Showing posts with label Big Sky Publishing. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Big Sky Publishing. Show all posts

Saturday, 15 December 2018

Bruno The Boisterous Blue Dog from the Bush

Bruno The Boisterous Blue Dog from the Bush by Robyn Osborne, illustrated by John Phillips (Big Sky Publishing) PB RRP 24.99 ISBN 9781925675504

Reviewed by Claire Stuckey

Bruno is a boisterous blue dog from the bush who shares a very distinct outback lifestyle with Bob. This is a very alliterative tale which celebrates mateship and relies on colloquial language of the Australian bush.

Reminiscent of Footrot Flats books and comics, the illustrations may entice adults to share the title and children to pick up the book. Once introduced in their bush setting, the story continues in the city after Bob wins " a few bucks " on the races and travels around Australia only to realise that "the bush no longer seemed bonzer." After some high living in the city complete with butler, Bruno begins demolishing the apartment so "Bob blew his block " but the pair reconcile after Bob's accidental fall from the balcony. The buddies return to the bush once more somewhere near Bandywallop.   

With so much alliteration I wonder how children will cope with the text, although parents may find the text dated, with teams like ‘bully beef’ and ‘Bonox’. The story requires some intonation to achieve the intended humour so that teachers and librarians may find the book useful to encourage reluctant readers.   

This book is difficult to recommend for a specific age range as it is a picture book with text and concepts suitable for an older reader perhaps 7-10 years.

Tuesday, 25 September 2018

Australia Remembers

Australia Remembers by Allison Paterson (Big Sky Publishing) RRP: Paperback $14.95 Hardback $24.99   ISBN: Paperback 9781925675771 ISBN: Hardback 9781925675788

Reviewed by Anne Helen Donnelly

Australia Remembers begins with an introduction to our country, how we live and how people in other countries may live. It continues to explain, in plain language perfectly pitched for the target age group of 6 to 12, the topics such as conflict, commemoration, ANZAC and document events such as the World Wars and current events that take place in remembrance. Apparently, there are three different types of bugle calls. I didn’t know this even though I had a friend in the army who used to play at every dawn service!

After the initial explanation, the book flows chronologically beginning with World War I and ending with The War on Terror, as well as Peacekeeping efforts. It explains to children why we remember and how, detailing various Australian War Memorials within Australia and abroad. Symbolism is included, such as the wearing of poppies and other national rituals, such as the minute silence on Remembrance Day and the baking of Anzac biscuits.

The layout is spot on, with the right mixture of images and information. The text is not excessive and is presented in different ways such as in thought bubbles, posed as questions and in sections with different coloured backgrounds. The images used keep the reader interested.

Photos, both current and historical, are included, as are maps and little drawings such as lightbulbs and question marks to attract attention to various text. A glossary is included for younger readers and the activities in the last chapter including making cardboard poppies and a recipe for Anzac biscuits, will keep little hands busy and make this book a more interactive experience.

This is exactly the type of non-fiction book I would have loved at age 6 to 12. Informative and interesting with relatable content. I highly recommend it.

Saturday, 22 September 2018

The Forever Kid

The Forever Kid by Elizabeth Mary Cummings, illustrated by Cheri Hughes (Big Sky Publishing) PB RRP $14.99 HB RRP $24.99 ISBN 781925 675382

Reviewed by Nikki M Heath

Grief is a challenging topic for children’s books, especially for the very young. This gentle, warm picture book features a family learning to move on after the loss of the eldest child to illness. The story follows the narrator – a young boy – his two sisters, parents and family dog as they celebrate the birthday of Johnny, their “forever kid”, the brother who is no longer with them. They remember what they shared with him, individually and together, and look at their cherished mementos. They allow themselves both sadness and joy as they grieve and celebrate.

Cummings, who has qualifications in psychology and education, weaves comforting imagery and sensory language with a poignant tone, gradually building towards a realisation of what has happened to Johnny and the family. The fact that his death is never explicitly referenced allows for adults to guide the discussion with younger readers in whatever way they feel is appropriate.

