Showing posts with label Dianne Bates. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Dianne Bates. Show all posts

Tuesday, 22 January 2019

To Rhyme or Not to Rhyme?

To Rhyme or Not to Rhyme? by Kristin Martin, illustrated by Joanne Knott (Glimmer Press) PB RRP $24.99 ISBN 978064846354

Reviewed by Dianne Bates

Said to be one of South Australia’s ‘most skilful and inventive children’s poets’, Kristin Martin has assembled this collection of rhyming and non-rhyming poems with connections to the Australian curriculum in Science and English from Foundation to Year 7. The front cover gives a glimpse into the subject matter of Martin’s poems – nature – from dragonflies to swallows to frogs and more.

The book is divided into two sections – one for rhyming and one for non-rhyming poems. Here’s an example of a rhyming quartet from ‘Sparkly Treasure’: ‘I found a sparkly treasure/on the dusty path, today/I’m lucky that I found it/as we wandered on our way’. 

All the poems are simple and use simple language. While none of them employ clich├ęs, none of the images are remarkable. 

Many poems offer prosaic statements (from ‘Drought’ for example): ‘It’s hot and dry and dusty/ I wish that it would rain’. However, for a child who loves animals, weather and country, the poems are likely to spark an interest.

Tuesday, 15 January 2019

Matilda’s How to Be a Genius

Matilda’s How to Be a Genius by Roald Dahl illustrated by Quentin Blake (Penguin Random House) PP RRP $16.99 ISBN 9780241371183

Reviewed by Dianne Bates

Ultra-popular children’s author, the late Englishman Roald Dahl lives on, thanks to the UK marketing department of his publisher. As well as the books on writing recently released, now comes this book which was inspired by Dahl’s novel, Matilda. It’s a colourful book with the sub-title ‘Brilliant tricks to bamboozle grown-ups’ and with lots of visual interest which ought to appeal to readers aged 8 to 12 years.

After the bright fly and title pages, there’s a double-page spread introducing, with drawings and descriptions, all the main characters in Matilda, including the ‘extra-ordinary child genius looking for revenge’ (Matilda herself), Mr and Mrs Wormwood, her ‘stupid and despicable parents’, Miss Honey, the kind teacher, Miss Trunchball (‘hulking and horrifying’) and Bruce Bogtrotter (read the book to find out about Bruce!)

In this book readers will discover mental marvels, amazing tricks, puzzles and games to train the brain. They will also learn how to stun others with the powers of mind-reading (guessing shoe size, for instance), how to add massive numbers sans calculator and how to write fiendish riddles, including secret messages using invisible ink. They will even learn how to poke skewers through balloons without popping them, and how to make exploding cakes.

No doubt this is a book which will entertain and occupy curious kids. It’s chock-a-block full of amazing material. No doubt Dahl would have approved!

Sunday, 13 January 2019

Mr Bambuckle’s Remarkables: On the Lookout

Mr Bambuckle’s Remarkables: On the Lookout by Tim Harris, illustrated by James Hart (PenguinRandom House) PP RRP $14.99 ISBN9780143793144

Reviewed by Dianne Bates

This is the fourth book in Australia Harris’ book series about Australia’s favourite literary teacher, Mr Bambuckle who oversees students of room 12 B. The book begins with a roll call of those 14 students, which includes their names, pictures of them and their likes and dislikes. One of the students is Vex Vron who likes cars and dislikes almost everything apart from cars.

The story begins at camp which has Mr Bambuckle and the stern assistant principal Miss Frost, both very different. Mr Bambuckle values learning, individuality and fun while Miss Frost is far more concerned with discipline, procedures and efficiency. Student Vex has left a note to indicate he is running away so the hunt is on to find him before his parents and school realise he is missing. This involves everyone, including new twin sisters, Grace and Gabby Wu.

As in the previous books in this series, Harris makes use of visual page ‘tricks’ such as phone calls, conversations (with cranky canteen Carol), notes (passed from students to one another) and ‘dos’ and ‘don’ts’. The book, also like the others, is full of witty asides, jokes and sparkling dialogue. Sentences are generally short and there are snappy, fast-paced actions that lead to a happy conclusion. All of these devices make this book another to be enjoyed by readers aged 9 to 12 years.

