Sunday, 31 July 2016

This Girl That Girl

This Girl That Girl by Charlotte Lance (Allen & Unwin 2016)
HB RRP $24.99
ISBN: 9781760291709

Reviewed by Jade Harmer

In This Girl That Girl, Charlotte Lance introduces her two delightful protagonists through sparing, rhythmic language. Her intricate, whimsical illustrations perfectly capture their quirky personalities and bring their unique worlds to life.

This book has a lovely look and feel, but what I appreciate most about it is the simple but important message it carries for young girls to be themselves. This girl and that girl are confident, creative and completely comfortable in their own skin.

The pair might live next door to each other, but they’re different in so many ways, and that doesn’t bother them at all. While this girl vacuums leaves, that girl throws them in the air. And while this girl’s dad tries to fit into a pillowcase, that girl’s dad sorts coloured gravel, one stone at a time.

The revelation comes when the dads each decide to build a tree-house. Along with this girl and that girl they tackle their projects in their own ways, but the resulting structures are surprisingly similar.

This is a story about the unique paths we take to get where we’re going that highlights the beauty of individuality. A fun and engaging picture book for children aged four to seven years that will have particular appeal to girls.

Saturday, 30 July 2016

Lola’s Toy Box: Party at Cuddleton Castle

Lola’s Toy Box: Party at Cuddleton Castle written by Danny Parker, illustrated by Guy Shield (Hardie Grant Egmont)
PB RRP $12.99
ISBN 9781760126858
Reviewed by Liz Ledden

Lola and her favourite toy, a learn-to-dress clown called Buddy, attempt to play a game of hide-and-seek with Lola’s big brother Nick. But grumpy Nick is soon bored, and Lola notices he’s retreated to his room and turned up his music. Lola deals with this rejection by hopping into her magic toy box with Buddy, where adventure ensues.

As per each of the Lola’s Toy Box books, Lola faces conflict in the real world, and learns some coping mechanisms via her adventures in an alternative world where her toys come to life. In this story, she ventures to Cuddleton Castle, where a birthday party for The Great High Bear (the toy kingdom’s ruler) is about to take place. Some readers may pick up the fun reference to Hazel Edwards’ There’s a hippopotamus on our roof eating cake.

During the birthday celebrations, Lola uncovers a trick that antagonist The Plastic Prince has played on the bear. In the altercation that follows, Lola demonstrates bravery and kindness. Back in the real world, when she emerges out of the toy box, Lola is confronted by her brother Nick about their hide and seek game. However, she copes with a new kind of calm, no doubt acquired during the turmoil in the toy box.

This short, easy reading chapter book series is ideal for new readers in the early primary school years. It offers a fun escape from reality, while touching on problem solving without being overly didactic.

Friday, 29 July 2016

Ride High Pineapple

Ride High Pineapple by Jenny Woolsey (Pearls of Wisdom Press) PB RRP $29.25 ISBN 978-0-9945341-0-1                                                                             
Reviewed by Elizabeth Vercoe

Issy is in year 9 at Pinaroo High with a bestie and a beastie. The bestie is a friend and the beastie, a relentless bully.

Ride High Pineapple takes us via Issy’s journal into her friendships, family, school life, anxiety, sporting dreams, and the fact that she’s a normal kid with a not-very-normal face (she has craniofacial syndrome). It shows how she deals with the usual challenges of adolescence as well as being called names like ‘froggy face’.

It’s important to note that Ride High Pineapple is quite distinct in style and delivery from Wonder, another teen title dealing with facial difference.
In typical teenager style, Issy is moody, unpredictable and endearing. She is beautifully rendered in this novel – we don’t always understand her motivations but can resonate with the real and flawed human being before us. When she’s unable to deal with issues, Issy simply ignores them and immerses herself in either a screen or skateboard.

The intensity of teenage life including best friendships, romantic crushes, school and family, is played out with a sense of truth and drama. Issy can be jealous and mean-spirited. She’s also very clever, sassy, compassionate and kind, with a best friend who sticks by her.  

Creating the novel as a journal allows for passages of time to be marked, and requires the reader to do a little ‘work’, which is often a good thing. Coping strategies and questions are both woven into the fabric of the narrative and directly addressed to the reader. At times the author’s agenda is apparent, sitting alongside the practical solutions for children to use when dealing with difference and bullying.  