There is also an insightful moment of tension introduced when the narrator confesses his feelings of jealousy about the attention and latitude Johnny received while he was alive, and his guilt in hindsight. I imagine that the book’s acknowledgment of these feelings will give much-needed reassurance to children who have found themselves in a similar position.

The illustrations, by experienced artist Hughes, are perfect for this story. The images of the family are bright and lively, full of expression and colour. The background is rendered in a soft, pastel tie-dye effect, with suggestions of the “cloud stories” the family shared with Johnny, even once he was too ill to do anything else.

This book will be treasured by children who have lost siblings and valued by parents and educators looking for resources dealing with death, whether of a sibling or other loved one. While the publisher nominates an age range of 4 to 8 years, the sensitive yet layered approach should give it broader appeal.

Friday, 21 September 2018

Australia Remembers: Anzac Day, Remembrance Day and War Memorials

Australia Remembers: Anzac Day, Remembrance Day and War Memorials by Allison Paterson (Big Sky Publishing) PB RRP $14.99 HB RRP $24.99 ISBN978 12925675771

Reviewed by Dianne Bates

Primary schools all over Australia are sure to snap up this well-designed and comprehensive large format book. Filled with coloured pictures and photographs (some of them historical), the book takes the reader through the story of conflicts that Australia has been involved in. It shows how our country honours, thanks and remembers those who fought to protect others, or suffered in war and conflicts in the past.

It explains how, from a population of five million, over 416,000 Australians volunteered to serve their country in the AIF. And how more than 60,000 of the volunteers lost their lives. It examines the role of Anzac Day in our country’s history with numerous coloured break-out shapes that look at subjects such as the Western Front and the Middle East, mateship, the Diggers and the Anzac Spirit. It moves on to Anzac Day services, ceremonies and parades, with numerous quotes from serving soldiers and school children about subjects such as why the day is remembered. The reader is shown stories and photographs of the bugle call, dawn services, even the RSL.

A large section of the book is devoted to Remembrance Day (11 November) with details such as when the Armistice was signed, the silence of respect, even the ode of Remembrance and why poppies are important. More than one chapter is devoted to war memorials across Australia, with additional information about the Vietnam War (1962-73), Afghanistan 2001 (ongoing), and another war on terror, Iraq (1990-91) and (2003 – 2009).

At the back of the book there is more to inform the reader, including a map showing locations where Australians serve in conflicts and peace-keeping missions. There are numerous activities included, too, such as how to make a poppy, Anzac biscuits, a wreath and even how to create a war memorial. Like all good non-fiction books there is a glossary, index and bibliography with acknowledgements and a page about the hard-working author who has also written the 2016 ABIA and CBCA-longlisted title Anzac Sons: The Story of Five Brothers on the Western Front.

The book is highly recommended.

Saturday, 8 September 2018

The Forever Kid

The Forever Kid by Elizabeth Mary Cummings, illustrated by Cheri Hughes (Big Sky Publishing) PB RRP $14.99 HB RRP $24.99 ISBN 781925 675382

Reviewed by Dianne Bates

For someone to become ‘forever’, they must remain in people’s memories. This is the case of Johnny, the subject of this picture book for readers aged 4 to 8 years. Johnny is a member of a loving family but sadly he is deceased. When this story starts, it’s Johnny’s birthday and of course he’s no longer around to enjoy it. However, his family celebrates him by continuing his favourite party traditions.

Mum, Dad, sister Pat, little Miley and Barker the dog join with the unnamed narrator to do all those things Johnny enjoyed. This includes playing with cheesy-puffs and playing ‘cloud stories’, lying in the backyard and making up stories about clouds as they once did with Johnny.

Assembled together on this sad and special day, the family recall their times with Johnny such as watching movies, building boat models, eating Mum’s chocolate-chip cookies, computer time and cuddling (especially little Miley).

The book is dedicated by the author to ‘John-Aloysius and all Forever Kids’, so it’s obvious that writing it was a labour of love. Cummings has qualifications in psychology and is a sought-after speaker about child well-being. This book is gently told and is sure to be embraced by families who have lost a loved one.

