Thursday, 31 March 2016

The Hired Girl

The Hired Girl by Amy Laura Schlitz (Walker Books)
HC RRP $27.99
ISBN 978140631407

Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

This magnificent story is set just before WW1. Joan is a powerful main character. She is strong in body and mind, fearless, but innocent and naïve. She has a plan for her life and is determined to see it through. The secondary characters are equally outstanding. They storm into the scenes vibrant and energetic, each with a force that makes the reader pay attention to every word and action. The dialogue is incredible!

Joan is a fourteen year old farm girl with an intelligent mind and great potential. When her mother dies, her father takes her out of school to fill her mother’s role in caring for the three male family members. She has no choice. Her father, a bitter and angry man blames Joan’s existence for the loss of his wife. He sees his daughter as ugly and invisible to him, and only there for a slave’s role.

Joan decides to strike in demand for a pittance from the income of the eggs her chickens lay. Her father’s response is to burn the three only books she owns that her teacher presented her with as encouragement to strive for higher things in life. This too, was her mother’s longing for her. Towards this end, her mother had secretly sewn money she got from her egg sales, into Joan’s doll’s clothes. This was to be used to educate herself.

Propelled by her father’s actions and her mother’s money, Joan runs away from the farm towards the life that she dreams of, and will have no matter what.

This is the story of her journey to becoming who she was meant to be. The Jewish family that take her in have a great influence on her life. But her Catholic upbringing will be cause for conflict.

This is a fantastic book about strength, and the power of believing you can. With one of the best covers I’ve seen in ages, this story by the Newbery Medal winner for Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Voices from a Medieval Village, makes me want to sing with pleasure. Its emotive and perfectly crafted storyline will stay with you long after the book is read.

Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Nannie Loves

Nannie Loves by Kylie Dunstan (Working Title Press)
HB RRP $24.99
ISBN 978-1-921504-83-9

Reviewed by Vicki Thornton

Nannie loves her farm, with its rolling hills, muddy creek and lots of paddocks. Nannie loves her bouncy dog, her sheep and cows…even her hungry chooks. But most of all, Nannie loves when her family comes to stay.

Nannie Loves is a charming story that centres on family and farm life. The text is simple yet lyric, with the repeating line of Nannie loves which will draw the children in. Yet it is Kylie’s illustrations that I feel make this book truly magical.

A blend of pencil, paint and collage, the illustrations are so bright and cheerful they virtually bounce off the page. My favourite is the double-page spread depicting the family in silhouette with the surprised-looking rabbits down by the front fence.

This picture book would suit preschool children as well as early primary. Not only giving them an insight into farm life, it would also encourage many artistic endeavours.

Tuesday, 29 March 2016

The Special Ones

The Special Ones written by Em Bailey (Hardie Grant Egmont)
PB RRP $19.99
ISBN 9781742976280

Reviewed by Liz Ledden

The Special Ones is a YA thriller that centres on the lives of four young people living in seclusion on a farm, taken there against their will by a nameless, faceless captor. They are forced to assume different identities adapted from people in an old photograph. There’s ‘the Esther’, ‘the Lucille’, ‘the Felicity’ and ‘the Harry’, who are forced into subsistence-style rural life while their every move is monitored for transgressions. In contrast with their spartan lifestyle, The Special Ones have to communicate online with followers from the outside world, answering their questions and dispensing advice via a chat-room, all the while keeping in their assigned characters to evade punishment.

As the narrative progresses, chilling terminology arises that hints at the mastermind’s madness, like ‘collection’ (which is essentially kidnapping) and ‘renewal’ (being discarded in order to be replaced). The Special Ones must comply with the rules and stick to their roles to avoid the renewal process, which narrator Esther believes most certainly means death.

Conflict arises among the Special Ones when a new Lucille arrives, Harry is summoned for renewal, and Felicity, the youngest, is badly injured. The well-paced narrative manages to unravel the story with the perfect amount of tension and suspense, and takes a gripping turn when the narrator unexpectedly shifts from Esther to The Special Ones’ captor around the halfway mark. Insights into his delusional nature are truly frightening and hint at further trauma to follow, with the action unfolding right until the final few scenes.

