Thursday, 24 May 2018

Yay! It’s Library Day by Aleesah Darlison (text), Australian Children (illus.), (Wombat Books) PB RRP $16.99 ISBN: 9781925563238

Reviewed by Julie Murphy for CBCA Reading Time

Yay! It’s a children’s book about the joy of libraries. Aleesah Darlison’s fun rhyming poem follows a brother and sister’s day at the library. They spend the WHOLE day there and, what’s more, they do it every week with their dad. What lucky children!

The poem is essentially a loving dedication to the diversity of books and stories to be found in a library. Whatever you’re into – fun, adventure, romance, discovery and more – reading a book can take you there. In this story, as the children read all sorts of books, they are transported to fantasy worlds and amazing real-world places. Turn the page and you are under the sea. Turn again, and you’re on top of a volcano. There are also lots of interesting characters to meet, including prima ballerinas and tuxedo-clad elephants.

What really sets this picture book apart, however, are the illustrations. Each is by a different Australian child. This was the result of a call-out by the Wombat Books team in the form of an illustration challenge. This competition invited all young artists to illustrate a page of their choice from Darlison’s text, which was accessible via the Wombat Books website. What a great initiative!

Rather than the wide range of illustration styles making the book appear disjointed, it succeeds in portraying and highlighting the diversity of the books described in the text.

Yay! It’s Library Day is a great book for encouraging a love of language, art, books, stories and libraries in young readers.

Tuesday, 22 May 2018

Spy within a Ruby

Spy within a Ruby by Stefan A. Nicholson (Envirosupport) PB RRP $18
ISBN 978-0-9804604-9-0

Reviewed by Stacey Gladman

Spy within a Ruby is the perfect book for those who love a little crime and mystery in their life.

The story centres around the Mayfair Mews hotel, where 16 year-old Eric lives with his parents who run the hotel. Eric and his childhood sweetheart Ruby - who unfortunately for him, hates him, as she hates life in general - get recruited by MI6 operative James Batholomew Watt, AKA Roger Davis, to perform a secret mission.

Living within the Mayfair Mews Hotel, Eric is a prime candidate to gain access to hotel guests - specifically two - who happen to be Russian and Chinese spies who are negotiating to buy classified defence from the Cigar Club.

He decides to enlist Eric to help keep an eye on the guests after deciding any of his fellow operatives would be uncovered in their espionage attempts. The agreement starts of well, with Davis questioning his decision to ask two teenagers for help in a situation of national intelligence. “All I am asking is that you note the time of day these people come and go…but only if you happen to notice…note no deliberate spying on them…and maybe if you can tell me who picked them up…or a car registration. Absolutely no more than that! Do I make myself clear?”

Unfortunately, the warning could have been too late for Ruby, who is shortly after abducted as a bargaining chip of sorts against Davis. Surprisingly, it’s the very people that the pair are spying on in the first place who attempt to come to Ruby’s rescue, but the questions is, will they make it in time to save Ruby?

From exploding boats, to suspense and international secrets, Spy within a Ruby has it all. I would recommend for those who like to think about their stories and try and predict the plot.

Tuesday, 15 May 2018

Cinnamon Stevens Ghost Light

Cinnamon Stevens Ghost Light by Pauline Hosking illustrated by Kat Chadwick
(Lilly Pilly Publishing) PB RRP $16.95
ISBN 978-0-646-98111-6

Reviewed by Stacey Gladman

Cinnamon Stevens Ghost Light is the second book by Pauline Hosking introducing young detective Cinnamon and her two best friends Cossy and Meera.

The three young girls attend school together in Mount Dandenong. The story follows a number of directions which all end in a ghostly connection with a once great actress Adelaide Glendenning from Walhalla.

Cossy, a young actress gains a role in a performance of Macbeth which begins the story and the links with Adelaide, when she thinks she sees the ghostly apparition of Adelaide in the theatre.

A change of school excursion to the home and resting place of Adelaide sees Cinnamon’s thirst for figuring out crime surface when classmate Snowy is attacked while on a nighttime - walk through the cemetery.

A second mystery emerges as ghosts continue to be seen at the theatre where Cossy’s play will be performed and then things take a turn for the more dramatic when damage to sets and costumes. The girls attempt to get to the bottom of the situation, but it appears both mysteries could be linked.