Thursday, 30 August 2018

Rudi Hooper's Super Pooper-Scooper

Rudi Hooper's Super Pooper-Scooper by Alan Horsfield (Big Sky Publishing)
 PB RRP $12.99   ISBN 978-1-925675-16-0

Reviewed by Stacey Gladman

In the small town of Sandbar there is a big issue, and it's a little bit on the nose - poop. Well dog poop to be exact.

One day Rudi Hooper manages to ride through dog poop and gets in trouble by his mum. The whole encounter sets him on a course to clean up Sandbar, which just happens to be competing in the Tidy Towns scheme.

Taking his problem to council, Rudi soon finds himself appointed as Sandbar's "official doggie droppings ranger" and he sets out to clean the town of its dog poop problem once and for all.

Rudi's brother, Morris, is rather perturbed by the role and soon notices a problem with the idea. While Rudi is cleaning the town, dog owners aren't getting the idea of it being a problem, and instead see Rudi as an answer to their problems and there is soon more poop than before.

Rudi Hooper's Super Pooper-Scooper is an interesting story which involves some key issues for young readers - aged six to 10 years - including civic responsibility and following through on an idea. I particularly enjoyed watching Rudi expand on his ideas on how to best to pick the poop up and using his inventive ideas on how to pick it up easier and faster.

An interesting book with a completely different subject matter which I think will appeal to children and parents alike. The humorous idea, coupled with an easy to read writing style, will help engage young readers and create more than a few laughs along the way.

Sunday, 26 August 2018

The Duke of Hinklewinkle

The Duke of Hinklewinkle by John Phillips (Big Sky Publishing)
 PB RRP $14.99
ISBN 978-1-925675-15-3

Reviewed by Stacey Gladman

There is nothing chicken about The Duke of Hinklewinkle. The story is set in a small seaside town called Hinklewinkle where the main character - Bridget - lives. Bridget spends a lot of time with her Grandpa who breeds show chickens as a hobby, and it's something that the pair enjoy doing together. One day her Grandpa lets Bridget, who has been feeling a lonely, pick out a chicken of her own.

Bridget could have her choice of all the breeds, but in the end it's a bit of a strange looking rooster which she quickly names the Duke of Hinklewinkle. She loves her rooster, and he in turn loves her; it's a real friendship.

Grandpa's cranky old neighbour Mr Borewater also breeds chickens and he makes fun of the Duke of Hinklewinkle. But it's not long before the Duke comes to Mr Borewater's aid, helping to chase off a fox from his prized chickens.

The story is heartwarming and has a number of key themes including acceptance and learning to look beyond superficial appearances. I can see children learning a lot from this story about friendship and not judging a book by its cover.

The illustrations, also by Phillip, completed with a comic book feel, provide another  element to the story and stand out as something different than the norm.

An interesting book with a completely different subject matter which I think will appeal to children and parents alike.

Saturday, 25 August 2018

Cat Spies Mouse

Cat Spies Mouse by Rina Foti and illustrations by Dave Atz (Big Sky Publishing) PB RRP $14.99 ISBN 9781925675344

Reviewed by Stacey Gladman

The struggle between cat and mouse is as old as time. Cat Spies Mouse is a fresh look at the age-old tale. The story can come across as deceptively simple at first glance, but it's the layers within the story where it really shines.

One day Cat meets a mouse and wants to eat him, but the fun really begins when Mouse asks Cat a very important question when Cat says he wants to "gobble you up Mouse" - why? Cat being rather bossy and impatient announces, "Because you're a mouse and I'm a cat and that's that". But should it be? Mouse continues his line of questioning until Dog arrives, and before he can even try and stop him Dog gobbles up Cat.

Mouse unperturbed starts his line of questioning again, this time with Dog who thought it was just the way things are to eat Cat. Dog begins to feel guilty and it's not long before he spits out Cat.

I adored this story and think it has numerous good lessons for children like not accepting the status quo and attempting to make the world a better place through one’s actions, it's also a good reminder that friendship comes in all shapes and forms.

The illustrations were clear and straight forward, and I felt helped add to the storyline. I believe children will really take a liking to the style of this book throughout.