The Special Ones is a hard-to-put-down story that delves into the world of cults and psychopaths. It has major crossover appeal, with less coming of age type YA tropes and more themes and ideas that would resonate just as well with the adult market. Unsettling yet absorbing, this is a highly addictive read.

Monday, 28 March 2016

Xalien the Purple Alien

Xalien the Purple Alien by Michelle Path, illustrated by Charlotte Roberts (Rowanvale Books, UK) PB RRP $16.96 IBSN 9781909902503

Reviewed by Dianne Bates

Looking like a picture book, this is actually an illustrated book for readers aged 5 to 8 years. Siblings Jessica, Adam and Sarah are watching stars from their bedroom window when they think they see a falling star. However, it’s not a star but a spaceship crashing to Earth. While the children are sleeping, a small, purple female alien (Xalien) emerges from the ship. She meets the children next morning: after Xalien eats pebbles in the garden, the children take her indoors for breakfast. Xalien finds human food as weird as the children find eating pebbles! Fitting into Earth ways is certainly quite an experience for the lost alien.

In this, the first of numerous proposed (and already published) books in a series, Xalien, disguised in the girls’ clothing, goes with the children to a fair, another exciting happening for her. Happily, at the end of the story, Xalien’s folk come to rescue her and she zooms back to the planet she came from.

This is a simple story, ideal for reading-aloud as a bed-time tale, but it can be read by a child his or herself. It could have done with some professional proof-reading as there are several punctuation errors. It would also have been good to have known the reactions of the children’s parents (when they drive purple-faced Xalien and the others) to the fair, and presumably they are there when it’s dinner time.

The coloured illustrations on every page show bright colours and stylized pictures of the humans and the alien. No doubt most young readers will enjoy the humour of a very odd stranger fitting into a new family. The author has succeeded in her intention of showing acceptance despite differences.

Sunday, 27 March 2016

Midnight colouring – Anti-stress Art Therapy For Sleepless Nights

Midnight Colouring – Anti-stress Art Therapy For Sleepless Nights illustrated by Kate Larsen (Pan Macmillan)
RRP $19.99
ISBN 9780752265926

Reviewed by Ramona Davey

The moment I saw this book available for review I jumped at the chance. My insomnia comes and goes with no rhyme or reason. There is no knowing how long each new bout will last -- one bad night or a couple of sleeplessness nights or four nights with as little as three consecutive hours of sleep. I have tried getting up, walking around the house, herbal teas, meditation but I had not tried a colouring book before.

Anyone who has walked into a book shop or even a newsagency recently will see how popular this kind of book is at the moment. And it is no wonder why: they are therapeutic.

One night when it was getting late and the family had all fallen asleep, I was still wide awake. I could feel the familiar sensation of anxiety rising in my chest at the possibility of another night with no sleep. So I got out the family box of textas and began to colour in. I chose a page with a row of cute little houses, bushes and trees. I stopped thinking about the outside world and began to concentrate on the colour scheme I wanted to use for the buildings. Yawn.  Then I wondered, did I want the trees to be autumn colours or summer? Yawn.  And were they brown dirt tracks or grey roads curving across the page? Yawn. My mind had relaxed. My eyelids were getting heavy. It had worked!

The second time I coloured in a wonderful under-the-water scene while I listened to a writers’ podcast. Then one night I caught my 10 year old daughter colouring in a page. So it suits all ages. The biggest surprise of all was its size. It fits perfectly into a handbag.

This great little book is filled with hand-drawn illustrations that long to be coloured in. Some are single page and others are double page spreads.
I had as much fun colouring them in as illustrator Kate Larson must have had designing and drawing each page.