Wednesday, 9 January 2019

A Lot of Stuff Happens

A Lot of Stuff Happens by Adrian Beck, Oliver Phommavanh, Will Kostakis and Andrew Daddo (Penguin Random House) PB RRP $19.99 ISBN9780143794752

Reviewed by Dianne Bates

Here is a collection of four books in one from some of Australia’s best-known contemporary males writing for children. The book is divided into four sections titled, ‘Dale’, ‘Ned’, ‘Sean’ and ‘Ethan’. Dale, for example, is written by TV producer Adrian Beck and begins with the words, ‘Press-studs are evil’. When you read the sentence below which contains the words ‘I once had a pair of pants with an unreliable press-stud fly’, you know to prepare for something humorous to happen.
Each of the four boys attend Monvale Primary where everyday stuff happens, such as friendships, ghost stories, the school play, disappearing hamburgers, new teachers, singing monkeys and lions, the first day at school, flags made of underwear, living up to older brothers and sisters, warring dinosaurs. Stuff that happens all the time!
The stories are related in first-person and are written in easy-to-access, informal language that demonstrates lots of wit and good humour. There’s action a-plenty in this fast-paced book which is sure to be a hit with readers aged 8 to 11 years.

Monday, 7 January 2019


Misrule by Jodi McAlister (Penguin Books, 2019) PB RRP $19.99 ISBN9780143793465

Reviewed by Dianne Bates

This is the third book in McAlister’s Valentine series, the other two being Valentine and Ironheart. With the words ‘This is not a fairytale’ on the front cover, the book is nevertheless filled with magic and could best be described as paranormal.

Pearl Langford’s boyfriend Finn, who is a magical fairy prince, is kidnapped by his older brother and whisked away to fulfil his destiny in their fairy kingdom. Of course, Pearl is not impressed and decides on a boyfriend rescue mission, as would any girl in love. She has told Finn she would come to get him, and she will not allow anyone to stand in her way. This involves tearing a hole in the universe and possible deaths of others, and, the question is, does Finn want to be saved?

The opening sentence is memorable: ‘One thing I never knew about grief is that it was exhausting.’ This is narrated by Pearl who has undergone the deaths of her mother, her grandmother and her friend Marie ‘killed and eaten by carnivorous water monsters’, the after-effects she has witnessed. 

Here are words from the book: ‘...she’s lying on the kitchen floor, covered in horrible rivers of blood, splatters and streams of red all over the cabinets like the most horrifying children’s painting ever, and a gash in her neck so deep I’m amazed her head is even still attached to her body.’ 

Yes, McAliser writes extremely well, but be prepared for vivid descriptions such as this one!

Described as ‘unputdownable’, Misrule is an adventure story, a mix of action, romance and wit, and is highly suitable for a YA readership.

Sunday, 6 January 2019

Rise: The Sam Thaidy Story

Rise: The Sam Thaidy Story by Sam Thaidy and James Colley (Penguin Random House) PB RRP $16.99 ISBN9780143790149

Reviewed by Dianne Bates

Born in Sydney but known as a Queenslander, Sam Thaidy is the son of a native Torres Strait islander. To a keen supporter, Sam has entertained Brisbane Broncos, Queensland State of Origin and Australian fans for sixteen years both on and off the field. This book for readers aged 8 to 12 years tells, with his trademark humour and honesty, of Sam’s roots as a Townsville boy and a die-hard Cowboys fan and of how his mum Julie taught him to pass and tackle.

In simple, easy-to-read language, the book also tells of the ups and downs of the game Sam loves including coping with injury and visiting places such as Darwin and Papua New Guinea. Sam says, ‘Papua New Guinea is the only nation on earth that has rugby league as its national sport.’ He tells of his feelings towards his trainers who ‘were picking on me’, but how, as an older more experienced player, he can see they were only trying to get him to better himself.