Wednesday, 15 August 2018

Buzz Words Achievers

Cameron Macintosh has had the third book in his children's sci-fi series, Max Booth Future Sleuth, published by Big Sky Publishing. It's called Stamp Safari and is illustrated by Dave Atze. More info at

Saturday, 14 July 2018

To the Moon and Back

To the Moon and Back by Dianne Bates (Big Sky Publishing) PB RRP $14.99
ISBN 978-0-925520-29-3

Reviewed by Stacey Gladman

Dianne Bates’ To the Moon and Back was not what I was expecting - in all the right ways. In the first few chapters I was captivated and very much a part of the story.

To the Moon and Back is aimed at readers aged eight to 12 years that deals with a sensitive subject - parental divorce and its impact on children. In the first two chapters alone I was taken on a ride of emotions and went from thinking how powerful the story was, putting myself in the shoes of young Claire, whose mum is having an affair and ultimately moving in with her lover.

Claire is taken on a roller-coaster ride, moving from her family home to a lodging in Sydney, and just when she is feeling comfortable, another upheaval and she's forced to move into Mum’s boyfriend Mac's house in the country.

Before long Claire begins to make friends, but she longs to be with her Dad who has gone missing. Can she begin to see Mac as a father figure, or will she resent him for taking her Mum away?

I adored the book. Its topic, which I think has been dealt with sensitively, makes it a unique niche read, and certainly something many young readers will understand. The story line is well written, and I could certainly emphasise with Claire which are some hallmarks of a beautiful story.

I think the target market will be enchanted with this heart-warming story, with a number of key themes really standing strong including change, forming new friendships, relationships and parenting struggles.

A beautiful and well-rounded story!

Wednesday, 20 December 2017

Curly Tales: short stories with a twist

Bill Condon (text), Dave Atze (illus.),  Curly Tales: short stories with a twist,  Big Sky Publishing, 1 Sept 2017,  100pp.,  $12.99 (pbk),  ISBN: 9781925520590

Curly Tales includes fourteen very short stories for children eight years plus, ranging in length from a few pages to around twelve pages. Each story features an animal as its central protagonist, and concludes with a twist on a well-known proverb. For example, a story about a famous tv personality who happens to be a pig, and who fatefully changes his life based on the advice of the artist Van Geek, concludes with ‘Beware of Geeks bearing gifts’. The proper proverbs are included at the end of the book, along with an explanation of their meaning.
The characters in the stories are creatures great and small – worms, elephants, gorillas, fleas and more. They find themselves in some crazy situations, often because of their wish to escape the confines of their usual life: Gertrude the worm gets to fly, Wally the wolf plays dress ups and Fifi discovers what is so great about being a flea. Some of the stories don’t end well for the protagonists – they meet their ends eaten by a lion, flushed down a bath plug or set in concrete. For others the outcome is far better, and often they learn valuable life lessons.
Simple line drawings feature regularly, bringing the stories to life with a lot of humour and action. The print is large and broken up by occasional changes of font as well as a front page for each story, so reluctant readers will find it easy to move forward through the text.  The stories themselves often veer into unexpected territory, featuring funny characters and situations that will raise a giggle. It’s a shame that the gender balance is so uneven – nine stories feature male characters, whilst only three have a female at their centre, although these are clever, adventurous females. The remaining two stories feature a wife/husband couple, and the females at least are a masterful chef and a trapeze artist. Overall these are fun stories and would be a great way to introduce the idea of proverbs.
Reviewed by Rachel Le Rossignol

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Max Booth Future Sleuth: Selfie Search

Max Booth Future Sleuth: Selfie Search by Cameron Macintosh, illustrated by Dave Atze (Big Sky Publishing) PB RRP $12.99
ISBN 9781925520880

Reviewed by Kylie Buckley

Max Booth escaped from a ‘Home for Unclaimed Urchins’ a couple of years ago and now lives/hides with his trusty robo-dog Oscar in the storeroom at the Bluggsville City Museum, where his best friend Jessie works.

