Showing posts with label Ford Street Publishing. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Ford Street Publishing. Show all posts

Wednesday, 10 October 2018

Jacaranda Magic

Jacaranda Magic by Dannika Patterson, illustrated by Megan Forward (Ford Street Publishing) HB ISBN:9781925804003   RRP $24.95 PB ISBN: 9781925804010   RRP $16.95

Reviewed by Brook Tayla

The flowers falling from the jacaranda tree sparks the imagination of five bored friends with nothing to do in this newly released picture book.

 The story, written in rhyming verse, weaves its way through a multitude of scenarios that the children imagine as they play on and around the jacaranda which is in full bloom. Childhood freedom and fun is presented, reminding readers of all ages of the simple joys of life that can be created just by using your imagination.

Award winning illustrator, Megan Forward, has portrayed the story in watercolours that give off a day-dreamy feel - inviting readers into the imaginary worlds that the children make up and explore.

This is a great book to read to children to remind them that we have the best time when life is simple, creative, spontaneous and playful – especially when we share those times interacting with family and friends - and often the best times are in the outdoors. It’s also a great book to have on hand if you hear the ‘bored’ word.

Brook Tayla writes a picture book review blog at [email protected] and would love you to drop by, read some reviews, leave a comment and subscribe – you can do that here: Brook also offers editing services for beginning and emerging writers.

Thursday, 4 October 2018

Jacaranda Magic

Jacaranda Magic by Dannika Patterson, illustrated by Megan Forward (Ford Street Publishing) PB RRP $16.95
ISBN 9781925804010

Reviewed by Kylie Buckley

Jacaranda Magic is a picture book that delightfully captures the beauty of imaginative play and the enchantment that nature so brilliantly provides.

The tale begins with five young friends sitting under a jacaranda tree pondering what to do. They are stuck for ideas until nature beautifully intervenes. The children’s imaginations are soon ignited when a cool breeze causes the purple bell-shaped blooms to rain upon them. The small flowers transform into a variety of props including genies, butterflies and asteroids. The large tree branches become abodes, vehicles and vessels for their lively outdoor adventures.

Jacaranda Magic is beautifully written in verse and accompanied by gorgeous soft pencil and watercolour illustrations, predominately in double-page spreads. This playful picture book is likely to engage children aged 4-6 years old. It would be equally suitable for the early years’ classroom or read as a bedtime story at home. This tale would sing to the heart of any early childhood educator. Let’s hope that the magic of open-ended imaginative play is never lost.

Thursday, 14 June 2018

The Things We Can’t Undo

The Things We Can’t Undo by Gabrielle Reid, (Ford St. 2018) 346 pp, ISBN 9781925736045   PB RRP $19.95

Reviewed by Pauline Hosking

This appealing, fast-pace novel covers tricky subjects like consent, mental illness, suicide and the negative aspects of social media. It doesn’t pull any punches but is never gratuitous.

Year 10 students Samantha Jun Chen and Dylan West are in love. They’ve been together for nearly a year, so it’s no surprise when they leave Saturday night’s party to go into a quiet bedroom. What happens next will have a profound effect on both.
Did Dylan rape Samantha? He doesn’t think so. He’s totally pumped because he’s finally had sex with his wonderful girlfriend. Samantha has a different take on the experience. She wanted to say no, but she is a quiet girl not used to speaking her mind. Afterwards, she wishes she had spoken up. Samantha’s best friend Tayla is sure it was rape and sets about naming and blaming Dylan.

Samantha is a very average student who has to work twice as hard as everyone else because her parents expect her to be academically brilliant. They also believe ‘Boyfriends can wait until university’, so she’s had to keep her relationship with Dylan a secret. This means she has no one at home she can talk to honestly about what happened.   

The pressure from parents and friends, combined with her loss of trust in Dylan, has a horrific outcome. Over-stressed Samantha must find a way out. She chooses suicide.
The Things We Can’t Undo is Gabrielle Reid’s debut novel and it’s a gutsy read. None of the characters are totally black or white. As the book progresses both Tayla and Dylan develop and mature. The final pages describe Dylan carefully entering a new relationship.

Much of the story is written from Dylan’s point of view. Samantha’s feelings are recorded in the letters she writes but will never send. Tayla’s campaign to brand Dylan a rapist develops via online chats. The use of these various formats will appeal to its target audience.

If promoted sensitively, The Things We Can’t Undo should be a winner with readers from Year 9 upwards.

Tuesday, 12 June 2018

The Perfect Leaf

The Perfect Leaf  by Andrew Plant (Ford St. 2018), picture book 32pp, ISBN 9781925736007, HB $24.95, PB $16.95

Reviewed by Pauline Hosking

The Perfect Leaf tells the sweet story of a friendship that develops when two girls meet on a ‘cold-sun’, ‘wind-in-the-branches’ Autumn day. The girls, Elly and Mai have their own favourite coloured leaves, but neither manage to find the perfect leaf. Instead they discover something else – the power of imagination. The last few pages have no text and give the reader the chance to share the lovely feelings of childhood joy and new friends discovered.

Andrew Plant is the author and illustrator of the CBCA Notable Book The Poppy. His illustrations for The Perfect Leaf are glorious, with washes of gold and red spilling over the pages. Observant young readers will also find insects and fairies hidden in the leaves.

Sunday, 10 June 2018

Jasper Juggles Jellyfish

Jasper Juggles Jellyfish by Ben Long illustrated by David Cornish, (Ford St. 2018), ISBN 9781925736021, HB $22.95    PB $14.95

Reviewed by Pauline Hosking

This is a cute, funny and short tale told in rhyme. It teaches counting from 1 to 12 and reminds us that we can learn anything if we start small and gradually build our knowledge.

Jasper is an octopus who goes to school. He finds counting jellyfish a struggle so says he’d ‘rather learn to juggle’. He begins by juggling 1, 2, 3 jellyfish with two of his arms. Of course, as he’s an octopus he has eight arms. If each pair of arms can juggle three jellyfish, four pairs of arms can juggle twelve! Jasper and the jellyfish have fun and learn about numbers.

