74362-906-2

Reviewed by Jenny Heslop

Pig the Pug is back. After his comeuppance last time he is still greedy, but now he has learned to be sneaky as well and tells lies in order to blame everything on his friend, the long suffering Trevor.
‘Why do you do this?’
Asked poor little Trevor.
‘I thought we were friends.’
But Pig said, ‘Whatever.

Pig the Fibber lives up to the standard of Pig the Pug. Totally cheeky, totally fun and with a rollicking rhythm which makes the words sparkle and bounce off the page. The characters of the two dogs, and the relationship between them comes across loud and clear through both the text and illustration. And the story-line, while conveying the important themes of truthfulness and friendship, does not feel moralistic.

Blabey’s illustrations are humorous, bold and expressive, and add story to the words. Preschool children will easily ‘read’ the pictures but I’m sure their adult readers will be happy to read it to them over and over again.

I am a huge fan of Aaron Blabey and cannot wait to see what he produces next.



Monday, 17 August 2015

The Cut Out

The Cut Out by Jack Heath (Allen & Unwin, 2015)
PB RRP $14.99
ISBN: 9781760111984

Reviewed by Jade Harmer

The Cut Out reminded me of a packet Tim Tams: once I started it I couldn’t stop!
Canberra author Jack Heath has constructed a clever and captivating plot, and an engaging protagonist in Kamauan teenager, Fero Dremovich.

As tensions build in the cold war between Kamau and Besmar, Fero’s instincts tell him to keep a low profile, but when a peaceful protest turns into a riot, his ordinary life is turned upside down.

Fero soon discovers that he’s the spitting image of notorious Besmari spy, Troy Maschenov, and before he knows it, he’s one of the Kamau Intelligence Organisation’s most useful assets.

The notion of a fourteen year old boy becoming a spy overnight sounds implausible, but Heath builds the reader’s trust in Fero, providing insight into his thoughts and feelings and giving credence to the reality of his situation.

It’s clear that no one is more surprised by his circumstances than Fero himself. 
With a laughable amount of preparation and some James Bond-style gadgetry, Fero, posing as Maschenov, is sent across the dead zone to Besmar, under instructions to bring home a missing double agent with the power to save countless Kamauans from a looming Besmari terrorist attack.

Fero is quick to cut through bureaucracy and propaganda and realise that everything is not what it seems in a plot that twists, turns and never fails to deliver in the action, suspense and humour departments.

The ultimate question: who can Fero really trust?

I’d recommend this book for ages twelve and up. It has all the right ingredients to attract broad appeal plus the anticipation of a sequel with Fero set to return in The Fail Safe in 2016.


Sunday, 16 August 2015

The Party Club

The Party Club by Anne Fine, illustrated by Arthur Robins (Walker Books)
HC RRP $19.95
ISBN 9781406353129

Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

Rosie loves birthday parties. She loves everything about them from the balloons to the give-away bags at the end. She gets excited about the birthday list at school and looks forward to being invited.

But things have changed this year. All the kids on the birthday list are considering alternate ways to celebrate their birthday. As one reveals their idea, a new idea is born for other birthday celebrations as some children feel they are getting too old for parties.

Rosie decides to create a Party Club to keep birthday parties alive. She suggests a ghost party, perhaps a monster party, or even a clown party.  But there is no interest in any of them. Even Rosie’s parents are considering not having any more birthday parties.

Rosie makes a list of all the good things about birthday parties. Her parents make a list of all the bad things about having them. Rosie can’t seem to convince her friends or parents that things should remain the same.

It isn’t until Gracie invites Rosie to a show and dinner to celebrate her birthday that Rosie realizes that birthdays can be celebrated in lots of ways, and with just a few best friends.

This is a great story about adapting to change, and being open to new ways of celebrating and having fun.