The year is 2424 and Max assists Jessie by identifying old objects that come to the Museum, and earns himself a little bit of cash in the process. With the help of his beagle-bot Oscar, Max is able to problem solve like a professional. While Oscar’s favourite thing to do is to chase robo-rats he is truly Max’s ‘robotic super assistant’. Who wouldn’t appreciate an assistant who can project images into the air, make good use of their 3D printer, and activate their in-built metal detector whenever the situation calls for it?

Jessie comes across an old object she needs help with and Max’s initial disinterest turns to excitement when he discovers there’s more than meets the eye. They search through the ‘old’ 2017 phone’s photographs to find an abundance of pictures of a man who ‘definitely liked looking at himself’. The photos include one of the man holding a skateboard ‘an ancient one, with actual wheels on the bottom.’  Max and Jessie soon discover this photograph holds the key to a missing piece of Bluggsville’s past and a potential fortune…. and so, their ‘Selfie Search’ adventure begins.

Selfie Search is the second in a series of futuristic, humorous, fun-filled chapter books, suitable for readers 7+ years old. The book is written in the first-person and is set 400+ years into the future. A larger font, plenty of white space and scattered monochrome cartoon drawings target an audience just starting their journey with chapter books.

The future looks bright with the splinternet, zip-coasters, hover-skates and gigapixel cameras and no doubt young readers will be keen to follow more Max Booth adventures. If they haven’t already, readers are encouraged to check out Book 1: Tape Escape and stay tuned for more books in the series.

Saturday, 28 October 2017

Little Witch: Hauntings & Hexes

Little Witch: Hauntings & Hexes by Aleesah Darlison (Big Sky Publishing)
PB RRP $14.99  IBSN 9781925520576

Reviewed by Kate Simpson

Hauntings & Hexes is the second book in Aleesah Darlison’s Little Witch series, following on from Secrets & Spells. While some children may prefer to read the books in order, Hauntings and Hexes also sits well as a stand-alone novel.

Courtney is a novice witch, learning magic in her attic with the help of her late grandmother’s spell book, a talking cat and the occasional whispered message from the spirit world. When she starts high school as the new kid in town, she’s trying to fly under the radar, but the temptation to do just a little bit of magic is too strong to resist. Of course, it doesn’t help when your magic isn’t always completely reliable.

To make matters worse, Courtney’s deceased grandmother had a (well-deserved) reputation in town as a witch, and not everybody was happy about it. Will Courtney have enemies from the outset?

Growing up is all about making mistakes, but when you’re a witch in training, your mistakes can have some pretty serious consequences and Courtney has accidentally unleashed a mischievous spirit on her village. Will she be able to save her new home or could the consequences be more serious?

The Little Witch series, with its themes of magic, friendship and adventure is sure to appeal to the tween crowd, and independent readers aged 8 to 11 will likely make short work of this easy-to-read, 144-page novel. Hopefully Aleesah Darlison will magic up a few more installments in this fun new series. 

Friday, 27 October 2017

Malibu and the Naughty Elf

Malibu and the Naughty Elf by Michelle Worthington, illustrated by Dave Atze (Big Sky Publishing)  PB RRP $14.9   ISBN 9781925520644

Reviewed by Kate Simpson

Malibu and the Naughty Elf is the Christmas-themed follow-on from The Three-Legged Kangaroo from Uluru. In this new instalment, Santa and Mrs Clause have donned their cozzies and come to spend Christmas in Australia with their friend Malibu the kangaroo. The elves and the reindeer are enjoying the fun and sun on Bondi Beach, but one elf isn’t happy. There is nothing that Bobby the elf likes about Christmas and while the other elves are enjoying themselves, he is grouchy, miserable…and naughty. Soon Santa is tearing his hair out and it is up to Malibu to figure out why Bobby is spoiling Christmas for everyone.

Full of surfing Santas, skateboarding reindeer and elves playing in the sand, Malibu and the Naughty Elf sets itself up as a classic Christmas down-under tale and, certainly, there’s plenty to satisfy on that front. The story itself, however, is less about Christmas and more about the struggles of an elf trying to fit in and the unhappiness that comes from pretending to be something you’re not. The illustrations by Dave Atze are bold, colourful and packed with humour, surely a winning combination for any pre-schooler.