The illustrations by David Cornish are delightfully quirky. The colours are bold and bright. Each jellyfish has its own shape and personality. I especially liked Curlywurly meeting the startled gull, and the first double page spread which showed Jasper, a crab and a starfish on their way to school. Highly recommended.

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

My Dog Socks

My Dog Socks by Robyn Osborne, illustrated by Sadami Konchi (Ford Street Publishing) HB RRP $24.95 PB RRP $16.95
ISBN 9781925272826

Reviewed by Brook Tayla

Sometimes the most simple of stories can portray the most depth and My Dog Socks is a testament to this.  The interplay of story, illustrations and concepts all have layers that give depth of meaning to this beautiful story of a boy and his dog – some obvious, others quite subtle.

Firstly, the story, written from the boy’s perspective, is penned in poetic prose, which flow seamlessly from one page to the next in an enticingly fun and totally intriguing style.  The emotions attached to strong relationships are explored, showing the unconditional love and acceptance of the many sides of all living beings – the ups and downs of life and being there to support each other through the good and not so good times and also the acceptance of differences that comes with such a strong bond.

The abstract elements of the watercolour illustrations cleverly convey the author’s words and add depth by the use of an extremely clever shadowing technique that depicts each stage of the story.  The dog is painted in a deep navy blue-purplish colour to make it stand out from the natural settings – I learnt this from the illustrator herself.  It adds to the layers I mentioned at the start – stunningly so!

My Dog Socks is based on a real dog that belonged to the author before he moved on from this world.  It is, no doubt, the invisible layer of love that undertone Robyn’s words.  Socks lives on posthumously on Facebook and avid dog lovers would enjoy this site:

This book is not only for lovers of ‘man’s best friend,’ but for those of us that love all animals - and you just might be surprised at how many other animals you can actually find throughout this book!

Brook Tayla writes a picture book review blog at [email protected] 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, 19 May 2016

Dance, Bilby, Dance

Dance, Bilby, Dance by Tricia Oktober, author and illustrator (Ford Street Publishing) PB RRP $14.95 ISBN 9781925272147

Reviewed by Kate Saunders

Dance, Bilby, Dance by Tricia Oktober is a delightfully simple picture book, delivered effortlessly and very Australian in essence. 

Bilby wants to dance. He sees other wildlife -- the willy-willies and the moths --  twirling, whirling and pirouetting around him, and he wants to do the same. So, when Bilby catches sight of his shadow beneath him, he practises until he too can flutter like a leaf and prance like an emu. That is until his shadow becomes so big it changes into a bunyip!

Simple illustrations, smooth and perfect word choice, and cute characterisation make this book a pleasure to read, and even better to take outside and enjoy. This book teaches early learners that wildlife is there at one’s fingertips and that we can be one with it. It will absorb, educate and  provide an appealing, tangible freedom that extends beyond any virtual world.

This is a charming picture book for preschool children.

Monday, 15 June 2015

The Warlock’s Child, Book 1: The Burning Sea

The Warlock’s Child, Book 1: The Burning Sea by Paul Collins & Sean McMullen
(Ford Street Publishing)
PB RRP $12.95
ISBN 978-1925000924

Reviewed by Francine Sculli

The Burning Sea is the first book in the latest six-book fantasy series co-authored by well-known authors Paul Collins and Sean McMullen. And it wastes no time in plunging us deep into the thrilling adventure with Dantar and his sister Velza, our two main protagonists who, by command of their Dravinian Battle Warlock father, have landed themselves on aboard the fleet on its way to invade the Kingdom of Savaria.

Dantar is serving as a cabin boy, one of the lowest ranking roles on the fleet, constantly concerned that he is one of the few without magical abilities. While Velza, a shape-casting warrior, has found herself in the male dominated ranks as an officer in a tenuous role. The two of them despise each other and the power play and family tension ripples through the book as the drama unfolds.

But everything they know is about to change.

The fantastical, medieval world around them is in the midst of darkness. It’s a place governed by magic and roamed by dragons, but everything has been turned upside down. In a time before, the Dark Hands misused the powers they had created. The dragons intervened, breaking up the human magic into four parts, allowing only the dragons to have complete control of all four parts simultaneously. Now, in an attempt to reconnect the four powers, the Dravinian Emperor ordered war against Savaria.

Nothing goes to plan. On their way to battle the dragon Dravaud hovers in the air over the Dravinian fleet, convinced there is a dragon egg aboard the Invincible. He burns one of the fleets down to the ground. While putting out fires on board, through the speaking tubes Dantar overhears a conversation that he shouldn’t and unearths a traitor on board. He is convinced it has something to do with Meslit, the water wizard, who disappears in a cloud of ash. Dantar senses he is developing protection against heat and fire and harbouring magical tendencies far beyond his imagination. Velza loses her ranks as an officer. Much to her disgust, Dantar rises through the ranks throwing her world off kilter. As they near the shores of Savaria in the final pages, and more strange occurrences happen, Velza still finds it in her heart to rescue him as he goes overboard, giving Dantar his first taste of being part of a loving family unit. As readers, we are left hanging right there with the siblings, wondering what will happen next and with a sense that their bond will grow in future books as they are forced together to unwrap the deep mysteries and questions that have arisen.

The Burning Sea is an action-packed book with just the right amount of wit, characterisation, worldly carvings, mystery and plot twists to keep older primary school readers engaged and wanting more.

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Elephants Have Wings

Elephants Have Wings by Susanne Gervay, illustrated by Anna Pignataro (Ford Street Publishing)
HB RRP $26.95
HB ISBN 978-1925000399
PB RRP $16.95
PB ISBN 978-1925000405
Reviewed by Francine Sculli

When writer Susanne Gervay and illustrator Anna Pignataro teamed up a couple of years ago to deliver the impeccable book Ships in the Field it was evident that their union was destined to bring deep thought on important topics to the picture book world. Their latest offering, Elephants Have Wing, cements them as a powerhouse duo, bringing something different to the page.