I look forward to colouring in the whale page next. J

Friday, 25 March 2016

Big Hug Books

Big Hug Books by Shona Innes, illustrated by Irisz Agócs (The Five Mile Press)
HB RRP $14.95
ISBN 978-1-76006-055-8 - Life
ISBN 978-1-76006-056-5 - Friendship
ISBN 978-1-76006-416-7 - Internet
ISBN 978-1-76006-415-0 - Playground

Reviewed by Jacque Duffy

While waiting at a local department store I peeked into a package I had collected at the post office. What I saw made me gasp. I reached in and withdrew four beautiful books, I had only glimpsed the covers, but I was in love. I held them to my chest in a hug, and when I pulled them back for a better look I laughed. Each title is part of a collection called The Big Hug Book – how appropriate.

This series of books was created by Shona Innes, a qualified clinical and forensic psychologist with many years of assisting children. Don’t be put off by her qualifications; each book is presented in a way that is perfect for the young child to grasp the meaning within. Important issues of the playground, friendship, dangers of the internet,
and death, are each approached and handled in a friendly, fun, yet delicate way that truly imparts a strong message.

The Hungarian illustrator, Irisz Agócs studied cultural anthropology and ethnography at University; thankfully she gave that away and moved on to her passion, so becoming an illustrator.

These are marvelous books for an independent reader to enjoy in a quiet moment. They are perfect for parents of a younger child to assist in explaining why things aren’t going smoothly with friends and family, or the dangers of the internet, without being preachy. They would also work successfully if read by a teacher to her class group. Young children should ask many questions as the illustrations depict body language and facial expressions in such a way the characters come to life.

The illustrations, simple and soft, show a diverse group of animals each with a definite personality. They will assist children to identify themselves and their feelings. They are inviting, and as the title of the series suggests, they are like a big hug. Children with personal issues should not find them confronting at all.

These books would appeal to teacher librarians as much as to parents. They cover important issues that children deal with every day and are presented in a very reader-friendly format.

Jacque Duffy is the author and illustrator of the series ‘That’s not a …” learn to read books used in all Queensland State Primary Schools, two picture books and one local history book.

Thursday, 24 March 2016

Count Down to Danger: Bullet Train Disaster

Count Down to Danger: Bullet Train Disaster by Jack Heath (Scholastic Australia)
PB RRP $12.99
ISBN 978-1-76015-962-7

Reviewed by Jenny Heslop

On the platform ahead of you is a shining new bullet train. It is about to take its first journey carrying passengers up the side of Mt Grave, the second tallest mountain peak in the world. The rails lead straight up, the train will be climbing almost vertically, and you will be aboard. When disaster hits, you have 30 minutes to escape. Hang on for the adventure of a lifetime ...if you survive!

This is a heart-pumping thrill ride which leaves no time for breath. Be prepared to meet bears, bandits and royalty. You never know where your journey is taking you.

Choose-Your-Own adventure books put the reader in control of the main characters’ decisions. As there are many different paths that may be taken, these books can be read over and over again, while still retaining a sense of anticipation. Of the 30 paths, only some lead to survival and only a handful to glory.

This is a must for arm-chair adrenaline junkies and will entertain middle school and early teen aged audiences alike. Look out for the next in the series Shock Wave.

Jack Heath is an Australian author who writes popular action-packed stories for young teens including the recent Scream series.

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

This & That

This & That by Mem Fox, illustrated by Judy Horacek (Scholastic Australia)
HB RRP $19.99
ISBN 978-1-74362-253-7

Reviewed by Jenny Heslop

Mem Fox’s latest picture book is a lively romp through a whimsical world of bedtime stories. This & That is a rhyming tale for two mice having adventures via stories.
‘I’ll tell you a story of this,
And I’ll tell you a story of that.’

The mice flow beautifully from one story to the next – down a river, on the back of an elephant, and so on – until they are back home, mother mouse kissing her child goodnight. The bedtime procrastination routine and the value of stories run clearly through the pages, but it is the bond between mother and child which shines thorough strongest as they journey through the world of stories together.

Horacek’s vibrant and joyous illustrations echo the energy of the text and her recognisable style and colour fill the sparsely worded pages. The partnership between word and pictures is beautifully balanced throughout.
The rhythm and repetition of the text make this a perfect bedtime read aloud story for the young. Both words and pictures leave so much scope for the imagination to flourish and grow.