I love the intent of this beautifully told, page-turning story. The graphic and specific nature of both Issy’s syndrome and the bullying that she receives, are balanced with the technical detail and knowhow around skateboarding to offer interest and intrigue for both boys and girls.  

An unashamedly issues-based YA novel, it will no doubt elicit passionate and varied opinions if used as a stimulus for classroom discussion.   

Thursday, 28 July 2016

Rose Campion and the Stolen Secret

Rose Campion and the Stolen Secret by Lyn Gardner (Nosy Crow/Allen & Unwin)
PB RRP $14.99
ISBN 9780857634863

Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

Rose is a girl full of life, love of adventure, and spontaneity. She is compassionate and loving.  Abandoned at the stage door of Campion’s Palace of Varieties as a baby, Thomas Campion has raised and loved her as his own child.

Rose adores Thomas, but secretly yearns to learn who her mother was and where she came from.

But Campion’s is a place ‘full of people with secrets’. All are aware that knowledge is a dangerous thing; that life can be snuffed out quickly when people know or reveal too much.

When the generous-hearted Rose allows Effie and Aurora, girls with deep and complex secrets of their own, into her life, there are incredible happenings, and astonishing links are revealed.

I loved this book! It is riveting reading; stimulating, exciting and imaginative. There is a strong storyline full of continuous mystery which holds the reader’s interest every second. The excellent characters and the secrets they hold, are wound together tightly with past events that are even more thrilling and macabre than the current events they are experiencing. Stories are linked to sub-stories in a continuous chain of involvement.

This brilliant novel shows how our circumstances don’t always reflect who we are, and in order to survive, how frequently life forces us to do things that are against our nature.

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Squishy Taylor in Zero Gravity

Squishy Taylor in Zero Gravity written by Ailsa Wild, illustrated by Ben Wood (Hardie Grant Egmont) PB RRP $12.99
ISBN 9781760127725

Reviewed by Liz Ledden

The fifth Squishy Taylor book opens with Squishy playing space-stations with her half-sisters Jessie and Vee (whom she refers to as her ‘Bonus Sisters’ throughout the series). This sets the scene for the book’s space-themed antics. While peering through their telescope to view a meteor shower, the girls notice something else intriguing. Someone resembling an astronaut is on a nearby rooftop, with what looks to be a rocket with visible sparks flying out.

The plot centres on Squishy’s determination to get to the bottom of the mystery, even if it means doing the wrong thing. Squishy, along with Jessie and Vee, hatch plans to sneak into the apartment building and make their way to the rooftop, deceiving their parents in the process and lying to the pyjama-clad man they find once they reach their destination.

Throughout, Squishy’s relationship with her stepmother Alice deteriorates. Squishy’s feelings towards Alice appear more hostile than in the previous Squishy Taylor books I’ve read (books one and four), and she yearns for her Geneva-dwelling birth mother for comfort more than ever.

The story’s conclusion sees a physically painful consequence for Squishy, yet her stepmother Alice’s reaction to the mayhem is inexplicably calm. While the Squishy Taylor books cleverly infuse action, mystery, fun and a touch of daredevil with real-life family issues, it felt as though this ending was a little too ‘nice’, considering Alice’s earlier impatience with Squishy. Regardless, the book’s page-turning hooks will keep young readers engaged, eager to discover who or what the strange astronaut and rocket may be.

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Shakespeare for Kids, Five Fully Illustrated Classic Plays

Shakespeare for Kids, Five Fully Illustrated Classic Plays. Exisle Press (Familius Imprint) PB RRP $29.99
ISBN 9781939629777

Reviewed by Elizabeth Vercoe

What child doesn’t love a slipcase full of books? In my house these items are gold on the shelf, indicating much-loved and well-read volumes for returning to over and again. Roald Dahl, Enid Blyton – childhood staples that always deliver.

So I have to say that the mere notion of a slipcase full of Shakespeare for kids had me a little concerned. Can the concepts within Shakespearian plays, created for mass public consumption within a very specific time and context, really and truly resonate with today’s children? And the biggie; do these books warrant a slipcase?

These volumes look the part, in a modern kind of way. In my collection (the first of four Shakespeare Classic Libraries) are The Tragedy of Macbeth, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the Tempest, All’s Well That Ends Well and Much Ado About Nothing. Muted colours on the box and covers give each a certain gravitas which does seem important when introducing the bard.
The interior of the books is cohesive and lives up to the promise of illustrations on each page. Black line drawings take us through the same introduction of Shakespeare in every book (one page with an illustration in a hand-drawn frame, a nice touch), and then to an illustrated list of the main characters in each play.