The book has a section of coloured photos of Sam and highlights of his career and of his family with wife and two small children. Young readers will find information in Sam’s book for setting and reaching goals, handling setbacks and finding things in life that really matter.

Rise: The Sam Thaidy Story is a must-read for any young league fan, regardless of who they barrack for.

Friday, 4 January 2019

Roald Dahl’s Creative Writing

Roald Dahl’s Creative Writing with Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (Puffin Books, 2019) PB RRP $9.99 9780241384565
Roald Dahl’s Creative Writing with the BFG (Puffin Books, 2019) PB RRP 9780241384572
Roald Dahl’s Creative Writing with Matilda (Puffin Books, 2019) PB RRP 9780241384589

Reviewed by Dianne Bates

Capitalising on the popularity of the late Roahl Dahl, here are three 28-page books with coloured illustrations and plenty of exercises for the budding young writer. ‘How to write tremendous characters’ is the aim of Roald Dahl’s Creative Writing with Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, while Roald Dahl’s Creative Writing with the BFG focuses on how to write splendid settings and how to write spellbinding
speech is the focus of Roald Dahl’s Creative Writing with Matilda.

In the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, the exercises listed in the content’s page include backstory, heroes and villains, speech and dialogue, caring about characters and through each other’s eyes. Thus, the young person attempting the many exercises in this attractively presented book with fill-in boxed spaces, is told such this as how to give opinions and write news reports, how to create likable characters or what speech can reveal about a character.

In this book’s section on words and pictures, the reader is asked to look at illustrations and to use adjectives to create a picture. Some exercises relate to characters in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (matching adjectives with Charlie Bucket, Veruca
Salt, Augustus Gloop, etc), while there is also an exercise in creating a character (Choose a title, such as Dr or Lord), think of a first name and choose or invent a surname). The reader is then asked to make up full names for characters, such as a rich woman, a funny teacher and an elegant king. Then the reader is asked to make up names for Oompa-Loompas and to create dangerous beasts that might live in Loompaland. (An accompanying Ideas Box provides a vocabulary list such as ‘weasel’, ‘swoop’ and ‘pilfer’.

Thus, for each of the books, the young reader is asked to know the contents of Dahl’s book and to use this information creatively. And, too, there are exercises which rely on the reader’s imagination as Dahl certainly did.

These books are recommended to inspire and help budding young writer (teachers might also get some terrific ideas as well!)

Sunday, 23 December 2018

Cool Poems

Cool Poems by Kate O’Neil, illustrated by Christina Booth (Triple D Press) PB RRP $25 ISBN 780994349996

Reviewed by Dianne Bates

Despite having written and published her poems for numerous years, this is Australian Kate O’Neil’s first solo collection. It is especially for students who enjoy words, who love rhythm and rhyme. The collection is divided into seven sections with subject headings ranging from ‘In Australia’ and ‘Speaking Your Mind’ to ‘Play’ and ‘Light and Dark’.

One of the first poems in the book under ‘Happy Living Things’ was a short free form  poem with a fine image that sticks in my mind. This is in ‘Slug’, where O’Neill writes, … ‘how is it that your/loathsome taper/makes this/exquisite/tracery of silver script...’. Beautiful! I urge you to get your hands on this book, so you can read poems like this with such memorable imagery. Another short poem in the same section is ‘To a Leech’, the first line of which reads, ‘You’re no prince in disguise’.

In the section, ‘In Australia’, there are poems about being barefooted, eating mangoes, climbing mountains, paragliding and cockatoos. Subject matter throughout the book is wide-ranging and includes school rules, blowflies, Cocky’s Joy, beating the blues and blind man’s bluff. Some poems, like ‘The Cynic Route’, ‘Gargoyle Guile’ and ‘Man and Moonshine’ are more suited to mature readers, but there are plenty of fun poems sure to be enjoyed by younger readers, such as the prima donna selection, ‘The Kid from Camdenville’, ‘Bare, Bare Black Sheep’ and ‘Classy Darcy’.

