Thursday, 24 October 2019

Explore Your World: Weird, Wild, Amazing!

Explore Your World: Weird, Wild, Amazing! by Tim Flannery, illus by Sam Caldwell (Hardie Grant Egmont)

Reviewed by Dianne Bates

This first book for children from renowned author and environmentalist Professor Tim Flannery, explore the world’s weirdest and most fascinating animals in all their bizarre glory. It asks questions such as Are zombie jellyfish real? What’s it like to wrestle a python? Which animals eat poop? (And more importantly, WHY?!).

Bursting with extraordinary facts, packed with vibrant illustrations and guided by one of the world’s greatest living scientists, this deep dive into the natural world will enthral and enlighten readers.

The 250-page book is also a fantastic introduction to the concepts of conservation and evolution for children.

Wednesday, 23 October 2019


Antarctica by Moira Court (Fremantle Press) HB RRP $24.99 ISBN 9781925815757

Reviewed by Nikki M Heath

Antarctica is a mysterious place with a wealth of unusual animals, and Moira Court brings ten of them to the page in this striking book. From orcas and two different types of seal, to blackfin icefish and ‘shrimpish, pinkish’ krill, this nature information book offers a few surprises.

Each spread incorporates counting, colours and descriptions of the creatures and their behaviours, making for a multi-dimensional experience with much to explore. The language is vibrant and incorporates sophisticated vocabulary which will be a stretch for younger readers (and even some older ones). The main spreads are followed by four pages of quirky facts about Antarctica and the featured animals.

Court’s hand-made, layered illustrations are striking, using bold yet natural colours and geometric shapes. The creatures are rendered with surprising depth of character, joyous breaching whales contrasting with trudging penguins and beady-eyed squid.

With so much going on, this book will keep readers coming back repeatedly. While the publisher nominates an age range of 3 to 5 years, the book would also be a valuable classroom resource for junior primary students.

Tuesday, 22 October 2019

Bluey (Penguin Random House) HB RRP $14.99. Bluey: The Beach ISBN9781760894054 Bluey: Fruit Bat ISBN 9781760894047. Bluey: Time to Play Sticker Activity Book ISBN9781760894030

Reviewed by Dianne Bates

Airing on ABC KIDS in October 2018, the Bluey books have taken the coveted position of being the most watched program ever on ABC iView, with over 100 million plays. It has also topped the Australian iTunes Kids Chart with the series peaking at #1 and consistently remaining in the Top 5. Thus, it’s no wonder that the powers to be have decided to capitalise on its success and thus published a book series.

Bluey: The Beach is about a family’s day out together in a lift-the-flap board book. While Mum is walking along the beach, Bluey (a blue cartoon dog) discovers a beautiful shell. She runs to show Mum and has a series of encounters – such as confronting an army of crabs and an old sandcastle -- that both excite and test her.

Bluey: Fruit Bat starts with Bluey not wanting to go to bed. She wishes she was a fruit bat so when she goes to bed that night, she dreams adventures as one. This time the Bluey book is a glow-in-the-dark board book.

Bluey: Time to Play! is a sticker activity book perfect for engaging little Bluey Fans. The first page shows the Heeler family in their Brisbane front yard. Another page shows all of Bluey’s friends such as Muffin and Socks, and Mackenzie. Surely young children and their parents will have hours of fun with all the activities in this paperback book.

Bluey has been praised for its realistic yet joyous portrayal of modern Australian parenting.

Saturday, 19 October 2019

Total Quack Up! Again

Total Quack Up! Again edited by Sally Rippin and Adrian Beck, illustrated by Jules Faber (Puffin Books) PB RRP $14.99 ISBN 9781760893583

Reviewed by Dianne Bates

In this anthology of short stories for children aged 8 years and older, are contributions by some of Australia’s best-known children’s authors. They include AL Tait, Michael Wagner and Tim Harris. Also included is 9-year-old Coby Sanchez’s story, ‘The Duck Pond’, which, except for its poor ending, is as good, if not better, than other stories by the adults in the book.

In the book’s Foreword, Rippin and Beck say they have ‘found the funniest 12 authors in the whole world and asked them to write the most ridiculously hilarious short story they could possibly manage.’ No doubt most children will enjoy – perhaps even laugh at – stories which focus on farting, bad breath and retelling of old jokes. But overall the stories are mundane and more amusing than humorous.