Will Cinnamon find out who attacked Snowy, or will the mystery go unsolved? Will Cossy get her big break on the stage? They were questions which kept me reading, I guess you will have to read the book to find out for yourself.

I loved the themes of friendship and determination to find the truth from the three protagonists that really shone through in this story. Faced with a mystery, they showed strength and courage - traits to be admired by young readers.

There were also more serious themes to the book which I felt were introduced and dealt with quite well - including racism against Meera who is half Indian descent and bullying. The girls stuck together as friends and found a way to help Meera overcome the difficulties she faced at school.

The writing style through out is relatable to the intended reader age of nine and above and was an easy read that draws in the reader. The pictures, which were drawn in a  style which made you feel like you were reading a young girls diary really helped add to the scene and I think would add to the appeal for the intended age group as well.

Saturday, 12 May 2018

The Adventures of Jellybean by Bill Condon and Dianne Bates (UQP)
PB RRP $14.95
ISBN 978070226000
Reviewed by Liz Ledden

The Adventures of Jellybean is a junior fiction novel about two great friends, Rory and Trang, united in a quest for the ultimate sounding pet – a goat.

All things goat features quite heavily throughout. Jellybean’s story effortlessly weaves in interesting facts about goats, potentially fuelling young readers desires for a pet goat of their own! After much preparation and anticipation from the boys, Jellybean arrives, but she causes a little more trouble than they imagined. However, with the comfort of Bitsa the dog and a whole lot of love, Jellybean’s story is a heartwarming one.

In addition, the friendship between Rory and Trang is truly endearing. Contrasts between their families and backgrounds (sausages on the barbeque at Rory’s versus Trang’s grandma’s pho) offers a wonderful depiction of multicultural Australia and the joy of embracing other’s differences. There are a several ups and downs within the friendship; however it’s strong enough to overcome any perceived slights – a realistic depiction of friendship dynamics for the primary school set. The inclusion of four-year-old Luna, Rory’s little sister, adds a lovable young female character to the cast, and as in real life, the young characters interact not only with their peers, but family members and neighbours of all ages.

This would make a wonderful book for newly emerged readers to tackle; those just moving beyond shorter chapter books, perhaps aged six to eight. The story has a classic, innocent type feel likely to not date the book in a few years’ time.

Saturday, 5 May 2018

Cloud Conductor

Cloud Conductor by Kellie Byrnes, illustrated by Ann-Marie Finn (Wombat Books) HB RRP $24.99
ISBN: 978-1925563344

Reviewed by Lucinda Gifford

Suitable for children aged 4 to 7 years, this picture book by debut author Kellie Byrnes uses poetic language, and soft, collaged illustrations to sing the joys of daydreaming. Cloud Conductor reminds us that imagination can take us anywhere, especially if our bodies need to rest.

Frankie is an active, lively girl who loves to be outside and, in quieter moments, to sit and contemplate the clouds. When a long illness restricts her to her room, watching the moving, changing skies out her window allows Frankie's imagination to wander, gives her hope, and shows her a way to connect with others.

This sensitive story will inspire young imaginations, and could be a useful tool for teaching children the beauty of being in the moment, and taking time to observe nature.

Thursday, 3 May 2018

Sam’s Surfboard Showdown

Sam’s Surfboard Showdown by Allayne L. Webster (text), Amanda S. Clarke (illus.), Scholastic Australia PP RRP $12.99
ISBN 9781742991894

Reviewed by Heather Gallagher

This easy-to-read chapter book focuses on a sporting competition; a relatable topic for middle primary students. Protagonist Sam Sumner is the best at most things at Robe Primary School – he’s the best cricketer, the best Nippers kid, the best mathematician and (according to his own assessment) one of the best-looking boys. But when new kid Finn Hester comes to town, Sam finds himself challenged on all these fronts. When a Nippers competition is announced with the winner receiving a surfboard signed by the legendary Mick Fanning, Sam becomes obsessed with beating Finn and winning.

The book is co-written by step-sisters Webster and Clarke and is part of Scholastic’s program of diversity in literature, featuring Indigenous creators and characters in contemporary Australian stories. Clarke, an Aboriginal artist, has created an attractive beach-themed dot painting cover complemented by decorative chapter headings and dinkuses throughout the book.