The previous collaboration from this pair, Where is the Green Sheep? has been on top of best-selling lists for the last ten years.

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

The Dreaming Tree

The Dreaming Tree by Jo Oliver (New Frontier Publishing)
HB RRP $24.99
ISBN 978-1-92505-948-9

Reviewed by Jenny Heslop

The Dreaming Tree is a beautiful book. It is filled with wonderfully rhythmic free verse poetry, accompanied by soft dreamlike illustrations and a strong feeling of the Australian landscape.

The opening poem - from the title The Dreaming Tree – sets the tone of memories, childhood and nature which the rest of the poems in the book go on to explore. They are not all soft and dreamy. Some are rollicking like The Wind, and Children Playing. Some are informative - such as Rock, some are meditative like The River, while others such as Picking Peas recall times past. This diversity of theme sits well alongside the wonderful mix of metaphors and similes with more straight forward images. There is just enough subtlety to get young children thinking without being too obscure or talking down to this audience.

This is a poetry book that the reader can become totally immersed in. The muted, soft colours of the illustrations and their earthy watermarked backgrounds enhance the feeling of the Australian setting. The paintings are beautiful and evoke an emotional response in the same way that the poetry does. They also still allow the reader to create their own imagery in response to the words.

At the end, in the author’s reflection, Oliver writes, ‘Poetry is feeling and thought playing together in words.’ This is very successfully done within these pages.

A hardback book, with thick, glossy pages and accessible poetry, this is a beautiful package for all ages to enjoy.

Monday, 21 March 2016

The Skunk

The Skunk by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Patrick McDonnell (The Five Mile Press)
HB RRP $19.95
ISBN 978-1-76006-782-3
Reviewed by Jacque Duffy

On first impressions this book reminded me of Dr Seuss, I couldn’t wait to pick it up and have a read. I was not disappointed, although, it is far removed from anything Dr Seuss and more like an Alfred Hitchcock story for children.

The illustrations and the writing go hand in hand, as a whole they work so seamlessly that it appears the writer and illustrator collaborated [I don’t know if they did or didn’t]. It is a quirky story of a man who discovers a skunk on his doorstep. The skunk appears to be following him. There is an increasingly frantic chase through the city, tension builds, the man has closure, but there is a twist… The artwork follows this outline by starting off with a very retro limited pallet of red, white, and black. After the climax, the primary colours of yellow and blue are added, imitating joy, then, with a thought provoking twist the illustrations revert back to the former limited pallet. It is very cleverly thought through.

This is a fabulous read-out-loud book either by an independent reader or an adult who likes a bit of fun. There are a few words that a young child might need explained which adds to the experience of the shared reading.

The author Mac Barnett is a New York Times bestselling author of books for children including Extra Yarn which won the 2013 Caldecott Honour.

Patrick McDonnell the illustrator has over twenty books in print, including four New York Times bestsellers and the Caldecott Honour winning Me…Jane. He has a comic strip Mutts which appears in over 700 newspapers around the world.

Sunday, 20 March 2016


Cybertricks by Goldie Alexander (Five Senses Education) PB RRP $19.95

Reviewed by Sally Odgers

Pya, Zumie, Jafet and Trist are twelve years old. Like any other children on the cusp of their teens, they take an interest in their appearance and in their peers. They squabble among themselves and  chafe against the benevolent rule of their tutors. Yet Pya and the others are not typical children. They are Hatchlings, the cloned descendants of an Earth rendered uninhabitable by the Great Disaster compounded of war, famine and plague. And as far as Pya knows, they are the only Hatchlings alive today.

ComCen and the holo-tutors put the Hatchlings through their paces, allowing them to interact only as avatars, but sending them to many different places via Virtual Reality. ComCen says they must learn how to cooperate, but Pya longs for true bodily freedom from her tiny Cell.
Be careful what you wish for.