With Christmas just around the corner, Malibu and the Naughty Elf is one to consider for the stocking.

Thursday, 26 October 2017

Max Booth: Tape Escape Book 1

Max Booth: Tape Escape by Cameron MacIntosh, illustrated by Dave Atze
(Big Sky Publishing) PB RRP $12.99
ISBN 978-1-925520-60-6

Reviewed by Ann Harth

Tape Escape is Book 1 of the Max Booth Future Sleuth series and introduces 11-year-old Max and Oscar, his robotic dog, in the year 2424. After escaping from the Home for Unclaimed Urchins, Max is constantly on the run from the Unclaimed Urchin Capture Squad. He and Oscar now live in a cosy box in a museum storeroom after being befriended by Jessie, the storeroom supervisor. Jessie often enlists Max to help her solve the mysteries surrounding some of the artefacts she must identify from the 20th century.

In Tape Escape, Max is mystified when presented with a cassette tape from the 1980s. After sneaking into the library and conducting dangerous research, Max devises an ingenious technique of playing the tape and discovers that it contains recorded music from the legendary David Snowie. The tape is worth millions. When it’s stolen by an evil forensic musicologist, Max and Oscar must recover the tape and return it to Jessie and the museum.

Max’s world feels real from the very first page. Readers 8-10 will enjoy the blistering pace, the humour and also the clever, futuristic contraptions that are integrated into the action. The black and white drawings scattered throughout add visual cues that enhance the story and characters.

I highly recommend this book to young readers, as they will be taken on an enjoyable journey into the recent past as well as into the future. They don’t need to have lived in the 80s to enjoy the humour in this book, but it will touch some funny bones in parents and teachers as well. I will definitely look forward to Book 2: Selfie Search.

Cameron MacIntosh  has written more than 80 books for children and edited hundreds more for educational publishers. He has studied Psychology, Italian and Professional Writing. When he’s not wrapped up in the world of books, he sings and plays guitar in his Melbourne home.

Reviewer’s blurb:
Ann Harth is an author, ghostwriter, writing mentor and manuscript assessor. She loves to read and is committed to creating and helping to create children's literature that inspires, entertains and triggers a tiny twist in the mind.

Thursday, 19 October 2017

Cameron Macintosh and his Max Book Future Sleuth Series

Today I’m talking with Cameron Macintosh, author of the recently-released Max Booth Future Sleuth series.

Let’s start with the most obvious question – what’s your new series about?
So far we’ve got two books out in the series: Tape Escape and Selfie Search. They’re both set in the year 2424, and are about a street kid, Max, and his hazardous missions to identify artifacts from the distant past – which just happens to be our present day, or hereabouts. Max makes a very humble living from identifying these objects, but there’s always a greedy adult or two wanting to take advantage of his hard work.

Is there a particular reason you tend to gravitate towards science fiction when you write for children?
Sci-fi isn’t the first genre I lean towards as a reader, but I find speculation about the future to be a really useful inspiration for fun story ideas. It also offers the chance for all kinds of meaningful discussions between kids and parents or teachers – whether it’s about ways technology will evolve, or about how our present-day lifestyles are impacting on the planet’s future.

The Max Booth books are your first leap from educational writing into the world of mainstream trade fiction. How has the experience varied for you?
In terms of writing, there’s a lot more freedom. Educational writing usually involves quite a strict brief, but that’s not necessarily a problem – those parameters are very helpful in guiding a manuscript towards completion. When it’s you who’s setting the parameters, the process can be a lot slower!

The other main difference is at the promotional end of the process. With my educational books, I don’t think I’ve ever been asked to be part of the promotion. If they’re part of a successful series or reading program, it’s generally the reputation of the series that sells them, as much as I’d like to take all the credit! Now, with Max, I’m doing interviews, interacting with blogs and doing a bit of hustle to support the sales. It’s a new world to me, but I’m really enjoying the ride.

