Monday, 31 October 2016

Molly & Mae

Molly & Mae written by Danny Parker, illustrated by Freya Blackwood (Little Hare Books) HB RRP $24.99
ISBN 9781742975276

Reviewed by Liz Ledden

Off the back of their recent collaboration, Perfect, comes another beautiful picture book from Danny Parker and Freya Blackwood. Molly & Mae is a tale of a friendship that unfolds over the course of a train journey.

Molly and Mae first meet on a train platform, where they giggle, play and delight in each other’s company. They continue to bond on a beautiful spread that chronicles a timetable of events (8.45 Sherbet, 9.05 Secrets), cementing their friendship as the ‘forever’ kind.

On board the train, we see their friendship deepen, then boredom sets in. Eventually, things go wrong. The clever use of train signage in the illustrations helps to chart their journey. For example, when Molly and Mae identify each other’s faults, there’s a ‘Signal Failure’ sign in the background. The sign pointing to a ‘Bridge’ indicates a resolution.

The text reflects the emotional ups and downs of any relationship – ‘There were hills and valleys and bends and straight runs, bridges and tunnels’. Molly and Mae’s journey is highly relatable, and offers a reflection on navigating differences, resolving problems, accepting others and strengthening bonds. Blackwood’s signature illustration style is perfectly suited to the story, with its muted pastels and expressive portrayals of the characters.


Sunday, 30 October 2016

Grover, Benji and Nanna Jean

Grover, Benji and Nanna Jean (Grover McBane Rescue Dog #3) by Claire Garth, illustrated by Johannes Leak, Piccolo Nero, 128pp,  PB RRP $ 12.99 ISBN 978 1 863958325 $12.99

Reviewed by Allison Paterson

Grover, Benji and Nanna Jean is the third delightful instalment in the Grover McBane Rescue Dog series. Based on the real-life experience of the author, the series delves into the life of rescue dog Grover and shares both his troubles and joys.

Previously, Grover has found a new and delightful home with rescue centre worker, Annie, who provides relief from Grover’s previous life with The Man With Big Boots. Grover is soon helping other dogs as they arrive at the centre. He loves his new job meeting new friends and helping them overcome their problems.  Lurking on his porch though, is the nasty neighbourhood cat, Mr Tibbles. When Grover needs to help the blind and deaf rescue dog Benji to adjust to his new life, Mr Tibbles sets Grover a big challenge!

Told in the voice of the animals and expressing their thoughts and feelings, this series is ideal for animal lovers. We delve into the conversations of the animal friends, allowing young readers to discover that they may also experience those same emotions in their own lives. We also gently come to understand the special relationship that exists between pets and their owners and significantly, that our animal friends need responsible care, understanding and respect.

The illustrations add a delightful dimension to the tale and further endear the pets and their stories to the reader. The language is accessible and formatted for those developing independence in their reading. The important role that animal shelters and vets have in our community is also highlighted and it is lovely to see that a percentage of sales goes to the Sydney Dogs’ and Cats’ Home.



Saturday, 29 October 2016

The Everything Princess Book

The Everything Princess Book by Barbara Beery, Brooke Jorden, Michele Robbins, David Miles. Illustrations by Rebecca Sorge (EK Books) HB RRP $29.99 ISBN 978-1- 942934-65-3

Reviewed by Elizabeth Vercoe

Hold onto your puffy sleeves and tiaras – THIS is a Princess book to outshine them all.

With 101 crafts, recipes, stories, decorations and more inside a lush, pink-and-gold embossed hardcover book, this spiral-bound compendium will have your own princess swooning before s/he’s even turned a page. Although unashamedly catering to girls, some little boys – if given the opportunity - will also enjoy this book which fosters empowering values like intelligence, problem solving and inner beauty.

Divided into sections with fairy tales, princess recipes, games, virtues, activities and ‘heaps of charming tips on how to befit your royalty (and handle your fairy godmother),’ there are literally hours of frilly entertainment to be had from within the pages of this book.

The idea and intent are happy, magical and uplifting – however I’m glad that I will not be the parent who needs to interpret some of the recipes (‘cook your cupcakes in little china teacups,’ proclaims one!).  My own personal princess was more into gumboots in her heyday than tulle. Perhaps a Princess Masterchef is in order?