Aboriginal culture is backgrounded in the story with Sam’s Dad employed by the local council, working to protect the land and honour the original landowners, the Boandik people. I particularly liked all the aunts and uncles who appeared to cheer Sam on in the big race. The sub-plot about Sam and Finn’s mothers indulging in a little competitive baking was a lot of fun too – would’ve liked to have been one of the kid tasters!

I was curious to see how this tale would resolve given Sam’s desperation to win takes up most of the story. Without giving away the plot, the ending is both surprising and satisfying. Having had sporty children in the target age group, I know this idea of winning and losing in competitive sport can be a huge issue. (It’s not easy to forget the heartbreak that followed the third consecutive grand final loss for my daughters under 11s basketball team!) It’s great to see a story that shows you can grow and change and that winning isn’t everything.

The post Sam’s Surfboard Showdown appeared first on Reading Time.

Monday, 30 April 2018

The Dream Bird

The Dream Bird by Aleesah Darlison, illustrated by Emma Middleton (Wombat Books) HB RRP $19.99
ISBN 978192556337
Reviewed by Dianne Bates

Ask any parent and they’ll tell you they’ve spent many hours reading bed-time stories to their small children. Mother of four, Australian author Aleesah Darlison, has written this beautifully illustrated picture book for both parent and child. It’s about toddler George who is active at day but when time comes for sleep, he’s wide awake. His sister and brother, Mum and Dad, offer solutions to falling sleep, but nothing works. Perhaps Gran can help?

When Gran finds George in her room crying, she promises she has ‘just the thing that will help.’  Subsequently, with her small grandson tucked into her bed, Gran tells him the story of the dream bird ‘as tall as a flamingo and as graceful as a butterfly’ which sings children ‘to sleep, giving them the happiest dreams possible.’ Of course, the story works and George slips into ‘the happiest dream he’d ever had.’

This is a simple story, well told, which is a good one to read to children resisting or unable to sleep. The illustrations are detailed and lavished, but the only flaw it would seem is that most of them are painted – in a magical realism style – using great swathes of pink. As this is a story of a boy, it seems odd to use a colour normally associated with girls – or do young boys not worry about ‘pink’ books?

Saturday, 28 April 2018

Busy Izzy and Talkative Tess

Busy Izzy and Talkative Tess by Roxanne Kiely, illustrated by Jeesoo Kim (Busy Ink Publishing) PB ISBN 9780994551016

Reviewed by Dianne Bates

Children across the globe enjoy songs, music and games, as well as rhythm and rhyme, which is why the CEO of the World Literacy Foundation says he highly recommends the books in the Busy Izzy series for children. 

The illustrated book suitable for readers 5 to 8 years starts with the words, ‘Do you have a friend who talks a lot?/Natters and chatters and doesn’t stop?’ Busy Izzy, the book’s protagonist, has such a friend who not only talks fast, but also last, sounding like one of those people who we say can talk under water. Tess is present while Izzy and her friends are working in the garden, but she ruins the activity with a series of accidents and her constant chatter.

Happily, Izzy patiently explains to Tess about taking her turn when in company and Tessa accepts she’s hogged the limelight: she apologises, and Izzy and her friends are better able to enjoy their friend. The group write stories which they share and then sing a song about friendship.

The Izzy series is aimed at creating and developing friendships among children. On the back page of this book is a list of ingredients for friendship, which includes patience, kindness, understanding, fun, listening and more. Without doubt, Busy Izzy and Talkative Tess manages to cover all the bases of friendship. The story is told in rhyming verse which would suit reading aloud, and the story could easily be adapted to theatre with young readers acting out the parts of Izzy, Tess, and their group of friends.

Not only is there a book, but there’s also a CD with well-known Australian actor Bec Hewett featured as the voice of talkative Tess. All songs have been written by the author and Stephen Kiely.

A percentage of the proceeds from the sale of Busy Izzy books is donated to the World Literacy Foundation. You can find more about the books and related materials on and on Facebook, YouTube and the Busy Izzy app.

Tuesday, 10 April 2018

Pepsi the Problem Puppy

Pepsi the Problem Puppy by Sandi Parsons, illustrated by Aska (Faraway Nearby Ink) PB RRP $12.99
ISBN 9780987615701

Reviewed by Brook Tayla

Every child wants one!
Every parent thinks twice!
                     .......and then somehow, in one way or another they arrive!