What do you think is the biggest trap that people should beware of when writing for children?
Relying too much on inspiration from books you read as a child can be a problem. I constantly have to mentally detach myself from certain key books. It’s really important to keep up with what’s being published and what’s being enjoyed out there in 2017. For me, though, the big one is to avoid writing down to anyone. Kids are incredibly savvy and they know when they’re being patronised.

How do you avoid that?
On a first draft of anything, I just imagine myself in the main character’s place and try to experience his or her main emotions in that situation as honestly as possible. Hopefully by the end of the first draft, the text has an emotional and conceptual integrity that will survive the redrafting process. On the second and third drafts I think more consciously about the age of the reader, and how they’ll interact with the words. It’s then that I make any changes to sentence construction or concepts to bring the text into line.

So how does that work when you write the Max Booth stories?
Fortunately, I find it gets easier the older the central character happens to be. Max is 11, an age I have very vivid memories of being – it’s the cusp of great change and the dawning of a lot more world-awareness, so it doesn’t tend to take too much conscious effort.

What are some of your favourite kids’ books on the market at the moment?
I really love the Tom Gates books by Liz Pichon, and anything by Shaun Tan. Another favourite at the moment is Ickypedia by the Listies (Matt Kelly and Richard Higgins) – a dictionary of disgusting new words. It really is laugh-out-loud funny.

Are they similar to the kinds of books you enjoyed as a child?
There are definitely some parallels in terms of their off-centre humour and slightly odd settings, but I tended to gravitate towards longer books by authors like Roald Dahl, Judy Blume and Paul Jennings. My most beloved book for years was Under Plum Lake by Lionel Davidson, about a child who visits a wondrous civilisation beneath the bottom of the sea. I know a lot of people find it too dark, but I still reread it every few years to try to relive the magic of it.

Is humour important in your own writing?
I always try to get some humour in, especially when dealing with more serious subject matter. Humour is a great door-opener for exploring darker topics – in the case of Max Booth, I tend to use it when Max is dealing with the extreme class snobbery in his future world. I also think that when you’re trying to excite reluctant readers, action is important, but giggles will do even more to keep the pages turning.

Is it hard to judge what a child reader will find funny?
I’m blessed with a very childish sense of humour, which definitely helps! It’s always slightly dangerous trying to judge what anyone else – of any age – will find funny, but as long as I’m getting a giggle from a line or a situation, I’m fairly confident that most of the readers will enjoy it too. It’s really important to keep up with the kinds of humorous books today’s kids are reading, and to seek feedback from the kids in your own family or social circle.

Writing can be a precarious way to make a living: what keeps you going?
It comes down to a very strong belief in the power of stories – the ability of this craft to remind people how intertwined, and how similar, we all really are. Stories have the unique ability to remind us of this without specifically reminding us of it – and to let us walk in other people’s shoes temporarily too. It’s a real privilege to be part of an industry that values these possibilities.

On that note, thanks for the chat, and all the best for the next Max Booth adventure.
Thanks very much. Book 3 is roaring into shape as we speak – only slowed down by overly frequent coffee breaks!

The Max Booth stories are available at or through your local bookshop.

Cameron can be found online at, on Facebook as ‘Cameron Macintosh, author’, and on Twitter @CamMaci99.

Monday, 16 October 2017

Curly Tales: Short Stories with a Twist

Curly Tales: Short Stories with a Twist by Bill Condon, illustrated by Dave Atze (Big Sky Publishing) PB RRP $12.99 ISBN 9781925520590

Reviewed by Sandy Fussell

A wonderful array of crazy, oddball characters fill the pages of this book. Meet Professor Julius Brigg, a brilliant pig with ‘a mind like a steel trap wrapped in bacon’.  Meet Big Charley, a mangy cat, so mean he doesn’t use kitty litter. And Doddie Q Moo, a cow who likes two read signs. “Go back, you are going the wrong way” makes her heart flutter.

Each of the thirteen stories is based on a proverb with a twist such as ‘curiosity chilled/killed the cat’ (poor Big Charley) and ‘every Doddie/everybody makes mistakes’ (you can’t force your family to join a sign reading club). Short explanations of the proverbs are included at the back of the book. The illustrations are as humorous as the text. Imagine an anaconda trying to squeeze an armour-plated armadillo (you can’t squeeze/please everyone) or a father and daughter flea fun day out (the best things in life are flea/free). 