This book will no doubt be shared and enjoyed by princesses and would-be queens, the world over. This is a sure bet choice for a special occasion, or just because. 



Black Sunday

Black Sunday by Evan McHugh (Omnibus Books) PB RRP $16.99
ISBN 978-1-74362-799-0

Reviewed by Jenny Heslop

When Nipper is asked by his teacher to keep a diary he thinks it is a waste of time. But what emerges over the period during which he records his life is an evocative (fictional) account of the twelve month period between June 1937 and 1938 as Australia emerges from the Depression and thunderclouds of World War II appear on the horizon.

Nipper has no intention of continuing school after he turns thirteen. All he wants to do is follow in his Grandpa Jack’s footsteps and become a life saver. Living in Bondi and secretly training to achieve his goal, the beach and ocean are his whole world.

Gradually, over the year, he begins to understand more about Grandpa Jack, about himself and about the world around him. And then one hot Sunday in 1938, a day which was to become the infamous Black Sunday, he gains insight into the nature of true heroism and whether he has it inside of him.

When a novel is written in diary form you get to be right inside the head of the main character. While this gives an immediate intimacy, you also need to feel a connection or empathy with them for it to work and hold interest. Black Sunday did this incredibly well. Nipper was real for me, even though he grew up in a world very different to me.

And this world rang true. The language, attitudes and way of life were all authentic to the setting of Australia and Bondi of the early 1930s. Other characters in the book came to life too. Nipper’s family, particularly Grandpa Jack, Nipper’s childhood friend Damo and his new friend Rachel (from a Jewish family who newly immigrated from Germany), teacher Mrs Kearsley and Arthur, an elusive aboriginal man who the three children try to befriend.
The writing was in keeping with Nipper’s voice and contained wonderful descriptions of the sea, Nipper’s greatest interest.
‘The surf today was all confused. It was a bi grey and windy, and the waves were coming from about three different directions at once, all choppy and changey.’

Some days, the surf or the weather were all that Nipper wrote about in his diary, other days there were small or larger events for him to record. I loved his descriptions of the promenading on the pier which families took part in on Sunday evenings in the summer.

Black Sunday is story about a normal boy going about his daily life in the 1930s, but in capturing a snippet of Nippers life, this book also captures a slice of Australian history (and not just the history of the live saving movement) in an evocative, readable and very accessible way.

This is a thoroughly entertaining book in the My Australian Story series which will be enjoyed by boys and girls alike from the age of ten years.


Thursday, 27 October 2016

The Creation

The Creation written and illustrated by David Miles (EK Books) HB RRP $14.99   ISBN 978-1-939629-55-5

Reviewed by Elizabeth Vercoe

If you like your Creation stories with ‘lift and look’ foam flaps, then this tiny offering may be just the ticket.

The Creation is a colourful foam board book which manages to distil into 10 simple pages what religious folk have grappled with for thousands of years – the first seven days of earth’s creation, as represented by the Christian bible.

Kudos to author and illustrator David Miles. The book is quite delightful, with interestingly shaped panel pieces to ‘pop out’ using tiny fingers (and only tiny fingers will do the job well, as I found out the hard way with my big fat damage-y ones!).

‘The creation took seven days, but your child will love this book forever.’

A bold claim which may or not have its basis in truth – however it is certain that the colour and simplicity of the book will appeal to small people.
If you are open to the authority of the biblical voice, then this is a delightful go-to book for sharing with a cuddle, or for quietly exploring alone.


Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Noah’s Ark

Noah’s Ark written and illustrated by David Miles (EK Books) HB RRP $14.99 ISBN 978-1-939629-56-2

Reviewed by Elizabeth Vercoe

This ‘lift and look’ small, foam story book tells the biblical Noah’s Ark story in 10 simple pages. As a narrative, it is necessarily sparse. However the book itself is colourful with a substantial ‘feel factor’ which satisfies one of the fundamental requirements of the board book.

Lift off ‘panels’ which require a tiny finger to be poked into a tiny hole in order to extricate one foam picture in order to reveal another, are a lovely idea. 

Overall, the book lives up to the description of being a whimsical and fun rendering of the famous story. The pictures are engaging, happy and endearing.