There are two obviously different illustration styles in the collection of books I received. I, personally, am very fond of scrawly line drawings (Quentin Blake is an all-time fave) and appreciated both styles which have come from McCaw books.

To their credit, these books are exactly what they say they are: straight up, no frills, blow-by-blow outlines of Shakespeare’s plays. Not written as plays but rather as condensed summary texts, they make sense of often grossly convoluted plots in a comprehensive manner. Interspersed with dialogue and illustrations, each is compact enough to engage and hold attention, and is accessible to children in terms of language and ideas.

So far, so good. As a reviewer I do have to note, however, that these are not the gorgeous, Roald Dahl-esque sublimely clever and rhythmic treatments of the classics that I was secretly hoping for; for instance, there’s no modern equivalent of the iambic pentameter that so endeared Shakespeare to his audiences.

However, when all’s said and done I believe that they do make a substantial offering and for that, they earn their slipcase – a very different kind of slipcase to those that contain imaginative, much-loved children’s classics -  but one that’s library-worthy nonetheless.

Monday, 25 July 2016

The Towers of Illica: Star of Deltora Book 3

The Towers of Illica: Star of Deltora Book 3 by Emily Rodda (Omnibus Books for Scholastic Australia) PB RRP $16.99
ISBN 978-1-74299-064-4

Reviewed by Jenny Heslop

When the Star of Deltora docks in the harbour at Illica, Britta knows this will be her most important trade in the quest to win the Rosalyn Contest and become mistress of her own trading ship. But the Collectors, who make their home on this island, are slippery hosts and the shadows which swirl and haunt Britta, press even closer. It becomes more evident to her that she is reluctantly following in her father’s final footsteps, increasing her anxiety that someone will discover her true parentage.

The Towers of Illica is the third instalment in the adventurous and fast- paced fantasy series, Star of Deltora by well loved Australian author Emily Rodda. It has a thrilling plot and an edge of foreboding darkness throughout, which will keep readers on the edge of their seats. Britta is likable, strong and feisty heroine whose relationships with others aboard the ship are building as the story progresses.

Lovers of fantasy and great storytelling will become engrossed in this entertaining series –especially fans of previous Deltora books. A great read for middle-grade through to early teenagers.

Readers can collect cards – six come with every volume – and share in the trading experience.

Sunday, 24 July 2016

Princess Parsley

Princess Parsley by Pamela Rushby (Omnibus Books)
PB RRP $16.99
ISBN 978-1-74299-161-0

Reviewed by Jenny Heslop

Parsley Patterson’s first year of high school is not turning out as she’d expected. Targeted by Danielle and her group of ‘mean girls’ who Parsley dubs The Blondes, she is picked on for her name, her hippie family and her Possum Creek address. But just as she decides to keep her head down and try to ignore it until it all blows over (or she finishes high school, whichever comes first!) her father’s announcement causes the spotlight to rest firmly on Parsley again.

Locked in a fight with the local council over the right to hold a market day, Parsley’s parents have decided to ‘drop out of the nation’ and form their own Principality of Possum Creek. This makes Parsley and her sisters Sage, Rosemary and Thyme, all princesses. If Princess Parsley is going to survive even the first year of high school she is going to need to form a strategy.

From the title, front cover and blurb I was expecting a cute story about fitting in at high school, but what I got was much more solid and thoughtful. The storyline often went in unexpected directions and the way in which Parsley tackled the bullying problem was novel.

The serious themes of bullying and politics are balanced with Parsley’s humour. She has a unique way of looking at the world and of approaching her problems. Her drama teacher harnesses this by encouraging her to try stand-up comedy as an outlet for her frustration and embarrassment.

Princess Parsley is an entertaining and engrossing read, with a dash of interesting political information thrown in as well. There is something fascinating about Principalities, how they work, and the reasons people have for forming them. The characters are fun - even the ‘mean girl’ Danielle is portrayed sympathetically and is not just a two dimensional foil for the heroine – and this is a well written tale which is hard to put down before reaching the satisfying ending.

Saturday, 23 July 2016

The Stupendously Spectacular Spelling Bee

The Stupendously Spectacular Spelling Bee by Deborah Abela (Random House Australia) PB RRP $14.99
ISBN 9781025324822

Reviewed by Dianne Bates

With the recent advent of children’s spelling competitions on national television, this book by Australian Deborah Abela is likely to have added appeal to readers aged 8 to 11 years.