Stranded on Earth at the dawn of the Great Disaster on the 21st Century, the Hatchlings meet Rio and Charlie, who are also twelve years old. That’s when they realise how different they are.  That’s when they realise how dangerous this longed-for freedom can be. Separated from Rio’s and Charlie’s family, the six take a long and hazardous trek. The situation is bizarre, but the characters ring true. The Hatchlings struggle towards humanity as the human children try to adjust to the loss of their once-secure future.  Has ComCen abandoned the Hatchlings?  Is this some cruel game? As the shared experience becomes more perilous, Goldie Alexander keeps a firm hand on the reins of her story, moving the action from setting to setting, each one clearly depicted. The characters grow and develop, while the situation is always accessible. The author’s eye is warm and compassionate, but she doesn’t flinch from the harsh reality of an adventure where nothing is quite as it seems to the protagonists.


Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

This terrific futuristic fantasy novel is set in the Great Southern Continent, Terra, in 14,043. Pya, one of four Hatchlings that survived the Great Disaster, exists in a Cell as do the other three Hatchlings, mascs Jafet and Trist and Zumie, the only other fem. All are nourished via food tubes and educated by ComCen, a super computer, while communication is conducted via their avatars.

Their Tutor-Holo is trying to teach the Hatchlings to work together cooperatively and independently. With this crucial end in view, and forced to face Reality, they are sent back to 2043 to exercise all they have learnt and to focus on working as a team.

Returning to the past where families existed, they meet twins Charlie and Rio, and the six children set out on a journey that will change them forever. While experiencing Reality, they must overcome great challenges, learn sustainability within many lifestyles, and slowly come together to understand the words of their tutor ‘only through great effort and understanding can another Great Disaster be averted’.

All of Goldie Alexander’s novels have positive themes of self worth, personal improvement, environmental issues and sharing the world’s resources flowing through them in subtle waves in one form or another. In this highly imaginative and well-crafted novel, many similar life sustaining themes appear. The leading characters are strong and powerful, and the weaker ones always evolve and improve by the end of the story.

Saturday, 19 March 2016

Arthur and the Curiosity

Arthur and the Curiosity by Lucinda Gifford (The Five Mile Press)
HB RRP $19.95
ISBN 978-1-76006-838-7

Reviewed by Jacque Duffy

Run your hand across the cover of this book and the three raised Egyptian sarcophagus illustrations will transport you to the Museum setting of the story.

Children and adults alike will identify with this story of a school excursion. On his class visit to the museum, Arthur notices something the others do not and is distracted. The teacher tries to keep the children together and moving through the exhibits only to be exhausted and require time out herself. This is a marvelous book for an independent reader, or perhaps a teacher with her class group. The exhibits that Arthur’s class visit will act as ideal talking points as young children should ask many questions, the adult reader will enjoy the explanations which only adds to the experience of the shared reading.

The illustrations which are simple and clean show a diverse group of children. I believe this will allow extra fun in the reading process as the children identify themselves and their friends in the pictures. The illustrations also add to the story by leaving unanswered questions giving children the opportunity to imagine what may happen next.

Lucinda Gifford is the author and illustrator of Arthur and the Curiosity. On her website she calls herself ‘emerging’ but having already illustrated six books for other writers and two of her own, it would seem she has already emerged. 

This book should appeal to teacher librarians as much as parents. I’m looking forward to reading my copy to some young children and being involved in a lively conversation afterward.

Jacque Duffy is the author and illustrator of the series ‘That’s not a …” learn to read books used in all Queensland State Primary Schools, two picture books and one local history book.

Friday, 18 March 2016

Hour of the Bees

Hour of the Bees by Lindsay Eagar (Walker Books)
PB RRP $ 16.99
ISBN 9781406368154

Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

I find so many debut novels far beyond what I expect. The quality of the writing, original approach to the story, and the characters all remind me how little I know about the world. Gratefully, this is another of those novels.

Lindsay Eagar has crafted a work of magnificent proportions. There is a mixture of voices and style, rich metaphors and symbolism, with settings like portraits hung in a gallery.