This book is all about the ‘settling-in’ phase and how that is viewed very differently by each member of the family.

Rosie is the protagonist who has long wished for a puppy. Her little brother Jacob always seems to say the wrong thing – especially when Mum’s around. Dad is the parent who finally gives in and finds the puppy, although his research wasn’t so good.
Mum is the reluctant parent who is nit impressed with all the upset and happenings that Pepsi the dog is causing. Granny can see the funny side of everything Pepsi does and it is ultimately because of her that the dog gets to stay.

Children will laugh at the funny scenarios presented in this early independent reader novel.

The author has a real dog called Pepsi with his own web page that you can look up here:

Sunday, 8 April 2018

Message in a Sock

Message in a Sock by Kaye Baillee, illustrated by Narelda Joy (MidnightSun Publishing) HB RRP $27.99 ISBN 9781925227383

Reviewed by Brook Tayla

This very touching and true war story is special. It doesn’t just depict a time in history -- it transports you right there. Unlike most war stories, this story focuses on the women left at home during WW1 and homes in on one aspect of how they supported their men – the soldiers.

Author Kaye Baillie tells the story of a little girl placing messages into the toes of socks that her mother has knitted during a war appeal to assist Australian soldiers serving in France. She includes other features in her story, including a poetic ‘Knitter’s Song’ that encapsulates the whole premise of this tale and the words of the original letter that sparked this book into being. Her story is underpinned by excellent historical research that makes this tale even more touching.

Narelda Joy’s collage illustrations perfectly compliment not only the story but the era of war. The colours and materials used have very vintage muted tones in hues of brown, green and blue. Another interesting aspect is that all the people in this story, including the child protagonist, Tammy, are always looking down, but the soldier looks you straight in the eye – a very open for interpretation move on the part of the illustrator.

This beautiful book and its unusual perspective will be treasured for not only it’s uniqueness but also for it’s truthful historical interpretation.
I feel very special to have known about this book for quite a long time. Kaye Baillee told me about it on the first day I met her, and I have been anticipating it’s release since 2016! Congratulations Kaye – it was worth the wait!

There is a very special Book Launch happening for ‘Message in a Sock’ for those who would like to attend on Anzac Day, 25th April, 2pm – 3pm at The National Wool Museum, 26 Moorabool Street, Geelong, Victoria. Here are the details: MidnightSun Publishing together with author Kaye Baillie and illustrator Narelda Joy are proud to launch their picture book, MESSAGE IN A SOCK at the National Wool Museum with FREE ENTRY to the Museum all day.

Join Sue Lawson, writing teacher and young adult author of books including FREEDOM RIDE and PROTEST IN AUSTRALIA as she discusses MESSAGE IN A SOCK with Kaye Baillie and Narelda Joy. Listen to a reading from the book then handle replica World War 1 socks knitted by a talented Red Cross volunteer. Enjoy a hot drink and Anzac biscuit then view the Museum’s sock knitting machines and the collection displaying the full story of wool.  National Wool Museum volunteers will demonstrate ‘casting on’ and signed copies of MESSAGE IN A SOCK will be available for purchase.

Brook Tayla writes a picture book review blog at and would love you to drop by, read some reviews, leave a comment and subscribe.  Brook also offers editing services for beginning and emerging writers.

Thursday, 5 April 2018

Parmesan the Reluctant Racehorse

Parmesan the Reluctant Racehorse by Jacqui Halpin, illustrated by John Phillips (Little Pink Dog Books) HB RRP $24.95 ISBN 9780994626929

Reviewed by Stacey Gladman

In life there are adversities and challenges around every corner, the real challenge is how we deal with them. Parmesan, the Reluctant Racehorse introduces the reader to a racehorse, with a rather unique problem. 

Parmesan is a racehorse, or is he? As far as Parmesan is concerned he very well could be a dog, and since birth he has done everything like a dog, from stretching like a dog to even fetching like a dog.