Happily, too, there’s a variety of poetic forms from rap to couplets, quatrains to free form. A few of the poems use the rhyming scheme of well-known poems. And, too, the poet uses speech within poems such as in ‘Bedtime Boogie’ and ‘Bedtime’.

Booth has done an excellent job of illustrating the collection with black and white line and wash pictures. Stand-outs are the gargoyle illustrating ‘Midnight Feast’ and the big-headed cat about to pounce on the unsuspecting bold mouse.

If you’re looking for a collection which will be rewarded by dipping into and reading fun, serious and thought-provoking poems for your reader aged 9 to 14, this book is highly recommended.

Friday, 30 November 2018

Ara the Star Engineer

Ara the Star Engineer by Komal Singh, illustrated by Ipek Konak (Page Two Books, distributed by Newsouth Books) HB RRP AU$24.99

Reviewed by Dianne Bates

This book has two important features going for it: one is that is shows numerous females and people of colour in positive working roles and the other is that it is about computers and numbers. 

The author is a woman in technology who was challenged to write this book when her four-year-old daughter proclaimed, ‘Engineers are boys.’ Singh, in an author’s note at the front of the book, says research shows that girls start doubting their STEM intelligence (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) by the age of six. Hence this picture book hopes to redress this.

The story begins with Ara, and her robotic assistant Dee Dee who explore the STEM world. Ara starts with telling the reader that the word ‘googol’ (meaning a number with a hundred zeros in it), was name by a nine-year-old. To figure out how many googols of stars there are in the sky, Ara and Dee Dee, travel to Innovation Plex, where they meet Kripa in the Data Centre who shows them now to use a computer to solve problems. Another woman tech whizz the two meet is Parisa who uses algorithms to solve problems. And so, the story moves on – to Coding Pods, and X-Space – as more interesting information is revealed.

This is a an inspiring, inclusive, whimsical way to learn about computers and technology from real-life trailblazers. The women at the centre tinker-and-tailor, build-and-fail, launch-and-iterate, and in the end discover an amazing algorithm of success -- coding, courage, creativity, and collaboration. The women mentioned in the book, by the way, are real: their biographies appear at the end. And, too, there’s a notebook with activities and information about women trail-blazers (like programmers Ada Lovelace and Grace Hopper, and NASA’s space investigator Katherine Johnson).

If you would like to inspire your budding computer, maths or science child, this is certainly a book which should do the trick! The book is filled with colourful illustrations to pour over which show workers in coding pods and other interesting work spaces.

Thursday, 29 November 2018

Stories for kids who dare to be different

Stories for kids who dare to be different by Ben Brooks, illustrated by Quinton Winter (Quercus) HB RRP $35.00 ISBN 9781787476523

Reviewed by Dianne Bates

Sub-titled ‘True tales of boys and girls who stood up and stood out’, this is one of the most interesting, fascinating and absorbing non-fiction books for children I’ve read in years – and I’ve read many. The sub-title is misleading, though, as the accomplishments of many of the heroes featured occurred when they were adults, but the book, equally devoted to the exploits of males and females, tells of childhoods, often deprived and of people who overcame poverty, physical problems and more. However, the design of the book with typeface often on overly-dark pages, does it a disservice. But truly, the stories are wonderful and certainly inspiring, even for adults as well as children aged 9 to 13 for whom the book is marketed.

Bjork, Dr Seuss, Whoopi Goldberg, Andy Warhol, Gertrude Stein, Orville and Wilbur Wright, Lady Godiva, Yvonne Goolagong and Dr Seuss are people most adults are familiar with and whose stories they know. But this book of 100 (or more) people from countries all over the world include amazing achievements in all fields from astro-physics to medicine, ballet to civil disobedience.

It’s difficult to focus on only a few heroes when all here are remarkable… but the Edelweiss Pirates, teenagers who undermined Nazis (by acts such as posting anti-slogans and putting sugar in petrol tanks) during Hitler’s reign of terror, were certainly brave. So too was Witold Pilecki who defended Poland against the Russians and volunteered to be arrested and sent to Auschwitz death camp to expose the horrors there, transmitting messages to the resistance and to the British authorities, becoming the first person to alert the outside world of the Nazis’ atrocities.