Twelve year-old Carol narrates this story. She is travelling with her parents, baby brother, and seventeen year-old step-sister Alta, to Grandpa Serge’s deserted sheep farm. Their intent is to clear the house, sell the farm, then move Serge -- who has lived alone for years -- to an expensive assisted-living facility. He is in the advanced stages of dementia and they have all read the pamphlets about what to expect and how to manage the old man’s behaviour.

When the family arrives, Carol becomes Carolina when the old man reminds her of their ethnic roots. Then the stories begin, always with Once upon a time; mysterious tales of a life-giving tree that is a gift, protecting the people of his village for centuries from ‘injury, ageing, disease and death’, and which controls time. These stories include Grandma Rosa, so filled with wanderlust that she spent most of her married life travelling the world. But what is truth, and what the meanderings of an old man’s demented mind?

The writing style changes dramatically when Serge tells the stories: it becomes lyrical, passionate and poetic; deeply stirring the senses.

The story addresses themes of ageing, death and dying, added to how many younger people view the older generation. Beautifully constructed and presented, this is ideal for the 12+ years age group.

Thursday, 17 March 2016

The Mystery of the Midnight Crunch

The Mystery of the Midnight Crunch by Simon Mitchell, illustrated by James Davis (The Five Mile Press)
HB RRP $19.95
ISBN 978-1-74346-725-1

Reviewed by Jacque Duffy

What is better than a mystery about a monster? Mitchell’s story combined with Davis’s illustrations is delightful and will engage the young reader’s imagination. On first impressions this book invites you to pick it up and have a read. I was not disappointed when I did. It is not only beautifully illustrated but it is beautifully written. Even the cover is a pleasure to touch with spot laminations making it pleasantly tactile. A book to be read by the independent reader or to share with a child snuggled on your lap as you search the illustrations for clues.

It is the story of Sniffy the Mouse Detective: he is ready for hire and no job is too big or too small. Mrs Hopper, his new client, is convinced she saw a monster in her kitchen. Sniffy doesn’t believe in monsters. But determined to get to the bottom of the mystery, Sniffy and his friend Cooper work hard with humorous results.

The author Simon Mitchell writes a great fast-paced story. His first picture book Louie the Pirate Chef won a place in the International Youth Library’s prestigious White Ravens Catalogue, he also has received critical acclaim for one of his junior novels.

James Davis, the illustrator, is an award-winning artist. His illustrations are striking; he uses simplified shapes but shows strength of colour and depth giving a wonderful sense of ‘other’ to the story. I must confess that thanks to the illustrations of the endpapers, I heard Humphrey Bogart’s voice as I read.
Overall I believe with each of the positive elements rolled into one hard cover this story shared by parent and child will make this book a favorite.

Jacque Duffy is the author and illustrator of the series ‘That’s not a …” learn to read books used in all Queensland State Primary Schools, two picture books and one local history book.

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

The Bad Guys: Episode 2 Mission Unpluckable

The Bad Guys: Episode 2 Mission Unpluckable by Aaron Blabey (Scholastic Press)
PB RRP $9.99
ISBN 978-1-76015-412-7

Reviewed by Jenny Heslop

Aaron Blabey‘s Bad Guys are back in Mission Unpluckable, the second book in The Bad Guys series. Desperate to prove that they really are good guys, Wolf has come up with another plan: they will break into a chicken farm to free all the poor chickens being kept prisoner there.

For this daring attempt, however, they need the help of Tarantula to get through the high security. Is Tarantula ready to become a ‘good guy’ too?
Unfortunately for Snake, he loves chickens, and not in a give them a hug sort of way. Will he be able to control his appetite when let loose in the chook pen? Has the gang bitten off more than they can chew? And have they now angered someone they really shouldn’t have?

Discover the answers in this hilarious installment of the adventures of Mr Wolf and his gang Snake, Shark and Piranha. Hold your breath for dangers such as snake twisting though the laser beams. Gasp at the disguises – Shark disguised as a chicken is something to behold and laugh aloud at, as this team bumbles its way through another rescue.