Unfortunately for Parmesan, he is not a dog and with champion heritage parents, his owner expects big things for him on the race track. One day Parmesan's owner came to visit him at the stables expecting to see a champion racehorse in training, but what he finds is a horse who thinks he is a dog. 
His owner threatens to sell Parmesan if he is not race-ready, which is upsetting for his trainer, Joe. Joe tries and tried to remind Parmesan he is a horse, but nothing is working. From tying a carrot to a stick in front of him, Joe tries everything until inspiration strikes: what if he makes the race like a game of fetch, which Parmesan adores? 
It seems that dogs can be champion racehorse; well at least for Parmesan they can. For the first time in his life, Parmesan feels like a racehorse. "He ran like a horse. He won like a horse. He even fetched like" While racehorses might not be well known for their fetching skills, Parmesan shows that you can be more than what's expected of you and to test boundaries. 

Parmesan, the Reluctant Racehorse is a charming story of testing boundaries and embracing your differences, no matter what your quirkiness may be. I loved the use of humour in the story, and it was a subject matter slightly different that I think will appeal to younger children.

The picture book is beautifully illustrated with colourful imagery that grabs the attention of readers both young and old alike. 

Sunday, 1 April 2018

Ready. Set. Discover Logan

Ready. Set. Discover Logan by Karen Tyrrell, Illustrated by Aaron Pocock (Digital Future Press) PB RRP $18
ISBN 9780994302199

Reviewed by Wendy Haynes

Follow Yana as she discovers The City of Logan. This is a light-hearted picture book telling the story of Yana who has moved from her country and surrounding she knows so well, to a new country, Australia. Yana feels alone, everything is different, but with the help of Bunji, a local Indigenous boy Yana is taken on a tour of discovery. This tour highlights the many meeting places in The City of Logan, South of Queensland, bringing with it a better understanding of the rich Nature Reserves and cultural experiences available within the community. 

The essence of this book is about community, and the underlying message is one of friendship, acceptance, and merging of cultures. This story is aligned with Harmony Day, sponsored by The Logan City Council and winner of Art Queensland Grant.
It also recognises the First People of Australia and invites readers, particularly newcomers, to discover a new land, a new home, to enable them the feeling of belonging. Among other places, Yana explores Logan City Library, Riverdale Park, and Chung Tian Temple.

 Karen Tyrrell has created an avenue to help children adjust to what can be a difficult time, while Aaron Pocock has enhanced the story with a palette of inviting colours and delightful illustrations that would suit 6 – 8 year olds.

Wednesday, 21 March 2018

In the Dark

In the Dark by Carole Poustie (Celapene Press) PB RRP $16.95
ISBN 9781925572001

Reviewed by Kylie Buckley

Ish is a thirteen year old boy who spends his summer holidays with his mum and sister at his gran’s house ‘up near the Murray [his] favourite place in the world’. He and his older sister, Molly, have also planned to spend a week of their holidays with their father, who moved to Sydney after separating from their mother.

Ish’s plan of fishing every day on the Murray, with his dog Lucky, comes to an abrupt end shortly after arriving. He and his sister become grounded, after a careless accident, and must spend most of their days at the house. Soon after being grounded Ish finds himself in hot water again when he enters his gran’s forbidden old cellar and comes across a letter. The letter is not addressed to him, however, he chooses to open it and the contents immediately changes his world.

It seems that their parent’s separation has put a strain on everyone’s relationship. Molly is rude and disrespectful and has trouble relating to anyone. Ish is resentful towards his dad for moving away. The children’s mother and their gran also have trouble connecting at times. Will time with their father in Sydney help smooth things out? Or will the letter Ish found change relationships forever?

In the Dark is a middle fiction novel suited to those who like drama and suspense. It has themes of family, friendship, loss and dishonesty. The story is written in the first person by Ish, a nickname given to him at birth. Throughout the story Ish writes poetry, a passion he shared with his late grandfather. Not only does he use it as a way of expressing himself but it is also a way of keeping a beautiful connection to his grandfather. In the Dark is Carole’s second novel for children.

Saturday, 17 March 2018

Mackenzie Tanaya and the Faerie Key: An Epic Adventure for children

Mackenzie Tanaya and the Faerie Key: An Epic Adventure for children written and illustrated by Josh Reid (Fernhill Clockwork Story Factory) PB RRP $5.99

This is a slim (34 pp) book which is the first in a serial novel for readers aged 7 to 9 years. As the author says, Charles Dickens first published The Old Curiosity Shop as a weekly publication until all episodes were complete. Reid hopes to do the same thing, hoping that the finished novel manuscript will be taken by a publisher. As he progresses towards publication, he also hopes for readers to provide him with feedback.