Elephants Have Wings, is a beautiful tale rich with the tapestries of ancient storytelling, spirituality and mythology. Placed in the Asian-Indian region, the book starts with two children asking their father to tell them the story – their grandfather’s story. The father commences, telling the wide-eyed children how their grandfather sent him and the other children out one night to look for “the secret”. All of the children saw different things and argued about who is right and who is wrong, until the grandfather came out and circled his light through the night, revealing a majestic elephant and showing that all the children were right but wrong at the same time.

The two children ask their father to tell them what their grandfather’s secret was, but he tells them that they must discover it themselves. The children spur each other on, willing on the vision of the elephant, who takes them on a journey through the air, over the wilderness, red desserts and snowy peaks, and through the sparkling stars to another place, high and faster and farther away. Bringing them home, only when the children have learnt their grandfather’s secret: “Everyone is different, but we’re the same, too. The elephant is in all of us.”

In many ways, this is a complicated picture book that explores rather esoteric themes, often difficult to articulate. What Susanne Gervay and Anna Pignataro do so well together, is bring these themes to life in a magical way that taps into children’s natural ability and openness to journey through the terrain of social inclusion, spirituality, unity, empathy and understanding. With roots in the ancient story of the blind men and the elephant, Elephants Have Wings is a wildly imaginative tale that is multifaceted. While younger children can lose themselves in the imaginative and magic journey of the children riding on the back of the elephant, older children can lose themselves in the mythology and modern importance of this tale.

And like Ships in the Field, Susanne has penned effortlessly poetic words that take us right through the sparkly stars with the children and Anne’s illustrations perfectly compliment this poeticism with pages of expressionistic watercolours and collages, whimsical in tone, that capture the peace, serenity and ethereal nature of this book.

A must read for those with a thirst for something different, unique and beautiful.

Monday, 6 October 2014

The Monster Who Ate Australia

The Monster Who Ate Australia by Michael Salmon (Ford Street Publishing)
HB RRP $19.95
PB RRP $12.95
ISBN 978-1925000542 (HB)
ISBN 978-1925000559 (PB)
Reviewed by Francine Sculli

We all know Michael Salmon. He’s the writer and illustrator whose books pop off the shelf for their quirky adventures and bold colourful cartoons. He’s an Australian favourite. And it was probably this book – The Monster Who Ate Australia – who cemented him in the world of children’s literature in Australia. First published in 1984, this award-winning classic is celebrating its 30th anniversary.

It is with good reason that this gorgeous book deserves a special release. And those children, who haven’t already discovered this book, will love it for just as many good reasons.  This is the story of a rather rambunctious but lovable dinosaur-like monster named Burra, who they say is an extremely rare Australian mammal called a boggabri.

Burra lives in a cave in Uluru and spends most of his day happily gnawing at rocks, at least until the tourists arrive by the busload. Burra finds the tourists far too noisy, keeping him awake late at night and waking him too early for his liking with their noisy car horns and engines. Burra tires of their behaviour quickly, and one day he sets off into the desert in search of a new home that is free of Burra. 

This takes Burra on a rather wild adventure through Australia. Burra stops at Perth, where he steals a cup of ‘bubbly’ (that makes him happy!) from the sailors and eats their greatest trophy – the America’s Cup. At his next stop in Adelaide, he chews the side off Festival Hall but decides it tastes terrible and the tourists there are still too noisy. So he leaves for Hobart where he finally finds something tasty – the farmers’ apple trees, but the farmers scare him away by pelting apples at him. And his gnawing misadventures continue right through Australia from swallowing too much dirty water in Melbourne’s Yarra River and taking a munch out of the National Gallery’s Blue Poles to eating a bit of the famous pineapple in Queensland and nosediving into a pack of musicians at the Sydney Opera House.

But his shenanigans land him in great trouble and Burra is captured in Sydney and taken to Taronga Park Zoo where he becomes the very thing he loathes – a tourist attraction. His rock-chomping jaws save the day and Burra chews through the bars and escapes, taking one last bite of the Sydney Harbour Bridge before deciding that there really is no place like home and makes his way back to Uluru.

This is a fun-loving story, bursting with Salmon’s delightfully playful cartoons and a story that not only will keep the kids engaged, but will help teach them about the geography of Australia and its national icons. A perfect combination for those thirsty young readers in schools. 

Saturday, 4 October 2014

Celia and Nonna

Celia and Nonna by Victoria Lane, illustrated by Kayleen West (Ford Street Publishing)
HB RRP $24.95
PB RRP $14.95
ISBN 978-1925000603 (HB)
ISBN 978-1925000610 (PB)
Reviewed by Francine Sculli

Every now and again you read a picture book that stings a little. It stings because it hits a chord, a memory and a small untouched pain somewhere inside of you. Celia and Nonna is that book; a touching story so divinely written that it has left my heart with a familiar longing.

Celia is a little girl with a warming relationship with her Nonna (grandmother in Italian). She visits her for regular sleepovers. Her Nonna keeps special treasures at her house just for Celia. Together they bake biscotti and read so many books that the penguins and fairies get jumbled in Celia’s head. Celia is Nonna’s little angel.

But one day, Celia notices that her Nonna is doing some strange, forgetful things like leaving the stove on, locking herself outside and forgetting to get changed out of her pyjamas when she visits the market. As Nonna’s forgetfulness worsens, she is taken to a new home where there are people to care for her. Celia begs to still sleepover, but there is only one bed in a room that has bare, grey walls and stinks of lemon and vinegars. Celia wishes that things would go back to how they were before when they would sit in the kitchen and bake biscotti together. She struggles to connect with her Nonna’s new home.