I love the way this series plays with perceptions of good guys and bad guys. It’s an entertaining read for anyone from seven years up and there is no need to have read the first in the series to understand this one (though I urge you to – it’s hilarious too.)

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Clementine’s Bath

Clementine’s Bath written and illustrated by Annie White (New Frontier)
HB RRP $24.99
ISBN 978-1-92505-942-7

Reviewed by Jenny Heslop

Clementine, the loveable dog from Clementine’s Walk, is back. This time, the family want to give her a bath but Clementine doesn’t like baths, and anyway, she wants to keep the wonderful smell she just found and rolled around in. What follows is a funny romp through the house and garden as Clementine tries unsuccessfully to hide, a journey which is captured and recorded in a wonderful map at the end of the story.

Clementine’s Bath has an even rhyme which rolls off the tongue well and is easy – and a pleasure - to read aloud.
‘What a pong!’ sniffed Nana.
‘What a stink!’ gagged Dad.
‘Oh Clementine!’ James grumbled.
‘That smells really bad!’

The beautifully painted illustrations show Clementine and her family in a soft, warm, gentle light. I love mum in her gumboots as she prepares the dog bath, the cloud of smell which follows Clementine wherever she goes, and the inquisitive chooks who just want to be part of the action.

Dogs are well loved and Clementine’s Bath is a lovely story which young children will engage with and delight in. The humour, in both words and pictures, will be enjoyed by both children and adults alike and will fast become a favourite.

Monday, 14 March 2016

Two Moons: Star of Deltora Book 2

Two Moons: Star of Deltora Book 2 by Emily Rodda (Omnibus Books for Scholastic Australia)
PB RRP $9.99
ISBN 978-1-74299-062-0

Reviewed by Jenny Heslop

Two Moons continues the journey of Britta’s quest to win the right to become apprenticed to Mab, the head of the Trader Rosalyn fleet. The four finalists learn of the ports they are to trade in and settle into life on board. 

But the four cannot quite trust each other and Britta knows one of her rivals is trying to eliminate her from the competition. As the quest becomes more dangerous, the shadowy wraiths which watch her every move are noticed by more people. Britta is unaware of them, however, and suspects her apprehension comes from the fact that she cannot seem to steer away from following in the footsteps of her disgraced father’s final journey.

The Star of Deltora series is an absorbing one. Mysterious, with a wonderful sense of anticipation and adventure, Two Moon builds on the atmosphere of foreboding and inescapable destiny which surrounds Britta in the first book, Shadows of the Master. It is becoming harder to keep secrets, some are beginning to spill, and others are becoming bigger.

Set in the well-constructed and already well known world of Deltora, this is an exciting companion series to Rodda’s earlier series’. Magic, monsters and excitement leap from the pages and readers from middle grade through to early teens will be immersed in this spellbinding story-telling.

I look forward to the third, The Towers of Illica, later in the year.
Readers can add the trader cards from the back of the book to those collected from the first volume.

Sunday, 13 March 2016

Shadows of the Master: Star of Deltora Book 1

Shadows of the Master: Star of Deltora Book 1 by Emily Rodda (Omnibus Books for Scholastic Australia)
PB RRP $9.99
ISBN 978-1-74299-062-0

Reviewed by Jenny Heslop

Britta thought her dreams of becoming a trader like her father were doomed when his career ended in deceit and dishonour. But when Captain Gripp enters her name in a contest to become the next trader apprentice on her father’s old ship the Star of Deltora, she begins to hope again. Can she keep the secret of her parentage hidden long enough to win the contest? Will other secrets aboard the famous ship affect her chances? And who wants the prize so desperately they resort to sabotaging Britta at every turn?

This is the beginning of another wonderful fantasy set in a world already well known by readers of Rodda’s other series such as The Deltora Quests, Rowan of Rin and the Three Doors. Fast moving and intriguing, it is easy to get lost in the world of Deltora and become totally immersed in the journey Britta and her three fellow finalists embark upon.