The generous illustrations, large print and use of different fonts will appeal to young, independent readers. This book is humorous and clever, for those who like short stories, a good laugh and lashings of quirky wordplay. It will suit readers aged 6 to 11 years. 

Saturday, 7 October 2017

Curly Tales: Short Stories with a Twist

Curly Tales: Short Stories with a Twist by Bill Condon, illustrated by Dave Atze (Big Sky Publishing) PB RRP 12.99 ISBN 9781925520590

Reviewed by Kate Simpson

Curly Tales: Short Stories with a Twist is a collection of 14 short stories for the early reader crowd by prolific children’s author Bill Condon. Tender-hearted animal lovers beware: things do not always end well for our furry, scaly and squirmy friends in this zany collection. However, kids who like a giggle and dads who aren’t afraid of an outrageous pun are likely to find this right up their alley.

Each story is Condon’s humorous take on a different proverb: ‘curiosity killed the cat’, ‘you can’t please everyone’ and ‘old habits die hard’, among others. In the stories themselves, Condon takes substantial liberties with the proverbs (enter the outrageous puns), but he takes the opportunity to explain the traditional meaning of each at the back of the book – perfect for teachers and parents who love a bit of education mixed in with the kids’ entertainment.

The book is liberally peppered with comic illustrations by Dave Atze, which nicely break up the text to make it less daunting for emerging readers. With the longest story covering 11 large-type pages, and the shortest just four, these curly tales are a great choice for readers aged 6-8 years to cut their teeth on. 

Sunday, 30 July 2017

To The Moon and Back

To The Moon and Back by Dianne Bates (Big Sky Publishing)
PB RRP 14.99
IBSN 9781925520293

Reviewed by Kate Simpson

To The Moon and Back is a touching, often sad, but ultimately heart-warming book about adjusting to parental separation. Eight year-old Claire is caught unawares when her mother suddenly uproots her from all that she has known and whisks her off to a new house, a new life and, for Claire’s mother, a new boyfriend. Each time Claire feels that she is adapting to her new circumstances, life seems to throw something else in her way.

Although Claire, the protagonist, is 8, the book is more suited to a slightly older readership if it is to be read independently. For readers in the 8 to 9-year-old range, this could make an excellent story for parents and children to read together. Dianne Bates deals sensitively with the difficult subject matter, which includes brief references to domestic violence. Her characters are well drawn and wholly relatable, creating a moving middle-grade novel for readers who enjoy realistic fiction.

Saturday, 29 July 2017

To the Moon and Back

To the Moon and Back by Dianne Bates (Big Sky Publishing) PB RRP $14.99
ISBN 9781925520293
Reviewed by Patricia Bernard

First let me say that I could not put down this gentle, sweet book. I read it in three days, enjoying every minute of it. To begin with, its title To the Moon and Back is perfect. It reminded me of how I also said the same thing when my children asked me how much I loved them.

This story is as much about Claire’s mother’s breaking-up marriage and the beginning of her new love affair as it is about Claire who is watching, although not always understanding the change in her mother. Claire loves her father and cannot understand why they now live apart from him. She isn’t keen on sharing her father with his new girlfriend and she isn’t keen on sharing her mother with this new man called Mac, who she will never call father. Claire feels bit lost, especially after her father disappears from her life. How does she fit into these new relationships? What is her place? Why don’t her parents love her the way they used to when she was smaller?

The character of Claire is so well written that the reader begins to identify and care for Claire from the book’s first page. As a reader I worried over how the story would end and what would happen to Claire as she moves from school to school, from best friend to best friend and from house to house. I need not have worried:  the author, Dianne Bates, knew exactly what she was writing about.

This book is unique in its treatment of an all too familiar situation for many children. It certainly is an appealing read for both adults and children, especially those between 8 and 12 years. It offers hope and adventure and I love the ending. This is an ideal book for school libraries. There are many children like Claire and To the Moon and Back offers a soothing, gentle way of them easing into the awkward situation of feeling left out.