Until Celia finds some pencil and paper in Nonna’s new room and decides to draw her memories of Nonna’s old house. She draws the house with its tumbledown bushes and rubs of rosemary. Next time she visits she draws the kitchen filled with shelves of borlotti beans and jars of spices and each time after that, she draws a new picture until her Nonna’s walls are filled with a happy collection of memories, and until Celia has forgotten the funny smell and grey walls and realises that she is happy wherever her Nonna is.

As a young child, it is difficult to comprehend the challenging dynamics and changes that come with ageing family members, particularly those we have such a close and special connection with. Yet this book handles these issues, through the eyes of a child, with such grace and delicacy that although it stings, it gently encourages the reader to embrace those changes. This heart warming story is made even more touching by Kayleen West’s illustrations, which capture this story in vibrant images that tell of both the pleasure and pain.

Celia and Nonna is not only a book about old age and grieving the loss of a life that was, it is a story of connection and compassion that can be read on so many different levels, making it the perfect book for any public or private collection. 

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Dead Dog in the Still of the Night

Dead Dog in the Still of the Night by Archimede Fusillo (Ford Street Publishing)
PB RRP $18.95
ISBN 978-1925000344
Reviewed by Francine Sculli

Dead Dog in the Still of the Night is Archimede Fusillo’s fifth novel for the young adult readership. Like his other novels, this story takes us on a very real and relatable journey through the turbulent life of Primo.

Primo is trying to finish his VCE, but things at home aren’t making it easy. His Italian father, riddled with paranoia and delusions from the onset of dementia, is an ailing womaniser now in a home. His Irish mother is exhausted and depleted, not only from looking after his father, but also from years of forgiving her husband’s infidelities that have torn the family apart. Primo’s brother, Adrian, has followed in his father’s footsteps and has moved back home after his wife caught him cheating with another woman, Crystal, who is now making things even more difficult for Adrian. If that weren’t enough, Primo’s own relationship with his girlfriend Maddie is on unsteady ground. 

Primo is angry at his father and brother for their actions, disappointed that his mother kept forgiving his father and confused at how his life became such a mess. Buckling under the pressure of it all, Primo makes the wrong decision to take his father’s dust collecting, prized Fiat 500 classic red car – Bambino – out for a drive to see Maddie. But the car far from impresses Maddie and after an argument about a broken promise, Primo reels the car out of control and crashes the passenger door. Desperate to fix it before anyone in the family finds out, Primo asks his best mate, Tones, for help. The crash leads Primo and Tones down an unredeemable path that isn’t so easy to turn back. A series of events – a dead dog, a mindless scare, the bashing of his brother Adrian, confrontations with Crystal’s brother and the unravelling of the family – force Primo to make some hard decisions about the type of life he wants.

This story races through uneasy terrain, shedding light on and raising questions about family, trust, friendship, promises, betrayal, forgiveness, strength, consequences, finding oneself and the choices we make. Fusillo does this with a touch of heart-warming grace. The characters in Dead Dog in the Still of the Night fly off the page and dialogue is colloquial and fast-paced. His turn of phrase, written in such a hard hitting and artful manner, takes readers right into the heart of this story and keeps them there. 

Sunday, 25 May 2014

The Cuckoo

The Cuckoo by Gary Crew, illustrated by Naomi Turvey (Ford Street Publishing)
HB RRP $29.95
PB RRP $16.95
HB ISBN 9781925000177
PB ISBN 9781925000184
Reviewed by Francine Sculli

The Cuckoo by Gary Crew, illustrated by Naomi Turvey
(Ford Street Publishing)
HB RRP $29.95
PB RRP $16.95
HB ISBN 9781925000177
PB ISBN 9781925000184
Reviewed by Francine Sculli

Before I even opened the pages of The Cuckoo, I was intrigued. The haunting image of animal bones woven amongst Australian natives on the cover made me desperate to read the latest offering from one of Australia’s leading authors for youth, Gary Crew. And from that very first striking image right to the very last page, The Cuckoo kept me captivated and awe.

I was left with one word at the end of my first and second and third readings of this delicate fable: WOW. That’s all I kept thinking, a heavy and heartfelt WOW. But I realise a one word review will not suffice and so I have made my best attempt to put into words what makes this story so beautiful, provocative, striking and captivating.

It is the fable of a young boy named Martin. Martin is the runt of the family, abandoned by his mother and ridiculed by his father and brothers. He seeks comfort and friendship in the native birds, the forests and bush. But one evening, when a pair of eagles collect his brothers with their vicious talons and feed the boys’ bodies to their offspring, Martin’s world changes forever. His father, wishing it were Martin who was taken, convinces Martin it was he who bore the responsibility of his father’s sorrow.

And so Martin runs, seeking solitude in the valley. While roaming the valley, Martin discovers that the birds he had once befriended had self-sacrificed themselves to the baby eagles. Martin decides to take on the persona of an eaglet, covering himself in feathery down and honey sap, and determined to begin again. Raised in the eaglet’s nest, Martin’s body grows as sleek as the eagles that nurtured him. One day, he takes off, his wings soaring through the sky. But it is there that he spots his father on the edge of the cliff, crying of his loss and his arrogance and the hardness of his own heart that drove everyone away, even Martin. His sorrow and remorse touches Martin and he swoops down, collects his father and flies toward the sun.

The Cuckoo is so undeniably rich in folklore and morality that it is near impossible to remain untouched by its strong messages of independence, forgiveness, loss and family. And while these messages are strong in their own right, it is Crew’s language that truly captures the reader. Every word, every sentence, every dot of punctuation is poignant and unforgettable. It is poetry that sings and soars like the eagles in the story.

And one must not forget the illustrations of Naomi Turvey, which make this fable even richer and deeper with illustrations so delicately crafted with black and white ink and the soft hues of pink and blue pastels that look washed with watercolours. Her illustrations are simultaneously telling and alluring.

This book will be remembered for years to come and is an important tale for teaching people about the hardship of love and loss, and human beings capacity for forgiveness. It is absolutely WOW. 