Someone who was heroic in 2018 was Emma Gonzalez, a teenager who organised March for our Lives, a peaceful protest in America in support of new gun control laws following a mass killing in her school – she managed to mobilise almost 2 million people! Muslim Loujain Al-Hathloul drove a car and made videos in Saudi Arabia at a time when women weren’t allowed to drive (they couldn’t vote until 2015 and still aren’t allowed to open their own bank accounts). There are dozens more stories. I was inspired to follow the lives of some depicted here, such as the Inuit artist, Kenojuah Ashevak, 18 year old Hannah Herbst who has invented a small machine called BEACON which uses wave action to create electricity and black ballet dancer Eric Underwood who became the star of The Royal London Ballet and had a ballet shoe named after him.

Throughout the world, where there are injustices, strong men and women (and sometimes children) emerge to remedy wrongs. In our evermore hectic and overwhelming world, Stories for Kids Who Dare to be Different is refreshing proof that dreams do come true and that it is okay to be different.

This is an inspiring read for any young person, particularly those struggling to find their place in the world and who want to know about the lives of those heroes who have led the way, changing the world for the better as they go. 

Highly recommended.

Wednesday, 28 November 2018

A Miniature Christmas

A Miniature Christmas edited by Beattie Alvarez (Christmas Press) RRP $24.99 PB ISBN 9780648194514

Reviewed by Wendy Haynes

This is jam-packed with Christmas goodies. As the title suggests, the stories delve into many miniature worlds. Beattie Alvarez has done a wonderful job compiling twelve illustrated stories bringing with them Christmas, imagination and the wonder of magic.

Suitable for 7 – 10-year olds this book could be read to a younger audience. Each story brings a sense of the Christmas spirit, the magic of genies, goblins, Fuchsia fairies, the delight of miniature Christmas scenes, toy apps, trees brought to life, the charm of Christmas decorations, elves tugging on your ear, a take on Peter Pan at Christmas, and small creature pulling together to make Christmas great.
There is a story here for everyone.

Some of the authors include Dianne Bates with her story ‘George the Genie’, illustrated by Sally Heinrich.  George is summoned by an unsavoury character, and the wishes he is asked to grant go beyond his moral being. So George and the rest of his clan concoct a plan to teach Bernie Blister a lesson.

‘Christmas with the Fuchsia Fairies’ text and photographs by Kathy Creamer, brings your imagination to life. When Rosie Dimpleberry finds water sprite Tinkle crying, she along with the rest of her friends find a way make Tinkle’s Christmas special.

‘A Mouse Christmas’ by Natalie Jane Prior, illustrated by Amy Bogard, tells the story of Marigold the mouse who lives under floor board under the stove, with her mother and two siblings, Star and Silas. Being mice they sleep all day and venture out at night when the black and white dog, and the humans are sleeping. Marigold gets caught up in the wonder of the Christmas food and though the dog tries to sniff her out, at the stroke of midnight they share a special moment of what Christmas really means.

Thursday, 1 November 2018

The Christmas Tale of Peter Rabbit

The Christmas Tale of Peter Rabbit by Emma Thompson illustrated by Eleanor Turner (Frederick Warne) HB RRP $16.99 ISBN 978-241352885

Reviewed by Dianne Bates

This is a small board book based on the original tales of Beatrix Potter and illustrated in the same style as the famous author/illustrator. Peter Rabbit is in trouble for knocking mincemeat onto his burrow floor so is sent to his Aunt’s to fetch a cup of suet. On the way he catches up with his cousin Benjamin Bunny who is also in trouble. While they are playing, along comes William the turkey. The two boys reveal to him that Mrs McGregor, the farmer’s wife, is planning to bake him for Christmas dinner.
What follows are (unsuccessful) ways in which the rabbit cousins try to hide William. When Mr McGregor comes into the yard waving a cleaver, he is unable to find his turkey so has a turkey-less Christmas dinner.

This is a simple story with a happy outcome which is sure to be enjoyed by young readers. It is most suitable to be read by an adult to children aged 3 to 5 years.