Saturday, 15 August 2015

Ben Hall

Ben Hall by Jane Smith (Big Sky Publishing)       PB RRP $14.99                                                     ISBN 9781922132697

Reviewed by J Wishart

This straightforward and informative non-fiction book is part of the Australian Bushrangers series produced by Big Sky Publishing. The information is historically accurate and is written by librarian and researcher, Jane Smith, for readers aged around 7 to 12 years. Smith says historical research can be like solving a mystery; in this book she has unearthed many facts and articles that document the life and times of Ben Hall, born in 1837.

Hall’s story starts out well. He worked as a stockman and later partnered with his brother-in-law to lease a cattle station in New South Wales. Later circumstances, however, including his wife leaving, made him unhappy and vulnerable. It was at this time he befriended Frank Gardiner, the charismatic cattle thief, who introduced Hall to a life of crime.

Hall’s escalating exploits are described, as is the support he and his gang received from a general public who initially admired the bushranger’s daring. In time this support turned to anger, leading to Hall’s eventual betrayal. Smith describes the life of a bushranger as one of ‘discomfort, violence and constant danger’. To add interest and bring this to life, the book includes ephemera such as maps, police reports and photos – including one of Hall’s revolver, which is now held in the National Library of Australia and has his initials clearly carved into the butt.

Smith has also incorporated stories within stories, such as that of Sir Frederick Pottinger, a policeman with troubles of his own, who became fixated on Hall and initiated some questionable actions against his family. These side stories effectively break up longer sections into smaller, more manageable blocks, as well as linking to the other books in the series. 

Packed in this way, with curious and ‘collectable’ facts, Ben Hall explores themes such as dissatisfaction, perception and the allure of notoriety, and offers an insight into Australian colonial history for young readers.


Friday, 14 August 2015

The Peony Lantern written by Frances Watts (Harper Collins) PBK RRP $16.99                                                                                                                                ISBN 9780733332920

Reviewed by Sharon McGuinness

It is 1857 Japan and European ships have arrived just four years earlier – a time of change – not just for the strict norms of Japanese society but also for Kasumi, a fifteen year old girl intent on becoming her own person.

Kasumi has keen powers of observation which, in her small village and family are an advantage – something which may have previously earned rebuke from her father, but has been noticed by the visiting samurai, Lord Shimizu. Realising the benefits Kasumi may bring to his household, in addition as a companion for his new, young wife, Lord Shimizu offers her a position.

Shimizu takes her on the journey back to Edo (Tokyo); they are accompanied by his adopted son, nephew Isamu. On leaving her village Tsumago, Kasumi wonders to herself ‘perhaps in Edo I would find a life that suited me’.

Kasumi becomes part of the household and enjoys the friendship offered by Shimizu’s wife Misaki. She begins to feel that all is not what it seems and that Misaki is hiding something about her background. Instantly attracted to Shimizu’s nephew Isamu, Kasumi’s insecurity leads her to believe that he is in fact in love with Misaki, fuelled when she overhears Misaki and Isamu talking.

Mystery and intrigue surround several of the characters and set against a backdrop of the tension between the ruling Shogun and the Europeans as they vie for power, the intrigue is heightened when Kasumi’s futon is slashed. Who would want to hurt her?
Through Misaki, Kasumi is given opportunities usually only reserved for the privileged. Trips to the theatre and weekly lessons in ikebana and painting prove to her that she will not be content with an ordinary life.

Her keen observation and intellect enable her to uncover the mystery behind Misaki’s background and the truth behind Isamu’s secrecy. When Taro, Shimizu’s closest friend is killed, Kasumi solves the intertwined puzzles of the political threats and the secrets of the household.

We are left at the end of the story feeling that Kasumi will not let her lowly class prohibit her from not only being with the man she loves, but that she will follow her own aspirations to live a life of her own choosing.

Watts plunges her readers into her historical narrative about a society which is a polar opposite to 2015 Australia. Is it really, though? Political intrigue, family secrets and a desire to push the boundaries of both class and societal norms are themes which are timeless.