Thursday, 20 March 2014

The Poppy

The Poppy by Andrew Plant (Ford Street Publishing)
HB RRP $26.95
PB RRP $16.95
HB ISBN 9781925000313
PB ISBN 9781925000320
Reviewed by Francine Sculli

The Poppy is a war story close to home, but a war story largely untold. Poetic language wraps around this historical story, delivering a picture book that is full of importance and remembrance and tells of the soldiers who have given up their lives to protect people and places.

The Poppy is an ANZAC story. Andrew Plant tells of the desperate night counter-attack in the small French village of Villers-Bretonneux in 1918. On this night, Australian soldiers fought hard to protect the village and its people, stopping the enemy breaking through and pushing them back. It was one of Australia’s greatest victories, as soldiers succeeded in recapturing the village from the Germans. But it was also a victory, like many in war, which came with great loss. Hundreds and hundreds of soldiers, mostly Australian, died holding the line, their blood shed across the fields.

Plant tells the story beautifully. He tells of the battle, but he also speaks of the unbreakable bond forged between Australia and France during the battle. Statues, crosses, woodcarvings of Australian plants and animals and many unnamed plaques of all the unknown soldiers, pepper the landscape and dot the hills. The children of the village know the stories. Australian and French flags fly side by side. These stories are painted throughout the pages; bright and vibrant illustrations lyrically depict the village resurrected after the war.

Plant’s language is accessible, simple in its retelling but poetic in its delivery. The visual imagery he creates with his words is impeccable, like the vision of the poppies and their petals that “turn the fields red where once they were stained with the blood of the fallen.”

The Poppy is a book of remembrance and togetherness; a book about the sacrifices that are made in war and the people that never forget these. It’s a book perfect for primary school readers and one that belongs in the history section of every library. With ANZAC Day fast approaching, this book will be an imperative read in schools across Australia.  

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

City of Monsters, Book 1 – Monster School

City of Monsters, Book 1 – Monster School by DC Green
(Ford Street Publishing)
PB RRP $18.95
ISBN 9781925000078
Reviewed by Francine Sculli

Princes aren’t your ordinary people, but Prince Thomas isn’t your ordinary prince either. He’s one of the few human beings left in Monstro City, a place overridden with monsters that don’t favour humes. His existence would be a little more exciting if he were allowed to do anything, but his days are largely consumed by Lord Boron’s dead boring history lessons (that don’t teach him much at all) and confinement in his bedroom with only Erica, a humourless ogre, to keep him entertained with absurd protection rituals.

Thomas knows very little of the world outside. He knows that the castle was raided by deadly vampires who abducted his father and brother. He knows his mother has since been comatose in a hospital bed and that Lord Boron has earned himself the privilege of being King until Thomas turns eighteen. But Thomas knows there is more to all of this.

One day his curiosity gets the better of him. He bribes money-driven Erica and devises a crazy plan to mask himself as a swamp monster named PT, build a mechanical replica of himself to sit in on Lord Boron’s boring history lessons and sets off to attend the local monster school, Monstro Central School.  At school, Thomas hopes to learn as much as he can about the outside world but he gets much more than he bargains for.

He meets an equally made cast of misfit monsters (think zombies, vampires, trolls, oversized spiders and mummies) who allow him to join their group, the Dead Gang. But these monsters quickly discover that PT isn’t who claims to be. He’s not a swamp monster but a human Prince Thomas. Resisting the urge to eat his brains out and suck his blood, the monsters begrudgingly decide

Even after the monsters discover that PT isn’t really a swamp monster, but a human Prince Thomas, the monsters decide not to eat his brains out or suck his blood, instead they begrudgingly decide to help him discover what is really going on over at the castle. What they discover sends them on an even wilder adventure – overturning the throne, reclaiming Thomas’ right as King, shapeshifting into Mayor Viethe, being chased by lethal gob hunters and confronting one of the scariest mythical creatures in the world – the dragon Kalthazari.

Monster School is a wildly imaginative story that is rippling with adventure, humour, blood and guts and the most barbaric line up of intriguing characters you’ll ever meet. DC Green has carved a fierce world that is sure to keep even the most reluctant reader engrossed. With interesting language, every monster you can imagine and some woven themes of friendship, trust and honour – Monster School is definitely gloriously grotesque. 

Sunday, 13 October 2013

The Only Game in the Galaxy

The Maximus Black Files – The Only Game in the Galaxy by Paul Collins (Ford Street Publishing)
PB RRP $19.95
ISBN 9781925000061
Reviewed by Francine Sculli
There are many great things about Paul Collins’ trilogy, The Maximus Black Files, but there is one certified characteristic of the trilogy – a characteristic that effortlessly binds all three books – and that is the thrilling and interminable action-packed disposition that keeps the reader hanging on the edge of their seats.

The latest and last book in the trilogy, The Only Game in the Galaxy, wastes no time in hauling readers into the fast-paced story line. By the end of the first page, readers are back in the sci-fi galaxies that create the perfect scene for the trilogy, right by the sides of our protagonists – megalomaniac Maximus Black and the hard-edged saviour Anneke Longshadow.

Anneke has thwarted another attempt on her life by Maximus but ends up with amnesia. When Maximus, in his renovated guise as Nathaniel Brown, sees Anneke return to RIM headquarters, unharmed but without memory, he uses this to his advantage, making Anneke an ally. But soon Anneke’s memory starts to come back to her and she takes her rightful place in a cast of intriguing characters that help her save the galaxy from the evil plans Maximus has to have his own dictatorial empire.

An all out war ensues between Maximus’ army and Anneke’s forces; one filled with beastly Omegans, age-old dreadnought ships and a protected fortress. But what neither Anneke nor Maximus know, is that Maximus is not the anticipated chosen one of Kadros as the Envoy had led him to believe, marking a different fate for the galaxy, for Maximus, for Anneke and the actual chosen one.