India Wimple is a national spelling champ in the making. She and her family religiously watch the Stupendously Spectacular Spelling Been on TV every Friday night. India invariably knows the correct spelling of words presented to competitors. She would go public with her talent but nerves get the better of her – ‘she was terribly, horribly shy and whenever she found herself the centre of attention, her cleverness seemed to disappear.’ Despite this, and encouraged by her loving family, India faces her fears.

This is a fast-paced and engaging book. Abela wonderfully captures the caring spirit of family and community. She presents an accurate view of a spelling bee with its wide variety of competitors, including a spoilt rich girl who is determined to win at all costs. A special feature of the book is the way in which each chapter is introduced. A word is highlighted, as well as its part of speech, its definition, and its use in a sentence. Each time, the chapter opening clearly hints at what is to come. For instance, there is ‘Skulduggery (noun): Trickery, underhandedness, funny business. It seemed there was a lot of skulduggery about.’ Other chapters are prefaced with words such as ‘Tremulous’, ‘Valorous’, ‘Trepidation’, ‘Calamitous’.

This is a spirited, exciting and heart-warming story that is sure to be enjoyed by young readers. And, too, it will be of special interest to anyone who is keen to improve their vocabulary and spelling abilities. 

Friday, 22 July 2016

Friday Barnes: The Plot Thickens

Friday Barnes: The Plot Thickens by RA Spratt (Random House Australia) PB RRP $15.99         ISBN 9780857988832

Reviewed by Dianne Bates

Australian author RA Spratt made her name for her bestselling Nanny Piggins series: she has since gone on to present a new series about a girl detective Friday Barnes, who, having solved a bank robbery, uses the reward money to send herself to the most exclusive boarding school in the country, Highcrest Academy.

To read this latest book, it is presumed you have read the previous one for The Plot Thickens is a continuation. The story begins with four pages of ‘Previously in Friday Barnes.’ It introduces Ian whose life Friday has saved, and his father Mr Wainscott who Friday has proven was guilty of bank robbery and insurance fraud. Wainscott was sentenced to gaol but his conviction was over-turned on appeal due to a legal issue. Now he’s at Highcrest to take custody of Ian. There’s a lot to take in before this latest book gets underway.

Before long the reader learns that Friday Barnes is a precocious mini-version of Sherlock Holmes, erudite in the extreme, able to make deductions quickly and accurately based on evidence. Soon she becomes embroiled in the mystery of a missing canvas by the new art teacher, Lysander Brecht, a world famous and very wealthy artist.

There are many incidents such as this which involve Friday, all of which serve to imbue the story with a sense of melodrama. A boy is locked in a storeroom where he eats cheese and looks at nudes in art books. Friday is almost drowned and later assaulted by a whirring ceiling fan. A boy uses a crow to steal golf balls. There are more -- and more --  incidents such as this.

All through the book one finds argumentative and precocious students, and argumentative teachers. Students question their teachers and none of the teachers come across at all favourably. Friday and her best friend, the lazy Melinda, are not endearing characters. They are constantly disrespectful to and challenging of their elders. Friday, for instance, refuses to take instructions from her PE teacher, though she does suffer a punishment as a consequence. She stands up to police officers, too, though they turn out to be imposters.

The Plot Thickens is an incident-packed novel that doesn’t appear to have an over-riding plot. That this is the fifth in the Friday Barnes series indicates that it must have some fans. Suitable for readers 8 to 11 years.

Thursday, 21 July 2016

The Tale of Rescue

The Tale of Rescue by Michael Rosen, illustrated by Stan Fellows (Walker Books) HC RRP $ 19.95
ISBN 9780763671679

Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

Michael J. Rosen is a spectacular storyteller. Without even looking at the illustrations, every movement, every feeling, was set before me with his words.

This is a deeply moving story told in third person, of a cattle dog and how it saved a whole family from dying in the snow. It wasn’t a rescue mission as such. It was a response to a whistle, a return of a herd. The dog did what he was trained to do: he sought out and brought home the lost.

It is also about a boy, who returned years later, to find the dog that saved his family’s life.

In this divine and inspiring tale of loyalty, Angus the dog has a strong sense of self. He knows his role in life and what he was born for, and follows that given. The characteristics he owns -- dedication, adherence to rules, and a certainty that allows no doubt -- can be seen as human behaviour as well.