The book starts with a double page spread of the five characters who appear in Episode #1; they are the hero, Mackenzie Tanaya, her Nanny and Poppy, Chess the family dog and best friend Annie who lives over the road. In the first chapter ‘Every Story has a Beginning’ we read that before this story begins, Lilith, the Dungbeetle Queen, is the Destroyer of Worlds. She has almost destroyed the world of Faerie. ‘Only the power of the Silver Tree saved them in those days, by locking the doors, and forging a golden key.’ Now, however, Faeries is once again in grave danger…

After the prologue, the story shifts to Fairy Meadow school which is where the reader meets school girl and protagonist Mackenzie and her BFF Annie, both aged ten. At home, where her grandparents live while Mum and Dad are at work, Mackenzie decides to explore her back garden with Chess. While there, she is knocked into shrubs when a chook flies at her. This is no ordinary part of the garden: it has a magic path. From it, she slides downwards. And this is where the first book in the series ends.

Reid has spent all this episode introducing the characters and setting of the story so there is very little action until right at the end. Now that Mackenzie is in an alien place, one assumes that the next book will be action-packed. Episode #2 is titled Cold, Wet, Muddy and Miserable. This book and the third are already published and can be obtained from

The illustrations in the book are all paintings in thick, mostly primary colours. The picture of the chook attacking Mackenzie towards the end of the book is particularly effective.

Thursday, 15 March 2018


Missing by Sue Whiting (Walker Books Australia) PB RRP $17.99
ISBN 781760650032

Reviewed by Liz Ledden

‘In the dead of the night we run away.’ From the very beginning of new middle grade mystery Missing by Sue Whiting, we’re drawn into 12-year-old Mackenzie’s plight. Her bat biologist mother is missing – last seen on a field trip in Panama. And now, Mackenzie and her father are boarding a plane to try and find her.

The clever structure of this story sees each chapter veering between ‘Now’ and ‘Then’ as Mackenzie puts together the pieces of what may have happened. Mackenzie’s inner journey is one of denial and determination as she clings to the idea that her mother might still may be alive.

The writing is tight and compelling, with a strong and relatable voice in Mackenzie. The real places in the story, from the southern Sydney suburbs to the streets of Panama, are vividly brought to life. As you hurtle towards the end of the story (and yes, this is a book you’ll want to devour in one go), the tension and emotions intensify until the stunning final scene.

Based on the startling statistic that nearly 38,000 people are reported missing each year in Australia, Missing is a heartbreaking yet hope-filled exploration of the ones left behind.

Sunday, 4 March 2018

How to Get Your Screen-Loving Kids to Read Books for Pleasure

How to Get Your Screen-Loving Kids to Read Books for Pleasure by Kaye Newton (Linland Press, January 2018) RRP $12.36 for paperback, $7.99 for eBook. ISBN - 978-0692986370

Reviewed by Dianne Bates

This guide includes lists of books that hook children on reading, advice on managing book time vs screen time, and tips on how to make the required reading for school more enjoyable. It is targeted at parents, grandparents, librarians, teachers, and anyone who wants to promote reading to children. The reader’s motivation for writing the book began when her own children were eleven and fourteen: neither of them read books for pleasure although they had been avid readers when younger. Both, along with their friends, preferred to spend their free time playing Xbox Live, texting and skimming social-media sites.

Of course, the answer is obvious: give them books rather than electronic gadgets and insist on reading. However, in today’s world that’s not how it works. Thus it was that Newton, an American mom, set out to lead her screen-loving children back to reading for pleasure.

Her book is divided into two parts: Part One is understanding reading motivations and challenges while Part Two is titled ‘Carrying out a reading challenge.’ Newton explores subjects such as understanding the types of readers and promoting reading, introducing reading for pleasure and finding the right book that will hook a teenager. She examines reading rewards and whether they work, making reader ‘the most interesting activity in the room’ and more. Early in the piece she states that reading experience changes for teens when they are required to meet testing standards and to read informational texts and textbooks. To substantiate these claims, she quotes figures that show that 53% of nine-year-olds versus 17% of 17-year-olds are daily readers.