Whilst I might question the use of ‘friendly’ to describe the broader story (spoiler alert – the original  involves a lot of drownings) – this particular short narrative DOES give a lovely and warm focus on only the happy parts of the Noah’s Ark story.

The surprise reveal of each hidden image brings great delight, and this is indeed a perfect quiet book or interactive experience for your child. 



Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Ants ‘N’ Uncles

Ants ‘N’ Uncles written and illustrated by Clay Rice (EK Books) HB RRP $24.99 ISBN 978-1-942934-68-4

Reviewed by Elizabeth Vercoe

A 32-page hardcover picture book, Ants N Uncles will delight children of all ages, as well as adults who still have access to the child inside. With illustrations by internationally-recognised silhouette artist Clay Rice, the book pays homage to and faithfully utilises this distinctive illustration style.
Silhouette artistry and storytelling have been in the author’s family for eighty years. Clay’s grandfather, Carew Rice, travelled worldwide sharing his mesmerising cut-outs with delighted customers.

‘What happens when Uncle steps on an ant hill? The ants in his pants make him dance, of course, and his dancing skills become famous around the world…”

The rhyming, silly story with unique cut-outs combines to create a book with a very individualistic style and sensibility. Many of the illustrations have an ‘other worldly’ feel to them which is part of their charm. They are perhaps more of an acquired taste than their cartoon or computer-generated counterparts, but these silhouette images are interesting and pave the way for questions, curiosity and a deeper reader experience.

Both the text and illustrations offer a great deal to pore over and ponder. 
There is no doubt that this book has the potential to spark many conversations, particularly when shared between generations. 


Monday, 24 October 2016

Swarm: Zeroes 2

Swarm: Zeroes 2 by Scott Westerfeld, Margo Lanagan and Deborah Biancotti (Allen & Unwin) PB RRP $19.99
ISBN 9781925267242

Reviewed by Daniela Andrews

They are not heroes, but Zeroes – teenagers born in the year 2000, each with a special power. Swarm is the second novel in this exciting young adult trilogy. It is also the code name for a terrifying, super-powered teen intent on finding and killing other Zeroes.

Trying to put the ‘Summer of Suck’ behind them, the Zeroes have opened up an illegal nightclub together. Cleverly named the ‘Petri Dish’, it’s essentially a training arena where they can practise their powers. But their actions in the first novel didn’t go unnoticed. Two new Zeroes are in town, flaunting their sinister superpowers with little regard for civilians (‘dolls’). It turns out they are fleeing another Zero, an evil killer who will ‘chew up anyone who’s got a power’ … and they’ve deliberately diverted his attention to the club owners. Bullied as a child, Swarm is angry. His power can turn an ordinary crowd of people into a mob of zombies who will violently rip apart a victim at his will. He wants to kill every Zero bar one, whom he wants to join forces with instead.

Swarm is written by the same trio of authors who wrote Zeroes: Scott Westerfeld, (bestselling author of the Leviathan trilogies), Margo Lanagan (winner of four World Fantasy Awards), and Deborah Biancotti (Aurealis-shortlisted author).

The sequel has a far more supernatural feel than the first novel. In Zeroes, their major enemies were people. In Swarm, their enemy has a superpower. The prequel spent a lot of time exploring the characters and their powers, without moving far from the action. Swarm successfully does the same. Much has changed for the characters since the previous summer and their mental states are not ignored. (Kelsie, for example, is mourning her father and suffering from a post-traumatic stress disorder.) The connection between the two novels is strong and, as a result, the characters have grown. Their powers have grown also … the sequel allows them to explore the darker sides of their powers, how to invert their powers, and how to ‘level up’. It will be interesting to see where the authors take the story in the next book!