This is a story of hope and perseverance, which also brings into strong focus, the unique way animals communicate with humans.

The stunning illustrations by Stan Fellows add to the beauty of the whole presentation. Produced in hardcover with an exceptional jacket, apart from its textual worth, it is an ideal gift for lovers of working dogs and dog stories, or others with interest in meaningful stories that go straight to the heart.

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

The Swap

The Swap written by Jan Ormerod, illustrated by Andrew Joyner (Little Hare Books) HB RRP $14.99
ISBN 9781760128760

Reviewed by Liz Ledden

Winner of the CBCA Book of the Year in the Early Childhood category (2014), The Swap has been released in board book format.

Little Caroline Crocodile is jealous of her baby brother and the attention he receives. The more Mama Crocodile gushes over him, the more jealous Caroline becomes. The illustrations build on the text, with Andrew Joyner’s depictions of Caroline cleverly conveying her emotions. When Mama Crocodile heads into the Hat Shop to swap a hat that’s not quite right, Caroline gets an idea. She takes her brother to the Baby Shop, and attempts to swap him for some other animal babies. However, their cute features belie an array of difficult traits, leading Caroline to take another look at her baby brother.

The Swap examines sibling jealousy in a really fun way, with highly engaging characters, and a big dose of humour and mayhem as Caroline interacts with all the potential replacements for her brother. A heart-warming, satisfying conclusion rounds the story off perfectly.

The Swap would make a wonderful gift for a toddler or pre-schooler grappling with the arrival of a sibling. This new format’s sturdy, square-shaped pages are perfect for little hands, allowing the longevity this timeless tale deserves.

Monday, 18 July 2016

Little Why

Little Why written and illustrated by Jonny Lambert (Little Tiger Press) PB RRP $16.99
ISBN 9781848691834

Reviewed by Liz Ledden

Cute baby elephant Little Why struggles to stay in line as he marches along to the watering hole with his elders. He diverts from the path each time he spots a creature he aspires to be like, from the leggy giraffe, to crocodile with its ‘snippy-snappy snazzy snout’. When his request for their features is constantly denied by the older elephant, Little Why asks ‘Why?’ to the reply of ‘Keep in line!’

The images are striking, with the use of white space accentuating the animal characters, which are reminiscent of Eric Carle’s illustrations. Some fun features on each spread include the busy little orange and purple insects, and Little Why’s ever-faithful bird companion – extra layers to examine during repeat reads.

Repetition, alliteration and rhythm result in some lovely language, culminating in a message of self-acceptance. Although, it takes one of the elephant elders to point out Little Why’s unique attributes – it would have perhaps been more powerful if Little Why came to this conclusion himself. Nevertheless, Little Why is a charming and beautifully designed book with a strong, evergreen theme.

Sunday, 17 July 2016

So Wrong Uncensored

So Wrong Uncensored by Michael Wagner illustrated by Wayne Bryant (Billy Goat Books) PB RRP $14.99 ISBN: 9780994251756

Reviewed by Dianne Bates

This book is the first in So Wrong, described by the publisher as ‘a humorous, hyperactive kind of series that targets 10-13 year old reluctant readers’. The series even has an accompanying website,, and book club that hopefully will attract kids who wouldn’t ever normally join a book club.

The first sign that this book is ‘different’ is on the first page with its message, ‘HEY YOO! Wee need to tork.’ It then asks the reader, ‘Isnt it tyme yoo stopped reeding boring books onse and for all?’

The invented spelling continues for some pages with cartoon heads inviting the reader to ‘…gon on… reed it now… youll luv it.’ This is followed by ‘segments’ from the book’s hero, Mitey Mikey, who is supposed to have filmed the following stories.  The first story -- in conventional spelling -- is titled ‘The Nappy’ and of course there is reference to a pooey nappy that at one stage flies through the air aimed at a dad.

As this is said to be a film, there are, of course, a number of (satirical) ads, the first being one for a ‘very private school’ (clothing not necessary). Other stories are titled ‘Soccerhead’, ‘The Veree Hungree Caterpooper’ and ‘Mitey Mikey’s Sampel Lyfe Lesson.’ Throughout the book there are black and white cartoon illustrations, some of which make use of speech balloons.

It’s all very over the top, but in what the publisher describes as ‘a bit naughty but always good-natured.’ As two former reluctant readers themselves, the author and illustrator (both Australian) have created the book (and eventually a series) they wish had existed when they were kids. It would be good to have the opinions of today’s reluctant readers. One imagines they will be attracted to the book, not just for the ‘Uncensored’ label on the front cover and the zany adventures with the frequent plot twists and surprises, but for the one-on-each page lively illustrations.