Sunday, 28 October 2018

Sukie’s Suitcase

Sukie’s Suitcase by Jordie Albiston, illustrations Keira de Hoog (Little Barrow Press) PB RRP $15.00 ISBN 9780992584511

Reviewed by Dianne Bates

Sub-titled ‘Three picture-poems’, this book for children 8 to 12 years is essentially a three-story verse novel. The title story begins with the words ‘Sukie was running away from her life’ -- even though her life was not ‘all that bad’. Having packed her suitcase she walks a long distance during which time she loses her bag. Happily, she discovered objects which she’s lost. Good news is that they lead back home where she lives happily ever after.

The first story in the book is narrated by Felipe, new to Australia from South America. He can’t seem to fit in and is homesick for Bogota as nothing in this new country compares. Sitting under a tree he is hit by what he describes as ‘a leather lemon’: in fact, it’s a red football. When he meets a girl called Nikki, it seems he’s going to be fine after all.

The final story is ‘Three Steve Bikos’, narrated by Steve Biko who lives in Kenya. Like the other stories, this is a rambling tale of life in a foreign place with lots of details about Steve’s life and lots of telling.

This is likely to be a difficult book for the intended readership. There are many foreign words ((‘ajiaco’, ‘guasca’, ‘arepa’, for example), and there’s also a problem with the font (Just Alice) which is written over illustrations at times, making it difficult to read.
The illustrations are interesting and unusual with de Hoog employing many photos overlaid with sketches.

The author Jordie Albiston is highly regarded, both in Australia and overseas, for her poetry. This is her first book for children.

Saturday, 27 October 2018

Peppa Pig Digger World

Peppa Pig Digger World (Penguin Books) HB RRP $16.99 ISBN 9780241321133

Reviewed by Dianne Bates

This is a heavy-duty board book with thick cardboard wheels which rotate when turned. Peppa and George are visiting Digger World where they are welcomed by Mr Potato. Both Peppa and her brother George play on diggers in the sand pit filling buckets of sand. Then they go on the next ride to use soft building blocks to build a world which qualifies them as digger drivers. On the way home they help real digger drivers to build a wall. However, Peppa pushed the wrong button and the wall collapses. No worried. Dad says, ‘Building things up, then knocking them down – it’s all part of the fun with diggers!’

This simple, fun story is told in five double-page spreads which, like all Peppa books, are brightly coloured with simple illustrations. Sure to be a hit with readers aged 3 to 5 years.

Thursday, 18 October 2018

Just Flesh and Blood

Just Flesh and Blood by Jane Caro (UQP) PB RRP $19.95 ISBN 978 0702260018

Reviewed by Dianne Bates

Australian Jane Caro has won many national and international awards for her creative endeavours and has written numerous books including the prequels to this, her latest YA title in the Elizabeth 1 trilogy (Just a Girl and Just a Queen), both UQP titles.
In Just Flesh and Blood, she continues the life of Elizabeth, who endured a perilous childhood to take the throne as Queen of England. 

Now, four decades later, having withstood political upheavals, wars and plots against her life, she contemplates her successes and failures and ponders all she has relinquished – love, marriage and family – for power. As she is dying, Elizabeth recalls her first love, Robin Dudley, 1st Earl of Leicester who was her playmate and became her master of horse on her accession. (Many consider he was her one true love.) There are many more memories which makes this a slow-moving book, not one bristling with action: after all, it is Elizabeth’s final chapter.

As with all books which are well-researched, the book contains a bibliography for those who want to read more about the great queen’s life and accomplishment. Also, very helpful at the end of the book, is its Cast of Characters, with, in order of appearance, the names and birth and death dates as well as a short potted history of those who appear in the book which begins with the death of Elizabeth’s mother, Anne Boleyn, second wife of Henry V11, who was executed by him for treason and adultery.