Sunday, 23 October 2016

One Minute till Bedtime

One Minute till Bedtime edited by Ken Nesbitt illustrated by Christoph Niemann’s (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers) HB RRP US$14.99 AU $39.99
ISBN 9780316341219

Reviewed by Dianne Bates

This is a 176 page substantial compilation of new poems for children by over 130 poets including Americans Jane Yolen, Jack Prelutsky, Jon Scieszka, Mary Ann Hoberman, and Lemony Snicket. It is compiled by former US Children’s Poet Laureate Nesbitt, himself a frequent contributor, and consists of “60-second” poems designed to send children ‘off to sleep.’
Presented with over 140 new poems by many of today’s most prominent children’s poets including Australians such as Edel Wignell, Meredith Costain, Janeen Brian and Mark Carthew, readers are treated to lyric nighttime reflections on topics as disparate as relationships with favorite pets or grandparents, beloved “toasty, warm jammies,” post-dinner activities, and reflections on the moon. There is also plenty of nonsense verse sure to inspire wild dreaming “on the road to morning.” These pithy poetic observations and New York Times illustrator and award-winning artist Christoph Niemann’s engaging and witty illustrations present a collection for the average child -- poems are mostly simple and entertaining rather than challenging or educational. The target market for readers is children aged 5 to 9 years.
Here are links to the book on IndieBound, B&N, and Amazon:   http://www.indiebound.org/book/9780316341219   http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/one-minute-till-bedtime-kenn-nesbitt/1123210580   https://www.amazon.com/One-Minute-till-Bedtime-60-Second/dp/0316341215/

Saturday, 22 October 2016

Here Comes Trouble

Here Comes Trouble by Dianne Bates (Dragon Tales Publishing) PB RRP $14.95 ISBN: 9780992523961

Reviewed by Jade Harmer

In Here Comes Trouble, Dianne Bates draws from her real-life experiences as a foster carer to share the plight of nine-year old protagonist, Sam.
All but written off as a trouble-maker by adults and peers alike, the future for Sam looks bleak. He battles loneliness, boredom, sometimes even hunger, all the while yearning for the love and affection of his parents who are busy fighting their own all-consuming battle, drug addiction.

Sam and his siblings stumble through life from day-to-day, and despite Sam’s best intentions, he more often than not finds himself in situations that live up to his ‘trouble-maker’ image. A chance meeting with foster carers who live nearby ultimately leads Sam and his siblings to the understanding and unconditional love they deserve.

This story is a pleasure to read, tackling tough and confronting issues in a sensitive, caring way. Bates never judges Sam or his family, but builds empathy for their situation and gives insight into the enormous impact the simplest acts of kindness can have on a child’s future.

A new-found sense of belonging and self-worth means the world for Sam, and allows those around him to discover just how much he has to offer in return.

Suitable reading for children aged eight years and up and a valuable read for adults.


Friday, 21 October 2016

All of Us Together

All of Us Together by Bill Condon (About Kids Books) PB RRP $14.99
ISBN: 978-0-9946428-0-6

Reviewed by Jenny Mounfield

About Kids Books couldn’t have chosen a better story—or author—for its debut. All of Us Together is an emotional and informative time-travelling treat to 1930s Australia, as seen through the eyes of young Daniel O’Casey.

It is the time of the Great Depression and Daniel’s dad is out of work. While this may mean little more than the absence of a few extra treats to today’s kids, for those living in distant times it could literally mean the difference between life and death. When Daniel’s father leaves home on his bicycle to look for work, Daniel can’t even imagine that he will never see his beloved father again.

Life for the O’Casey’s becomes increasingly harder (despite Daniel’s misguided efforts to make a few shillings to help out). With family worries distracting him at school, it isn’t long before he feels the sting of Brother James’ cane; but nothing can dim his optimism and zeal for life for very long.

Life for Daniel and his sisters couldn’t be more different to the technological time of plenty that kids enjoy today. However, some things never change, and it is these core elements that readers will connect with: fear of losing a loved one, the importance of family and friendship, bullying, and backyard cricket to name a few.

Bill Condon has a rare ability to infuse characters with authenticity and vitality, which makes everything he writes impossible to put down. While initially I wasn’t particularly interested in reading a story about the Great Depression, I quickly became invested in Daniel’s family—so much so that I keep catching myself wondering how they’re getting on, as though they’re all out there somewhere. I defy anyone to tell me that isn’t magic.

Jenny Mounfield is the author of four novels, and several short stories for children. She lives in Brisbane with her husband, daughter, and a psychotic Jack Russell-cross named, Leo.