To hook readers, Newton, following the Kids and Family Reading Report that ‘nearly three-quarters of both books and girls say they would read more if they could find more books they like’. Thus, she says, ‘finding the right book is key to getting an adolescent hooked on reading.’ Probably the most important chapter in her book is devoted to listing books for interests and age groups. For instance, for teens wanting to read and escape and experience exciting worlds, she would recommend books such as The Hunger Games, The Maze Runner, Maximum Ride, or Harry Potter. There are many books listed with brief synopses given of each book.

Doubtless Newton managed to finally get her teens hooked on to reading using her various methods. For any parent (or teacher) keen to increase reading activity, this book has many ideas which they might like to implement.

Saturday, 3 March 2018

Quark’s Academy

Quark’s Academy by Catherine Pelosi (Lothian)

PB RRP $15.99

IBSN 9780734417800

Reviewed by Kate Simpson

“No parents, pets or soft toys allowed.” Quark’s Academy is the story of three young science whizz kids, Augustine, Celeste and Oscar, who are invited to spend a week at the prestigious Quark’s Academy to compete in the Best Invention Competition and win a prize of unspecified riches. But as the week progresses, it becomes clear that the academy is not what it seems and more is at stake than the offered prize money. It’s a sparkling and delightful debut from Catherine Pelosi, bursting with imagination and adventure.

Quark’s Academy is to science and invention what Willie Wonka’s chocolate factory is to candy-making. It’s packed full of fun, futuristic and sometimes downright outlandish inventions like jet packs, weather makers and an invention to combine the DNA of different animal species: fancy a lion mixed with an antelope? An anaconda crossed with an elephant? Anything is possible at Quark’s Academy.

With strong male and female protagonists, this book will appeal to both boys and girls aged 8 and up with a taste for fun and adventure. And if they weren’t science fans before they read the book, they will be afterwards.  

Monday, 19 February 2018

Shout Out to The Girls: A Celebration of Awesome Australian Women

Shout Out to The Girls: A Celebration of Awesome Australian Women (Penguin Random House). HB RRP $29.99   ISBN 9780143789420

Reviewed by Dianne Bates

If, as Australians, we want role models for our girls to become amazing women, and our boys to respect and honour women, it is incumbent upon us to share the kinds of stories found in this recently published book.

Fifteen women employed by the publisher have written biographies of 50 incredible Australian women, some (like Mary MacKillop, Nancy Wake and Ita Buttrose) who are nationally known, and others (Sia, Aheda Zanetti and Alice Anderson) who are lesser known.  An early, fully-qualified mechanic, Anderson (1897 – 1926), for example, was founder of the Women’s Automobile Club, and opened her own business, Kew Garage, where she employed an all-female staff of mechanics and apprentices.

The women featured in this book are by no means all Anglo (such as motivationalist Turia Pitt, comedian and disability activist Stella Young, artist Nora Heyson); there are, for example, a number of aboriginal women, such as film-maker Rachel Perkins, Sudanese-born mechanical engineer, author and activist Yassmin Abdel-Magied, third generation Chinese Kylie Kwong and author Melina Marchetta of Italian heritage, and many others. Tribute is even paid to transgender Jordan Raskopoulos, an internationally acclaimed comedian.

The chosen women’s sphere of influence is wide-ranging, embracing for instance, fields such as human rights, politics, car racing, social work, film and theatre production and much more. Quite a few women are advocates (including for women’s health, aboriginal rights, brain cancer, the environment, the arts).

Thanks to this book, for the first time this aged feminist reviewer came upon the stories of Felicity Wishart, Ella Havelka, Dharmic Mistry and Daisy Pearce. One of the featured women has won four Academy Awards (Catherine Martin), has led Australia (Julia Gillard), been honoured as Australian of the Year (burns surgeon Fiona Wood), represented Australia internationally (Paralympian skier Jess Gallaher). There’s even young Jade Hemeister (2001 --) who’s explored the Artic!

Each of the one-page biographies is colourfully illustrated by 34 talented women artists, giving art students a great reference for a variety of portraiture.

The women in Shout Out for the Girls must surely show both sexes that women can and do succeed in whatever industry they decide to enter. Highly recommended.