So Wrong titles are due to roll out every six to nine months; the expected audience is reluctant readers (principally boys) aged 10 to 13 years.

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

When Friendship Followed Me Home

When Friendship Followed Me Home by Paul Griffin (Text Publishing)
RRP $16.99
ISBN 978-192535549-9

Reviewed by Wendy Fitzgerald

Every now and then I read a book that I know I will not forget. When Friendship Followed Me Home is special.

Young Ben Coffin is a foster child. At age 10 he is adopted by a loving mum, Tess- a kind-hearted speech therapist. For the first time Ben feels loved and starts to hope that things will go well for him.

But at school he’s the target for a bully named Rayburn. Ben avoids Rayburn by taking refuge in the library with the kind librarian, Mrs Lorentz. It’s in the library that Ben befriends Mrs Lorentz’s daughter, Hayley (like the comet). And it’s in an alleyway beside the library where Ben finds a small abandoned dog he calls Flip.

Ben and Flip have a strong connection. They embark on a training program to make Flip into an assistance dog. Ben and Hayley start a fabulous reading program called ‘Read to Rufus’ where kids who struggle with reading can read to a trained companion dog- in this case Flip.

There is a beautiful scene on Page 131 where Ben is encouraging a young reluctant reader, Brian, to read to Flip. The interaction between Flip and Brian is precious. I think Flip is the real hero in this story.

I have not heard of a program like this in Australia. Maybe we should try it?

When Friendship Followed Me Home explores some tough issues- abandonment, domestic violence, homelessness, illness, grief, family, friendship, first love, acceptance, loss, pets, imagination and magic.

But all the way there is a wonderful innocence about Ben. In spite of all the terrible things that happen to him and Hayley- I was left with an overwhelming feeling of hope.

I also loved the idea that Ben and Hayley were writing a story together. It is called ‘The Magic Box’ - a time-slip story set in Luna Park in 1905. Often this story mirrors what’s happening in their lives and ties beautifully into the ending.

I like that there are many literary references throughout the book. In particular Griffin refers to ‘Feathers’ by Jacqueline Woodson. I want to read this ‘Feathers’ and I think kids would like to as well.

Paul Griffin is a talented writer. He is a teacher and a devoted helper of at risk and special needs teens. He works with organisations like ‘Behind the Book’ and ‘Literacy for Incarcerated teens’. 

Griffin is the author of several novels for YA – Ten Mile River, Stay with me, Burning Blue and Adrift. Paul lives in Manhattan.

When Friendship Follows Me Home - published in 2016 is Griffin’s first middle-grade novel. His next middle-grade novel, Marty comes out in 2017.

I strongly recommend When Friendship Follows Me Home to kids 11 and older. It will spark terrific discussion with parents and teachers. I loved it.

Monday, 11 July 2016

Little Mouse

Little Mouse written and illustrated by Riikka Jantti (Scribble) HB RRP $17.99 ISBN 9781925321487

Reviewed by Dianne Bates

The first word that came to my mind when I saw this child-sized book  was ‘sweet’. By a much published and translated Finnish author-illustrator, this is the first in a series of books about Little Mouse. With its water-coloured illustrations on every page, it’s about Little Mouse who’s a naughty chap, disobeying Mummy Mouse by refusing to get dressed and then, when the two go out, splashing in a puddle and generally being difficult. (What mum doesn’t know the scenario?)

At the childcare centre, Little Mouse plays with his friends but when it’s time to go home, again he’s a handful. At last, in his stroller, he goes with Mum into the greengrocers. At home he presents a problem when it’s time to get off the computer. He keeps on being naughty until finally he’s in bed. And that’s where the story ends.

This is an ideal book for a parent – mum in particular – to read aloud to her child. No doubt it will provide much scope for discussion. The pictures with their many details during Little Mouse’s day will reward much searching. The fact there is no dad in Little Mouse’s story is well worth discussing, too.

This is a warm and humorous book which is sure to grab the attention of parents and children alike. Recommended for ages 3+ years.