Thursday, 20 October 2016

The Sisters Saint-Claire

The Sisters Saint-Claire written by Carlie Gibson, illustrated by Tamsin Ainslie (Allen & Unwin)  HB RRP $19.99
ISBN 9781760291563

Reviewed by Daniela Andrews

Do you know that unspoken rule about never doing your grocery shopping while you’re hungry? I suggest you apply the same such rule to the reading of this book! Tamsin Ainslie has created a mouth-watering gastronomical feast for the eyes with her delicate, pastel-coloured illustrations of pies, cheeses, baguettes, croissants and crepes. She and first-time author Carlie Gibson bring a French market place to life in this classical tale of a little mouse with big ambitions.

Cecile Saint-Claire’s four big sisters think she’s too small to go to Sunday market with them, but her parents believe she is ready. Each sister has her own interest in the market – Hattie wants to buy cheese, Violet wants to buy fruit, Beatrice wants to buy croissant ingredients and Minette wants to buy butter. Cecile, however, wants to sell her divine gourmet pies. Ladies and gentlemice visit her stall but are not willing to buy pies baked by someone so young. Fortunately, Cecile’s luck changes when a royal visitor comes to the market and samples some of her fare.

This empowering story for readers aged 4–8 years delivers a wonderful message that ‘great things can come from the smallest of us’. Readers will enjoy the author’s gentle rhymes, peppered with mouse humour (of course)!

‘I’ve baked yummy pies, I’m sure I can sell …’
Who could say no to this madam-mouselle?

The hardcover book itself looks rather delicious and would make a lovely gift. It is styled a bit like a quaint little French recipe book, with colourful berries decorating both the front cover and endpapers. (Tamsin Ainslie has illustrated recipe books before, so I’m not surprised!) The title and names of the author and illustrator are gently embossed on the front cover.

Oh and if you do dare read this while you’re hungry, don’t worry – there’s a délicieux recipe for a Croque Monsier included at the back!




Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Ottoline and the Purple Fox by Chris Riddell (Pan Macmillan Australia)
RRP $19.95 ISBN 978-1-4472-7792-7

Reviewed by Ramona Davey

The moment I saw this book I could not help myself but to touch its beautiful hardback cover and turn it over to study the ornately gold decorated spine. It is a beautiful book to look at and hold.

Ottoline and the Purple Fox is the fourth book in the series about a young girl Ottoline and her companion, the strange hairy Mr Munroe. Together they have adventures as Ottoline’s parents travel the world seeking to find interesting objects to add to their ever-growing collection.

In this book Ottoline organises a dinner party. Guests get an unusual invitation that tells them what to wear. The reader gets one, too. This is a great idea. The book is full of ways to encourage the reader to interact with the story. Labels are scattered throughout the pages.  And the games played at the party are the type that the reader could try out with his or her own friends, for example:
Truth or Stair: Tell a true story or climb the stairs
Or
Pillow Island Hopping: Jump from pillow to pillow without touching the floor.

The book is heavily illustrated and there is so much to see, so many tiny details to stop and look at in Chris Riddells’s intricate drawings. The illustrations are in very thin black pen with the odd splash of purple. There are menus to browse, lists to check, poems to ponder and Ottoline’s notes to read.

There are lots of references to Chris Riddell’s other books within the illustrations so the reader can check out his other stories.


The book is a great fast read and can be read in one sitting. It is ideal for 8-10 year olds.

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

I Broke my Trunk

I Broke my Trunk by Mo Willems (Walker Books)  PB RRP $11.99 ISBN 9781406373592

Reviewed by Ashling Kwok

Laugh out loud with this hilarious book from Mo Willems. I Broke My Trunk is another installment in the incredibly popular Gerald and Piggie series, which first appeared almost 20 years ago.

The book begins with Gerald the elephant wearing a bandage on his trunk. Piggie asks his friend how he hurt his trunk so Gerald tells Piggie the long, crazy story about how the accident occurred.

By the time Gerald gets to the end of the story, Piggie is so excited that he runs off to share Gerald’s story with his other friends but as expected, things don’t go to plan.

Gerald and Piggie books are written in conversational style with Piggie's words in pink letter bubbles and Gerald's in grey bubbles, which makes the books enjoyable and easy to read.

The series is perfect for young readers aged 3-8, as each story has an entertaining theme and fabulous illustrations that children will love. The rhythm of the story is well paced and will encourage children to read along.

I Broke my Trunk was created by the incredibly talented writer and illustrator Mo Willems, a three-time Caldecott Honor winner. His celebrated Elephant & Piggie series has been awarded the Theodor Seuss Geisel Medal on two occasions as well as three Honors.