Wednesday, 17 October 2018

The Tales of Mr Walker

The Tales of Mr Walker by Jess Black, illustrated by Sara Acton (Puffin Books) HB RRP $24.99 ISBN 9780143793076

Reviewed by Dianne Bates

Sub-titled ‘a hotel dog with a nose for adventure’, this is a beautifully designed and presented book which would suit children aged 8 to 11 years who enjoy chapter books. There are four mini books between the covers: Mr Walker at the Park, Mr Walker and the Mystery Guest, Mr Walker and the Garden Surprise and Mr Walker Finds a Home.

At the start of the first story, Mr Walker, a golden Labrador dog, is being driven by Tracy to the Park Hyatt Hotel where he is to take up the position of Guide Dog ambassador of a park. The dog has no idea what an ambassador is, but he is welcomed to the hotel first by Thomas then by Henry Reeves whose family lives in a hotel apartment and who befriend him.

All four books are told from Mr Walker’s point of view as he gets to know guests – all wealthy and privileged, some famous -- and embarks upon adventures within the hotel whose employees include Chef Remy, housekeeper Meraj and Omid on the front desk. Always eager to help, Mr Walker always identifies people by their smells, including a mysterious man who is discriminated against but who turns out to be quite different from what he first appears.

This is a gently-told story with much charm and no real dramas which is likely to appeal to readers who prefer a ‘quiet’ story. Mr Walker is lovable even though he acts in typical dog fashion at times which gets him into scrapes.

The watercolour illustrations fit the mood of the story while the text is in large font which makes for easy reading. Royalties from sales of this book go to Guide Dogs Victoria.

Monday, 15 October 2018

Ho! Ho! Ho! There’s a Hippopotamus on Our Roof Eating Christmas Cake

Ho! Ho! Ho! There’s a Hippopotamus on Our Roof Eating Christmas Cake by Hazel Edwards, illustrated by Deborah Niland (Puffin Books) HB RRP $19.99 ISBN 978 0143790679
Reviewed by Dianne Bates

Australian author Hazel Edwards had a best-seller, There’s a Hippopotamus on Our Roof Eating Cake, in 2005 and since then she has produced various incantations of the book which is targeted at pre-schoolers. Now here’s the latest with the oversized pink hippo complete with a Santa hat getting ready for Christmas.

A curly blonde-haired boy is told by his father that there’s a man fixing roof tiles, but the boy knows the truth – there’s a hippopotamus up there getting ready – as is he – for Christmas. The hippo is making a cake and icing it, then he’s making a list for Santa (just like the boy). Before long the hippo is dancing a cake dance. 

At the same time that the boy and his family are decorating their Christmas tree, the hippo on the roof has a disaster – he accidentally sits on his Christmas tree ‘with his big wobbly bottom'! However, hippo is clever, and fixes it so it looks as good as new. Niland’s full-page, colourful illustration on this page shows a tree resplendent with goodies such as carrots, apples, cherries and cakes (donuts and lamingtons, of course!)

The rest of the book has the boy and the hippo on the roof preparing for the big day (gingerbread, card-making, wrapping gifts, stringing fairy lights) until finally the boy’s family all dress in Santa suits (as does the hippo). On Christmas eve there’s Carols by Candlelight, and of course stockings and food for Santa and his reindeer. When Christmas Day arrives, there is happiness and discovery for everyone.

This is a joyous, even scrumptious book with page after page of bright illustrations that reward the reader with multiple readings. It will especially appeal to any child who is super-excited as he or she anticipates all that Christmas Day will bring, and who is involved with family in preparing for the big day. The text is easy to read with large font and simple sentences. Certainly this is a great book for a small child’s Christmas stocking!

Saturday, 13 October 2018

Just Flesh and Blood

Just Flesh and Blood by Jane Caro (UQP) PB RRP $19.95 ISBN 978 0702260018

Reviewed by Dianne Bates

Australian Jane Caro has won many national and international awards for her creative endeavours and has written numerous books including the prequels to this, her latest YA title in the Elizabeth 1 trilogy (Just a Girl and Just a Queen), both UQP titles.