Sunday, 10 July 2016

Daughter of Nomads

Daughter of Nomads by Rosanne Hawke, illustrated by DM Cornish (University of Queensland Press)
PB RRP $16.95
ISBN 978-0-7022-5393-5

Reviewed by Joanne Pummer

Fourteen year old, Jahani lives happily with her mother, Hafeezah, in the village of Sherwan. A trip to the market with her friend Sameela comes to a tragic end when Sameela is killed by a knife wielding assassin. Jahani's life is thrown into turmoil when she learns the knife was meant for her.
Jahani is further confused when Hafeezah tearfully confesses she is not Jahani's birth mother and her real parents live a 'moon's journey' away in the Kingdom of Kaghan, on the way to the Qurraqoram Mountains where she was born.

'You were in danger then and now you are again,' Hafeesah says.

Still in mourning, but excited by the thought of finding her parents Jahani sets out with Hafeezah and their body guard, Azah, to begin a new life in the north.

Despite the hazards of the journey and another attempt on her life, Jahani feels drawn to the north. She realizes her frequent dreams and thoughts of a magical land were really memories of her childhood. Her meeting with her parents isn't how she'd imagined. Her mother is kind, but Jahani is shocked when her father tells her she is to be married, soon, to Muzahid, a War Lord. She accepts that she must obey her father's wishes, until an overheard conversation between her parents reveals she is a daughter of nomads  -  a child they had rescued during a war.

'Who am I, and who can I trust when on one is who they appear to be?' she asks Azah.

Azah knows the secret. 'But it isn't mine to tell,' he tells her.

On the night before the wedding Jahani and Azah escape and flee further north to the land of the nomads. Jahani is determined to learn the truth and fulfil her destiny.

Rosanne Hawke builds a rich and mesmerizing world. Readers won't easily forget the images of Jahani flying with the handsome Azah on his magic carpet, or riding over the plains on her enchanted horse or playing with her charmed snow leopard.

The novel is set in the Moghul Empire, at a time and in a culture with which many readers will be unfamiliar. The publishers, sensibly, include a map of the Moghul Empire tracing Jahina's journey, a list of characters and a glossary.

Saturday, 9 July 2016

The Deep Enders

­The Deep Enders by Dave Reardon (InspireInc - Reardon Media Pty Ltd)
PB RRP: $16.95
ISBN: 1518815138

Reviewed by Ashling Kwok       

Get ready to be taken on the ride of your life in this action-packed adventure that follows the exploits of three outsiders trapped in a wild Australian pearling town as WWII swirls around them.

With his home and family torn apart after the attack on Pearl Harbor, 16-year-old Murph Turner is evacuated to stay with family in the exotic town of Broome on Australia’s far northern coastline.

An outsider in an unfamiliar environment, Murph falls for Micki, a beautiful, mysterious girl on the run from the authorities, and meets Banjo, an Aboriginal scamp with pyrotechnic tendencies and a great sense of humour. All three are running from their past and quickly form a strong bond.

As war clouds gather on the horizon, the trio are propelled into a deadly conspiracy that could shatter their world and destroy everyone they love.
The Deep Enders examines the role of friendship and love in a time of panic and racial injustice. It is a story about the power of friendship and how it can help overcome even the toughest of obstacles.
The cover of this book is enticing and invites readers to enter a world of intrigue and mystery. The pages are packed with dialogue and action that combine to create a gripping tale that will leave readers on the edge of their seats.

The Deep Enders is the first YA novel from well-known journalist and ghost writer Dave Reardon. This talented writer has the ability to create characters that are one can identify with, and situations that produce enough drama and tension to captivate readers and hold their interest until the very end. 

It’s a great read, highly recommended.

Friday, 8 July 2016

Another Night in Mullet Town

Another Night in Mullet Town by Steven Herrick (University of Queensland Press) PB RRP $19.95 IBBN 9780702253959

Reviewed by Dianne Bates

Here is a verse novel from award-winning Australian poet and author, Steven Herrick, which illuminates mateship, family relationships, and navigating life. 

For typical Aussie teenagers, Jonah and Manx, life mainly encompasses fishing (for mullet) at the local Coraki lake, watching -- and joining --school mates party on Friday nights and looking for courage to further develop their relationships with Ella and Rachel. There are other problems, of course, insofar as Jonah’s warring parents are ending their marriage, motherless  Manx has issues, too, and the boys’ lakeside town is about to be sold off to city outsiders for redevelopment. This creates tension in town, especially when someone scrawls graffiti against the Sydney interlopers on the local real estate office owned by newcomers, the Lloyd-Davies.