I Broke my Trunk is an incredibly funny book that will have readers in fits of laughter. It is a fun story to share at bedtime and will become a bedtime favourite.



Monday, 17 October 2016

An Artist’s Alphabet

An Artist’s Alphabet by Norman Messenger (Walker Books) HB RRP $29.99 ISBN 9781406346763

Reviewed by Ashling Kwok

An Artist’s Alphabet is an exquisite alphabet book that will delight anyone who appreciates beautiful works of art. Flick through the pages and watch ordinary letters of the alphabet transform into incredible artworks that will take your breath away.

This intriguing book is overflowing with beautifully crafted images drawing on such themes and styles as botanical, woodblock, watercolour, mythology, classical and modern.

Go a visual journey and watch capital ‘A’ become an acrobat standing atop a horse. There’s a colony of beetles attached to the leaves they’ve munched, creating a big and small letter B. And two kingly beasts that create the letter K.

An Artist’s Alphabet was created by Norman Messenger, an established artist who gave us The Land of Never Believe and the wonderful Imagine. Just like his previous works, this book will have readers glued to every page as they study the stunning detail in each surreal image.

An Artist’s Alphabet is for readers of all ages. It is the perfect gift for art lovers and book collectors, and will make a fantastic coffee table book. It is unique and breathtaking, and a visual feast for the eyes.

A captivating book and highly recommended.






Sunday, 16 October 2016

Brobot

Brobot by James Foley (Fremantle Press) PB RRP $14.99
ISBN 9781925163919

Reviewed by Teena Raffa-Mulligan

Award-winning illustrator James Foley has produced a reader pleaser with his latest release, a junior fiction graphic novel with maximum appeal for children in middle to upper primary.

Brobot is about a girl who believes she can build a better brother than the one she has. Joe is messy, smelly and impossible to control. Sally Tinker, who has the trophy to prove she’s the world’s foremost inventor under 12, eliminates these imperfections in Brobot, which is ‘just as a brother should be’.

The amazing Brobot cleans up messes, fixes broken machines, is never smelly, sticky or wet and as an added bonus has a built-in cupcake machine. Best of all, Sally can control her robot’s every move with the Brobo-remote.

But when the control gets broken and Brobot is out of control Sally reconsiders the merits of young Joe.

Foley’s own inventiveness comes to the fore in Brobot, which lives up to its promise as ‘a hilarious graphic novel for young readers’. He has cast appealing characters in a quirky tale that will resonate with kids who have sometimes frustrating younger siblings.

The level of humour in the drawings is right for the target age group and the comic-style format will draw in young readers who might be reluctant to read a standard novel.


Saturday, 15 October 2016

Goldenhand

Goldenhand by Garth Nix (Allen & Unwin) PB RRP $24.99
ISBN 9781741758634

Reviewed by Daniela Andrews

Sound the bells (…erm, not the Abhorsen’s) because the highly anticipated fifth novel in the Old Kingdom series is here! Once again, it is Charter Magic versus Free Magic in the flawlessly detailed and intriguing fantasy world created by Garth Nix.

The novel begins in the Sixth Precinct of Death, where Sabriel and Lirael are seeking Chlorr of the Mask. Lirael has a replacement hand, crafted by Sameth and imbued with charter spells that give it a golden glow. We meet a new character, the brave and mysterious Ferin, relentlessly chased by a host of Free Magic creatures that do not want her to deliver an important message to the Clayr (or, specifically, Lirael). Lirael is unaware of the situation and has gone south of the wall to respond to Nicholas Sayre’s request for help in investigating a magical creature. There is much suspense in the novel about where Nick’s allegiance now lies, given he has a fragment of Orannis (Free Magic) inside him.

The chapters in the novel alternate from Ferin’s story, to Lirael’s, until the message is delivered. After that, the stories merge into one. The action pinnacles at the Ninth Precinct of Death and the simultaneous battle at Greenwash Bridge, in a spellbinding mission to destroy Chlorr of the Mask.