While this book is a thrill seeking sci-fi adventure – ripe with time travel, the significance of history and highly developed characters – it is also much, much more. With many subplots woven meticulously together, The Only Game in the Galaxy is a cleverly written story with threaded themes of friendship, honour, love, identity and choices. As it brings this fantastic trilogy to a close, this book answers many questions readers may have been asking as they read to this point. We uncover more of Maximus’ and Anneke’s back stories, we find out the significance of Deema (Anneke’s foster child) and the history of the characters that make this book so rich.

Paul Collins has created a trilogy that will no doubt live a deservingly long shelf life in the collection of many teens. 

Tuesday, 1 October 2013


Hi Buzz Worders, DC Green here. To celebrate the publication of my new novel, Monster School, I’ll be touring some wonderful author and writing blogs – starting from right now with a Buzz Words exclusive preview!

There will be tonnes of insights into the writing process with topics ranging from world building to creating monstrous characters. I’ll happily answer any posted questions (such as, ‘What’s it like sitting at the desk next to a giant spider called Bruce?’). And yes, there will be laughter – and giveaways!

Monster Blog Tour Dates

Tuesday, October 1. DC Green Yarns. Welcome to the Monster Blog Tour!

Buzz Words. Super sneaky peek!  /

Wednesday, October 2. Dianne Bates. Wacky author interview.

Thursday, October 3. Dee White. World building.

Friday, October 4. Erin O’Hara. Zany question time.

Saturday, October 5. Tania McCartney. Monstrous author interview.

Sunday, October 6. Ian Irvine. Plotters versus Pantsers.

Monday, October 7. Pass It On. Groovy reviews.

Tuesday, October 8.  Michael Gerard Bauer. Writing the perfect first page.

Wednesday, October 9. Robyn Opie Parnell. Writing a 21st Century Lord of the Rings.

Thursday, October 10. George Ivanoff. Writing monstrous characters.

Friday, October 11. Wrap party with prizes at my DC Green Author page!

Other Monstrous Links

Ford Street Publishing (for Monster orders): (for a kindle Monsters):
A World-wide Exclusive Buzz Words Preview