In Just Flesh and Blood, she continues the life of Elizabeth, who endured a perilous childhood to take the throne as Queen of England. Now, four decades later, having withstood political upheavals, wars and plots against her life, she contemplates her successes and failures and ponders all she has relinquished – love, marriage and family – for power. 
As she is dying, Elizabeth recalls her first love, Robin Dudley, 1st Earl of Leicester who was her playmate and became her master of horse on her accession. (Many consider he was her one true love.) There are many more memories which makes this a slow-moving book, not one bristling with action: it is, after all, Elizabeth’s final chapter.

As with all books which are well-researched, the book contains a bibliography for those who want to read more about the great queen’s life and accomplishments. Also very helpful at the end of the book is its Cast of Characters, with, in order of appearance, the names and birth and death dates as well as a short potted history of those who appear in the book which begins with the death of Elizabeth’s mother, Anne Boleyn, second wife of Henry V11, who was executed by him for treason and adultery.

Monday, 8 October 2018

Elbow Grease

Elbow Grease by John Cena, illustrated by Howard McWilliam (Puffin Books) HB RRP $19.99 ISBN 9780143794400

Reviewed by Dianne Bates

This picture book is ideal for machine-obsessed boys aged 4 to 8 years as its pages are filled with illustrations of highly modified cars and trucks that take part in a demolition derby. Smallest of these vehicles is Elbow Grease who is undeterred by his size and wants to take on his brothers Tank, Flash, Pinball and Crash who are tougher, faster, smarter and braver. What Elbow has in spades is gumption and pure determination. His aim in life is to have his picture displayed on a garage poster as champion in a monster truck grand prix.

The full-page illustrations seem to be computer-generated, making the vehicles and scenery seem life-like with gleaming duco, city lights, and a racing circuit which is quite spectacular as it shows a race in progress. Elbow Grease is taking part in the Grand Prix, but despite being ‘bashed and smashed and eve caught on fire a little bit’, he keeps on trucking. A storm arrives mid-race and poor Elbow is terrified of lightning; he’s cold and tired, too. At the end of the race (and the book), he says (in speech balloons), ‘What do you mean “The End”? … Never Give up! Never quit!... Never say “The End”.’

Lots of fun and action and bright, captivating illustrations, this book is sure to be carried everywhere by small boys wanting their parents to read it again and again.

Friday, 5 October 2018

The Puffin Book of Summer Stories

The Puffin Book of Summer Stories (Puffin Books) HB RRP $29.99 ISBN 9780143793540

Reviewed by Dianne Bates

Featuring eight favourite picture book stories by well-loved Australian authors, this beautifully presented, heavy (and thick) collection makes an ideal gift, especially with Christmas coming up.

The classic books included are: Summer by June Factor and Alison Lester; Max by Marc Martin; Grandpa and Thomas by Pamela Allen; Castles by Allan Baillie and Caroline Magerl; My Hippopotamus is on our Caravan Roof Getting Sunburnt by Hazel Edwards and Deborah Niland; Seadog by Claire Saxby and Tom Jellett; There’s a Sea in My Bedroom by Margaret Wild and Jane Tanner, and Eve and Elly by Mike Dumbleton and Laura Wood.

All the stories feature the outdoors, mostly by the sea, and all are set out so that the reader can appreciate the wide variety of story-telling and illustrations. What a wonderful diversity of artwork there is, from Alison Lester’s detailed wash and pen pictures of an Australian family indoors and out on Christmas Day to Pamela Allen’s watercolour pictures with lots of white space with a grandfather and boy enjoying the seaside. After Allen’s pages come full-page very colourful pictures of a huge hippopotamus, so familiar to young readers, eating cake, this time while on family holiday. This contrasts with the more delicate colours with wash and line of Caroline Magerl’s rendering of a fanciful and imaginative story of a girl and boy creating a magical story on the beach and in the sea. Then there’s the realistic, beautifully realised beach illustrations by the equally talented Jane Tanner in Margaret Wild’s story where a boy imagines a sea in his bedroom.

There are so many excellent illustrations in this multi-story book which is sure to become a family favourite to be read and re-read by children aged 6 to 11 years, who will, no doubt, hand the book onto their children in the future.