There is much personal growth in the character of Lirael, especially when she returns ‘home’ to the Clayr. Being the Abhorsen-in-waiting improves their level of respect for her, but it doesn’t shield her from her memories of past insecurities. It is wonderful to see the way she works through her awkwardness and embraces her new role, especially in the absence of Sabriel. She also realises – and acts upon – her feelings for Nick.

Garth Nix has a lovely, succinct way of recounting the past and explaining principles of magic without really breaking from the story or drama at hand. Because of this, he is able to retain the attention of familiar readers, and draw in those completely new to the Old Kingdom. He has once again delivered an alluring, magical story for young adults!

Readers who feel sad upon its completion will delight in the new, exclusive Old Kingdom short story included at the back, along with a great interview with the author.



Friday, 14 October 2016

Pandamonia

Pandamonia by Chris Owen, illustrated by Chris Nixon (Fremantle Press) HB RRP $24.99
ISBN 9781925163339

Reviewed by Teena Raffa-Mulligan

One grumpy panda sets off a frenzy of wild partying at the zoo in this fun-filled picture book that is sure to become a family favourite.

There’s a light-hearted playfulness in both text and illustrations that will bring lots of smiles to story time.

The constant reminder not to wake the panda during the zoo visit is a page-turner and there are sure to be some breathless ‘uh ohs’ from young listeners when the final line of this rollicking tale is revealed.

The book is spot on for its target market of children up to eight years of age.
Adults too can’t help but be charmed by the chaotic cavorting of a lively menagerie, as hopping hippos, giggling geckos and jabbering jabirus set off a domino effect that leads to pandemonium.

Owen, whose first book My Superhero was shortlisted for a Western Australian Premier’s Book Award in 2014, has an excellent sense of rhyme and rhythm and makes good use of alliteration.
When the crocodile snaps, the lion will roar!
The bison and buffalo bellow for more.
A frenzy of animals flocks to the floor
and that’s when you know there is trouble in store.

His text is beautifully complemented by Nixon’s distinctive illustrations with their strong focus on pattern and shape.

While younger readers will enjoy sharing Pandamonia with a parent, grandparent or carer, the book would also have a place in the early primary classroom and teacher notes are available from the publisher.   



Thursday, 13 October 2016

Muesli on my Brother’s Head

Muesli on my Brother’s Head by Harriet Cuming, illustrated by Kathryn Green (Little Steps Publishing) HB RRP $24.95
ISBN 9781925117829

Reviewed by Dianne Bates

In this picture book told in rhyming verse, a masked and caped boy about ten is involved in a series of escapades where mess is involved. There’s ‘mashed sweet potato on the bed’ and ‘honey in my granny’s shoe.’ The boy is responsible for putting ‘Daddy’s ipad up a tree’ and ‘Mummy’s keys in her tea.’ In any household the boy would be a plain nuisance – even messing with Aunty Lou Lou’s pants and covering Uncle Joey’s red canoe with ‘some icky glue,’ but despite admitting to ‘being bad’, the boy is not punished. After promising to obey, he's allowed ‘to stay’ but in the final picture, accidentally spills a tray of cream.

It’s not clear what the point of the overall story is, as except for the accident, all other misdemeanors are wilful. Why would a child be so nasty to his family? And especially why would he not pay for the consequences of his actions? 

The illustrations, in watercolour, are child-like and not particularly appealing. The book is suitable for readers aged 5 to 7 years.


This is the second self-published book by the Australian author of Where Do Teachers Go at Night?

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Pixel Raiders #1: Dig World

Pixel Raiders #1: Dig World by Bajo & Hex, illustrated by Chris Kennett (Scholastic Australia) PB RRP $9.99
ISBN 978-1-76015-925-2

Reviewed by Jenny Heslop

When Rip and Mei discover they are trapped inside a new virtual reality game, they realise they will have to work together to win each level if they ever want to get back to their own reality. In the computer game world they are made of pixels and need to make shelter, grow food and ward off enemy attacks in order to survive.

Combining text and illustrations with fast intense chapters and gaming speak, Dig World achieves the feel of being inside a computer game which will greatly appeal to the many young readers who understand and appreciate the intricacies of game play.

Adventure, danger, good versus evil and the high stakes of survival are all integral to the plot. Written by well-known games reviewers Bajo and Hex from the ABC TV show, Good Games, Pixel Raider is bound to be a popular new series among young gamers between the ages of 8 and 12 years.