By DC Green

Part 2: Swamp Boy

Chapter 3: Frictions

‘Um . . . Is this Class 10A?’ I squeaked at the trio of sunglassed bodyguards.
The ogres ignored me.
I gawked at the entranceway. A chest-high door was embedded inside an oversized door which was in turn embedded inside a door that towered several times above my height. Beneath the shadow of the giant door knob, I gulped and pushed open the ‘normal’ option.
A blast of voices slapped me. So many monsters, talking and shouting at the same time! Bizarre smells muscled down my sinus passages. My eyes watered. I itched to turn and flee!
‘Ah, the new student.’ The stumpy Franken teacher waved his tentacles in my direction. ‘Don’t stand there like a dump of troll dung. Ha, ha. Come in, come in.’
The classroom was a flattened sphere built by giant ants: fifty times larger than any space I’d ever seen. The combination of overhead fluorescent bulbs and randomly floating jack-o’-lanterns cast thousands of creepy, shifting shadows.
I shuffled in, trailing slime and peering with growing dread around the semi-circular amphitheatre of monsters squatting behind various-sized desks. Olive-skinned goblins clustered on either side of the room, with rarer species clumped in the middle.
The Franken teacher flicked through his notes. ‘Well done finding this classroom. The layout of Lower Castle Mount can be most confusing. For your first decade! Ha, ha.’ Before I could answer, the teacher continued, ‘Let’s see – you obviously aren’t Greta the forest goblin. Ha, ha.’ He wrinkled his noses. ‘Judging by your fishy breath, which could well be smelt on Fire Mountain – ha, ha – I’d say you must be the swamp creature, Prg . . . yll Tl . . . xz . . . pkl . . . yp . . . nrg. Did I pronounce your name correctly?’
‘Close enough,’ I muttered through my reedy lips. ‘You can call me PT if that’s easier.’
‘Infinitely easier. And you can call me Doctor Combo. That’s my name. Ha, ha. Welcome to Biology! Take a seat.’
I nodded, jiggling my seaweed dreadlocks, and slouched towards the nearest empty desk. A goblin male student (they were all males!) kicked a seat into my scaly legs. I stumbled. Other students sniggered.
Up the back smirked the largest goblin, a flex-muscled orc. ‘Don’t even try sittin’ on this side o’ the classroom, Stink Lad,’ he sneered. ‘Not unless ya wanna end up Swamp Sushi.’ More sniggering. ‘These seats’re reserved for members o’ the Viethe clan. Grasp? And in case yer as thick as ya look, which is giant-bum thick, I’m Friendly Viethe – the mayor’s nephew. And I rule this school!’
From the far side of the classroom, an answering snort echoed. I glanced up as a goblin stood, his metallic teeth flashing. ‘Ya can’t even rule a straight line, Viethe!’
‘Says who?’ Friendly Viethe fired back.
‘Says me.’ The steel-fanged goblin’s eyeballs rotated my way. ‘C’mere, Swamp-ball.’
I gulped, peered around and obediently shuffled forward in what felt like a death march.
‘Name’s Gort Klusk,’ the second goblin continued. ‘I’m the Deputy Mayor’s son.’ With a leap I’d have reckoned was impossible, over several rows of chairs, Gort landed at my feet. The exposed parts of his body glistened with bionic enhancements. In a blur of movement, Gort pressed the razor sharp bone protruding from the back of his hand against my throat. His breath burnt with hatred and putrid parmesan cheese. ‘If ya ever come near the Klusk side o’ this class again, I’ll saw off yer head and mail it ta a kraken BBQ! Grasp it?’
‘It’s . . . grasped,’ I squeaked, too nervous about puncturing my windpipe to nod.
Gort elbowed me to the floor and stalked back to his seat. I glanced pleadingly at Doctor Combo, but the teacher’s back remained turned. He seemed more concerned with scrawling across his whiteboard than preventing my near-murder.
‘Yo, Swampy Grom!’ a shrill voice echoed from the middle of the classroom. ‘Plant your planty butt with us!’
I stared despairingly at the giant spider beckoning me, his triple-sectioned legs tucked awkwardly around, under and over his desk. Beside him sat a girl wrapped in bandages, a ragged corpse and a mohawked vampire!
My heart froze.
‘Aye, join the other minority freaks!’ Gort Klusk sneered. ‘Where ya belong!’
I gulped and forced my legs to work, wondering if I was about to break the death threat world record. Shuffle. Shuffle. Shuffle.
‘Come on, come on,’ Doctor Combo called. ‘I’d like to do some actual teaching today. Ha, ha. I– oh, not again.’ He sighed as a pretty, grass-green girl entered the classroom via the smallest door, mercifully removing the spotlight from my seaweed-covered backside. ‘Come in, come in. You must be . . .’ Combo flicked through his notes. ‘Greta Farbranch?’
‘Indeed,’ the diminutive goblin answered icily.
‘Ooh, a bush goblin,’ mocked a Viethe.
‘Worse, she’s a floozy!” roared Gort Klusk. ‘No self-respectin’ Klusk floozy would ever vamoose the kitchen ta grasp an edyacation!’
Friendly Viethe countered, ‘Neither’d any Viethe chicky worthy o’ the name!’
‘Sexist thugs,’ the bandaged girl droned.
I entered the shadow zone of a seat so massive it surely had to be a joke, and slid into a seat five along from the giant spider.
Uncoiling a leg, he jabbed a hairy pincer into my ribs. ‘Yo, Swampy. I’m your friendly neighbourhood eight-legged killing machine! But you can call me Bruce.’
‘PT,’ I croaked, shaking the spider’s pincer. It reeked of acid and something like rat poison. I dug my notepad and inkwell from my backpack. ‘Whoa!’ My hands flew to my face.
A jack-o’-lantern loomed up beside my desk, its demonic pumpkin face leering light upon my blank page.
 ‘Awww, cute,’ cooed Bruce. ‘The dead floating veggie must sense a kindred spirit with your vegetative ass.’
Was the giant spider serious or joking? His face was a terrifying wall of eyeballs. Were they glinting with amusement or homicidal hunger? He was kinda smiling, but his saliva-dribbling fangs conveyed a scarier message. ‘I guess,’ I squeaked at last, wrenching my eyes away.
Meanwhile, the forest goblin had settled into a seat at the middle of the front section. Empty desks encircled her. A cyborg Klusk lobbed a book at her head. She swayed clear and shot back a glare that could have snap-frozen mercury.
‘Should we perhaps invite the new lass?’ The vampire’s hollow voice prickled my skin.
‘No way, two-legs,’ scoffed Bruce. ‘You dig our gang rules. Zilch humes and zilch gobs!’
Words ground from the dead teen’s lipless mouth. ‘Zorg iz hating gobbinz.’ His breath reeked of decay and blackened blood.
Doctor Combo coughed. ‘I’m sorry to interrupt the day’s entertainment, but this is technically a classroom and we do have work to do. Ha, ha. Today, we’ll be continuing our comparative monster studies.’ Ignoring the groans, Combo slapped his whiteboard. ‘In the dark human era, strength was measured in horsepower or HP. Today, HP refers to a different type of obsolete creature: the human. Ha, ha.’
A few students sniggered.
Doctor Combo continued, ‘Given that one HP equals the feeble wrestling strength of a grown human male, which monster has the highest HP in Monstro City?’
Gort Klusk’s fist fired up. ‘Ogres! My dad’s got a weapons-enhanced ogre bodyguard so brawny he can kick ta the gutter any monster in Monstro City.’
‘Good, Gort,’ said the teacher. ‘Yes, the average ogre has an HP of six. With enhancements, this figure can reach up to thirty! Though is that the strongest rating?’
One of Bruce’s legs jabbed up, trailing web. ‘My old lady’s gnarly strong. Every dude in our neighbourhood’s wussed by her. And our mummy gal pal here,’ he indicated the bandaged girl with another leg, ‘owns a killer handshake.’
Goblins grumbled. Was the mummy blushing through her bandages?
‘Hold your webs. There’s more!’ Bruce fired a sticky rope substance to the edge of the massive seat above our heads. He swung up and stood tall on the seat with six of his legs raised triumphantly. ‘Ain’t zilch dudes out-webbing the most mega monster in class: our top-notch buddy, who’s away again, but will totally be back – Tessa the bad-ass troll! Yo!’
Saliva shrivelled in my mouth. The giant seat belonged to a troll!
‘Very good, Bruce. Please climb down now.’ Doctor Combo nodded. ‘Yes, the mightiest recorded troll has an HP of 150. With enhancements, that figure may reach as high as six hundred.’
A metallic goblin fist fired up. ‘Trolls’re big, aye, but they own no guts. Whatta ’bout Cerberus, the brawny hell-dog on Holly Hill? I grasp he’s got a raw HP o’ two hundred!’
A huge goblin on the opposite side yelled, ‘My dad argues the heaviest monster’s Godzilla. He weighed 450 tonnes, least before he lost a leg.’
The teacher’s mouths smiled. ‘Yes, Cerberus has an impressive HP, not to mention three heads. And Godzilla remains the heaviest known land monster. Though are they the strongest?’
‘Blessed Nile, no,’ said the mummy. ‘The strongest monster must surely be the dragon.’
A hush settled across the room.
My skin tingled.
The teacher clapped. ‘Very good, Scarab. Even though Kalthazari weighs only 320 tonnes – ha, ha – she has formidable shielding and a range of powers that defy definition. Experts estimate the dragon’s HP at a staggering fifty thousand!’
Friendly Viethe rose, smirking, until the room fell silent. ‘Yer all wrong. The brawniest monster in all o’ Monstro City is – the plains goblin!’
Bruce, now seated far too close to me, slapped his sixteen kneecaps. ‘Spin off! Gobs own HPs of only 0.7! My zombie bud’s BO is more kick-buttly than that!’
Zorg sniffed his scabrous armpits.
Friendly Viethe snarled, ‘Idiot spider. If ya didn’t sit with yer nose beside corpse-breath all day, ya’d grasp my new orc body’s got a much brawnier HP. Though even if yer 0.7 average was fact, grasp this: there are 1.6 million goblins in Monstro City – almost half o’ all monsters. And we’re the fastest growin’ species. Multiply 1.6 million by 0.7 and ya get . . . a lot brawnier number than any stinky-breathed dragon!’
The teacher clapped and bowed. ‘Excellent, Friendly. That makes a total HP of 1.12 million!’
Friendly high-fived his neighbours and climbed onto his desk. Mimicking Bruce, he raised his fists into the air. ‘Goblins rule – again!’
On both sides of the class, goblins clambered onto their desks to stand with fists held high.
A Klusk stomped his desk. A Viethe stomped back. Before I could blink, twin goblin armies marched upon their desks. Tromp! Tromp! Tromp! The classroom reverberated with metal-heeled boots.
Bruce jabbed pincers into what I guessed were his earholes.
A cyborg goblin shouted, ‘Klusks are the brawniest stompers!’
A Viethe shouted back, ‘Ya Klusks couldn’t stomp a dead elf!’
A Klusk lobbed a stapler. Viethes hurled two inkwells. Seven books flew in retaliation. Fifteen desks spun. I slunk low in my seat. Above my noggin, scores of stationery missiles arced back and forth across the classroom. Goblins crashed from their desks, foreheads and cheeks split wide, cackling with delight.
 ‘Ahem. Ahem!’ Doctor Combo clapped and struggled to restore some sort of order. Finally, after the injured were carried to the sick bay for stitching, and the blood and ink mopped up, the sweating teacher asked, ‘Any final, non-physical contributions to the HP debate?’ Spotting my slightly raised hand, he sighed. ‘Yes, er, PT?’
‘What about humans?’ I asked in a quivery voice. ‘Surely they have power too. Um, political power? Haven’t human kings and queens ruled Monstro City for over five hundred years?’
Friendly Viethe bared his pointy teeth. ‘Eyeball the ignorant hume-lover! Everyone grasps the real brawn in Monstro City lies with the mayor’s office. There’re only twenty thousand humes left, graspin’ just a shrinkin’ fraction o’ Castle Mount. The days when those round-eared freaks mattered are centuries done!’ The goblin leader scowled my way. ‘Why ya stickin’ up for humes, anyways?’
I reddened. ‘I’m just trying to . . . get the picture.’
Friendly Viethe, as poorly named as his more-famous uncle, snarled. ‘All ya gotta grasp is this: ya breathe now in the Age o’ Goblins!’
Ignoring the congratulatory goblin murmurs, the vampire stood, slicking his mohawk. ‘Perhaps. Yet as this class amply demonstrates, goblins are a house divided. They have also featured in more wars than any other monster species. And whom do goblins invariably fight? Other goblins. One never observes a dragon biting her own tail.’
‘Yo.’ Bruce nodded. ‘Gobs are the new humes.’
A hush descended.
Friendly’s reply was pure scorn. ‘Ya Dead Gang freaks just crossed the line o’ no return. With that insult, yer all the enemies o’ the brawniest mafia clan: the Viethes!’
Gort Klusk bellowed, ‘That goes doubly for us Klusks. Ya Deads better feast together and pee together and bunk together every sec o’ every day. When we catch one o’ ya alone, ya’ll grasp what goblin brawn means, my oath!’
‘Busting out bad boy band imitations?’ Bruce guffawed, until the vampire elbowed him so hard the air rushed from his thorax.
Several dozen goblins muttered murderously.
‘Friend Bruce,’ said Scarab. ‘You may have done more this day to unify the goblins than a dozen murdered ambassadors.’
‘And I ain’t even carked.’ The spider grinned. ‘Wait. What you just said was a fine thing, yo?’