The story has strong messages which are magnified due to the format of verse with characters and scenes being conveyed in fewer words than that of a conventional novel. Herrick is a master at capturing so much in few words; his writing is crisp and succinct and evocative. There is a strong sense of place in the novel with tight but descriptive language that introduces the creek, the lake, the swamp near Lake Road (site of Manx’s house), the ocean, and the town with its large pensioner population.  Both boys were born in Turon where Jonah’s dad runs the petrol station with its mostly truckie customers and ‘goggle-eyed tourists’ on their way to Balarang Bay.

Herrick’s prose perfectly captures the book’s characters. Here’s a description of Manx as seen through Jonah’s eyes: ‘He walks like a draught-horse pulling a load/his head pushed forward, chin up/and muscular arms hanging by his side./His voice is a few octaves deeper and bass,’ hands the size of boxing gloves,/dark hair sprouting from each of his knuckles.’

In each verse, which has its own sub-title, one aspect of the town or its people, is described. For example, there are the consecutive sections called ‘Vodka Cruisers’ and ‘Broken Glass and Bravado’ where after drinking ‘the night always ends/with broken bottles/piled up on the sand/and all of year ten/wondering who’ll vomit first.’

If you are trying to get a teenager to read – especially a boy – this novel with its terse, and what have been described as ‘iridescent,’ verses, is a great book to encourage him to read. As usual, it’s likely that Another Night in Mullet Town will take out some literary awards.

Thursday, 7 July 2016

The Moonlight Dreamers

The Moonlight Dreamers by Siobhan Curham (Walker Books)
PB RRP $16.99
ISBN 9781406365825

Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

Insightful and gloriously entertaining, this wonderful book is about and the struggle for identity and freedom, celebrating being different, and finding your place in the world.

We meet four teenage girls – Amber, Rose, Sky, and Maali, each wrestling with the feeling that they don’t fit in anywhere. Highly individual, thinkers and dreamers, they are creative and artistic. They long to become who they want to be and find acceptance in that role.

Rose’s mum Savannah, a rich and beautiful model, expects her daughter to follow in her footsteps: Rose dreams of being a patissier.

Maali is shy and self conscious. She loves photography and sees beauty in everything – dead or alive. She just wants to be confident around boys, so she can find her soul mate.

Sky is still grieving for her mum who died five years ago. Life on a houseboat with her dad Liam has been perfect, until he falls for Savannah. Sky dreams of taking part in a poetry slam, but is struggling to overcome her fear of standing up alone on stage.

Amber creates the Moonlight Dreamers society. Her innovative method of finding the right people serves her well. She has two dads, loves vintage clothes, and everything old. She dresses in men’s suits - timepiece included, and is the target of bullying by all the fashionable girls at school. Oscar Wilde’s quotes inspire her and his words later become succour to the group.

Each of the characters in the book faces internal dilemmas. They evolve by discovering strength and abilities they didn’t know they had, and by overcoming prejudices and misunderstandings about one another.

The intertwining personal relationships and family frictions that spice up the background stories are realistically presented and resolved.

Well-crafted, and emotive, the novel addresses teenage angst, and the choices young people are forced to make through their longing to be loved and understood. Perfect for the 15+ age group.

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

No Crystal Stair

Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

Classed as a documentary novel, No Crystal Stair covers the life and work of Lewis Michaux, an intelligent, but headstrong and wilful young man who starts his life with chaos and dreams of claiming an identity of his own. He finds his life’s path through his creation of the National Memorial African Bookstore in Harlem that sells books for black people by black writers. His intention is to educate African Americans about their origins and history, and instil in them a sense of pride and belief in who they are and what they can achieve. He starts with 5 books and ends with over 200,000, many of which are books for children.

The book took years to research and write. It is presented in the first person narrative, drawing on various voices including Lewis’, and many famous people. This perfect approach allows the reader to see more than just a single view of each issue that is addressed.

Lewis’ story begins in 1906. It is set up in 7 sections and covers historical events, and personal milestones in Lewis’ life, up to 1974 when he was forced to relocate the bookshop.

This is a brilliant historical document and reference book that inspires. It reports on the influence Lewis Michaux’s passion for learning and encouraging others to do so, had on many famous black people, including Martin Luther King Jr., and Malcolm X. 

Riveting, detailed information on the historical changes that took place within that time frame, are well researched and presented. Every page is full of honesty and truth. I enjoyed this book greatly and will definitely revisit it time and again. It is ideal for the 12-102 year age group.