The beauty of Watts’ writing leads us through an exciting narrative, the mystery’s solution only revealed at the end. The reader revels in themes of identity, the position of women, honour in Japanese samurai culture and Japanese history while noting the symbolism of the natural world versus the controlled. It is a novel full of references to Japanese literature, art and theatre which readers will willingly absorb in their quest to solve the mysteries within.

Destined to be enjoyed by anyone over the age of 12 and bound to be a favourite to be shared within a class, an added advantage is  its ‘usefulness’ as a text aptly aligned to the new English curriculum.

Captivating.


Thursday, 13 August 2015

Daddy Cuddle

Daddy Cuddle written by Kate Mayes, illustrated by Sara Acton (Harper Collins)                                  
HBK RRP $19.99                                                                                                                                 ISBN 9780733334054

Reviewed by Sharon McGuinness

This is a gentle story about a bunny who just wants to play – no matter how early her day starts. Daddy is still in bed as the young bunny peers around the bedroom door. 

‘Daddy up?’ she questions, before disappearing to grab a bouncy ball.

Daddy sleeps on as bunny brings in other items one by one, each will surely entice daddy to wake.

Only one thing left to do: ‘Daddy wake up!” she shouts.

The young early riser is common in all households with children. The soft illustrations by Sara Acton are the perfect accompaniment to Mayes’ light text.

Having previously written under her nom de plume Ruthie May, Cuddle Daddy is Mayes’ first title under her real name, the separation of her work as a nonfiction sales manager and children’s author has now disappeared.


This book is suitable for sharing with pre schoolers.

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

The Amazing True Story of How Babies Are Made

The Amazing True Story of How Babies Are Made written and illustrated by Fiona Katauskas (Harper Collins) HBK RRP $19.99                                                                                                           ISBN 9780733333880

Reviewed by Sharon McGuinness

Prompted by her young son’s questions about the origin of babies, Fiona Katauskas began searching for a recent title. Surprised that she could only find the 1973 classic by Peter Mayle Where Did I Come From?(the same book her own mother shared with her), she decided to write her own.

The Mayle titles are classics for their humorous approach, serving to put parents at ease when dealing with those tricky questions that all kids ask. Yet it was published more than 40 years ago and scientific developments have meant that there are now more answers to that simple question of how babies are made.

In Katauskas’ book, IVF and sperm donation are treated with the normality both deserve, which will ensure that children view these as simply another way that babies are made. Katauskas’ skills as both a cartoonist and illustrator allows humour to be again at the forefront, enabling laughter as parents share the book with their child.

Common sense, facts, the delightful humour and illustrations will enable this book to be universally accessible and a joy to be shared.
A must buy for all parents.


Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Lily the Elf: The Wishing Seed

Lily the Elf: The Wishing Seed by Anna Branford, illustrated by Lisa Coutts (Walker Books)
PB RRP $ 7.95
ISBN 9781925081060

Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

The Wishing Seed is the fourth book in the Lily the Elf series of books for 5 year olds or beginners. Lily is reading her favourite book. It is about an elf princess. She loves the princess’ crown and longs to have one of her own. Her crown is from her dress-up collection and one of the points is broken. She catches a lucky floating Dandelion seed. As she does so, her dress-up crown falls off and another point breaks away.

She makes a wish on the seed for a real elf princess crown and believes it will come true.  Lily tells Granny but as usual, Granny reminds her that fixing things is better than wishing for things.

Lily draws herself wearing her new crown. She waits for the mail bee, looks at sparrows and dragonflies hoping they are carrying her crown in their beaks. But at night she’s disappointed. Her seed wish hasn’t come true. Dad and Granny tell her they sometimes don’t.

In the morning, the only thing Lily finds is the broken point of her dress-up crown. But Dad has a box of useful things and Granny is a genius when it comes to making old things new again.

As Lily waits for the mail bee, she listens to the noises coming from Granny’s flat. What could be going on in there?

This story is a wonderful example to children about the joy and satisfaction that can be found in restoring an old item instead of discarding it and replacing it with something new, which isn’t always possible.