The typeface in the book is large to make for easier reading, and there are numerous black and white cartoon illustrations by Jules Faber who has also contributed a story.

All royalties from the sale of the book go to the Dymock’s Children’s Charities.

Friday, 18 October 2019

You Can Change the World

You Can Change the World by Lucy Bell, (Pantera Press), 2019, Hb, RRP  $29.99 ISBN: 9781925700527 (hardcover) ISBN 9781925700725 (ebook)

Reviewed by Pauline Hosking

In a world where many kids are becoming overwhelmed by fear of the future, here’s a practical guide to help them feel they can make a difference. You Can Change the World is attractively produced and comprehensively researched. It is crammed with ways to aid the planet, offering alternatives to our throw-away society. Chapters cover: Plastic, Ethical and Environmentally Friendly Clothing, Waste, Food, Energy, Electricity and Water, Animal Activism. A section on Gardening and the Outdoors features practical advice on how to make compost and attract butterflies and bees.

Each chapter includes a real-life story about a Changemaker, someone who has seen a problem and taken steps to fix it. They are all children, many Australians, aged from seven years up, whose stories rightly deserve to be celebrated. Twelve year old Molly Steer has campaigned to stop her Queensland government using single-use plastic straws. Ten year old Fin Vicars from New South Wales is passionate about renewable energy and science. Greta Thunberg is not mentioned. Perhaps she came to prominence while this book was in production.

The last section, titled 'An Act of Kindness', is a call for young readers to take positive action to help someone and the planet. Lucy Bell writes ‘The ideas in this book are just the beginning of your journey to help the world and save our planet. It’s now up to you.’

What a pity more world leaders hadn’t read something like this when they were growing up.

The final pages include social media contacts for the Changemakers and helpful organisations, stores and charities.

Highly recommended for school, library and home bookshelves.

Thursday, 17 October 2019

The Man in the Water

The Man in the Water by David Burton (UQP) PB RRP $19.95 ISBN 9780702262524

Reviewed by Dianne Bates

When sixteen-year-old Shaun finds a body floating in the lake of a quiet mining town in outback Queensland, he immediately reports it to the police. But when he returns to the site with the constable, the body is gone. This is the beginning of this novel for readers aged ten years and older which is a gripping mystery from popular #LoveOzYA author David Burton.

While the adults brush off the death, Shaun and his mate Will are forced to open their own investigation. Their adventures take them all around town in their race to find justice for the Man on the Lake.

The protagonist, Shaun, is just an average kid who dreams big: he wants to solve the crime (as well as wanting others to believe he found the body that’s gone missing), make his mum proud and capture the attentions of Megan who’s stolen his heart. Most of all, Shaun dreams about being a hero despite self-doubt which is reminiscent of the uncertainty of youth. When he finally gets some answers, Shaun discovers that life is not always so black and white.

The novel deals with the themes of friendship, isolation and the struggle of living in a small mining town. There are also themes of suicide, grief & depression, but these are handled delicately and, in an age-appropriate way.

This novel, with numerous amusing scenes and spot-on dialogue, is likely to be appreciated by YA readers who like crime solving.

Wednesday, 16 October 2019

Summer Time

Summer Time by Hilary Bell, illustrated by Antonia Pesenti (NewSouth Publishing) RRP HB $24.99
ISBN 9781742236070

Reviewed by Kylie Buckley

If you loved the highly acclaimed picture books, Alphabetical Sydney and Numerical Street, then you’re in luck! The talented duo who created these books have recently been collaborating on a third book. They have once again used rhyming verse and image, but this time to explore everything that the Australian summer brings.

Summer Time is the kind of book that young children and reminiscing adults can easily relate to. Every page will have the reader nodding, smiling or giggling... or all three, as they see their own summer time experiences depicted in the narrative and clever collage illustrations. 

The bright yellow patterned endpapers highlighting a pair of clocks are a great prelude to the ‘time’ theme that also runs throughout book. One ‘time’ related word on each page appears in large bold text, adding another dimension to the story.

Summer Time is a wonderful tribute to the uniquely Australian summer and is highly recommended for children aged 4+ years.