Britta is a strong character, likeable, resourceful and with a solid moral core, but still not without flaws and insecurities. Her companions, Sky, Jewel and Vashti are well constructed characters too, with different complexities which leave the reader unsure as to their allegiances.
This series is well suited for lovers of fantasy – and especially lovers of previous Deltora books – from middle-grade through to early teens. This reasonably slim volume will be devoured in a short time and leave the reader impatient for the next instalment, Two Moons.  

As a bonus, there are trading cards which come with the book. I was lucky enough to receive a rare foiled card among the six in my packet.

Saturday, 12 March 2016

What pet should I get?

What pet should I get? written and illustrated by Dr Seuss (Harper Collins) HBK RRP $19.99 ISBN 9780008170783

Reviewed by Sharon McGuinness

Believed to have been written between 1958 1nd 1962, this previously unpublished story tells the story of Kay and Jay (from One Fish, Two Fish...) as they wrestle with the difficult decision of which pet to choose.
Written in typical Seuss rhyme, with unmistakable Seuss creatures we witness Jay and Kay’s decision dilemma as they consider an array of pets. 

Given a noon deadline by their father, the pressure mounts as the siblings must make a decision.
Decisively, Jay states:
 “ I will do it right now.
   I will do it, I said.
   I will make up the mind
   That is up in my head.”

Do they choose a rabbit, a cat, a fish or a dog? Or one of Seuss’s creations, perhaps? The story ends in a cliff-hanger – we can only guess what is contained in the basket balanced on Jay’s head, the pet’s eyes peeking at us, while Jay and his sister wear satisfied smiles.

Children will enjoy not only the rhyme and the typical Seuss illustrations, but guessing exactly which pet is being carried home.

At the end of the story are valuable ‘Notes from the Publisher’, which include photographs of a young Dr Seuss – Theophrastus Seuss Geisel and his pets. This gives the book an extra layer, enabling the reader to gain insight into the man (and child) behind the famous author.

This book is suitable for ages 3 years and up.

Friday, 11 March 2016

The ABC Book of Food

The ABC Book of Food  written by Helen Martn, Judith Simpson and Cheryl Orsini  (ABC Books) HBK RRP $24.99 ISBN 9780733334269

Reviewed by Sharon McGuinness

This is another useful non-fiction title in the series by this trio, which takes children on a journey to show them from a young age, the origin of the food they eat.

The book not only highlights food origins but introduces children to facts that some foods make people ill, thereby ‘normalising’ food intolerance issues and helping children to understand.

Mentioning farmer’s markets and kitchen gardens also shows adults’ interest in knowing and understanding where their food comes from and how it is produced.

Cheryl Orsini’s retro style illustrations are the perfect accompaniment to the text, enabling so much more to be said without the weight of words.

The book is great to share at home and in the classroom, and would suit children aged 3 years and older.

Thursday, 10 March 2016

Buy Me a Monkey

Buy Me a Monkey by Cherelle Flemming, illustrated by Graeme Compton (Little Steps Publishing)

HB RRP $14.95
ISBN: 9781925117554

Reviewed by Anne Hamilton

Ellie Eckles is determined to have a monkey for her sixth birthday! She’s asked her mum a hundred times but the answer is always ‘no’. Ellie won’t give up—she’s devised a scheme with the help of an internet company specialising in free pet monkeys!

In preparation for the monkey’s arrival, she’s saved her lunch bananas and hidden them in a secret place. (Maybe the map to their location wasn’t a good idea but, as it turns out, the monkey wasn’t a real hot one either.)

Millie the monkey arrives in the post. Ellie manages to keep her a secret from Mum and relishes the thought of all the fun they’ll have together. But Ellie has to leave Millie alone while she’s at school. She returns to chaos and destruction. You guessed it—Millie has not been toilet-trained or house-trained…

The moral of this lively story about a cheeky monkey and a cheekier girl: don’t pester your mum for a chimp. There might just be good reasons to choose another pet.

The book is a brightly illustrated soft cover for pre-schoolers and early readers.