Wow, I thought. And this is just Period One!

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Welcome Home

Welcome Home by Christina Booth (Ford Street Publishing)
HB RRP $26.95 PB RRP $16.95
HB ISBN 978-1925000085 PB ISBN 978-1925000092
Reviewed by Francine Sculli

Welcome Home is an important book about an issue that is not always easy to convey in children’s literature, but author and illustrator – Christina Booth – has carved a story so rich in meaning and message that it should be read to every generation.

Welcome Home is told through the eyes of a young, nameless boy. Every day he hears the calls of a female whale echoing down the river, softly lapping at the mountains. The boy listens intently as her calls change from pure joy to sadness and pain. Trying to decipher the calls that only he can hear, the boy feels the whale’s pain and listens to her story.

The whale carries history to the river – a place where her ancestors were once driven out by early settler whalers, mindlessly slaughtered and displaced. The boy feels it all, as the whale comes to him every day, searching for meaning and forgiveness, and a return to the place they once called home.

The whale tells the boy that they wanted to come home but they did not feel safe and the boy hangs his head. Saddened by what the men had done to her, he whispers a soft sorry as she swims away, her flukes clapping like thunder.

But the next day, as if the boy’s sorry was enough for her to feel safe again, the whale returns to the river with a call that is gentle and soft. The boy sees that the call was not meant for him this time, but the small baby whale that she has given birth to in the river. The boy and bystanders watch as the whale and her child swim through the waters, full of forgiveness and new beginnings. She tells the boy that they are safe now, and he welcomes them home.

Booth tells the story in a soft and unobtrusive way, but still her message is heard. The warm, forgiving and endearing nature of the whales, and the understanding and connectedness of the boy, which she paints so poetically, are powerful enough to show the mindless nature of whaling and what is needed to move forward. The words Booth chooses are nothing short of perfect and beautiful. But it is her illustrations that are a form of poetry in themselves – soft, washed out watercolours, intricately telling with their hues of grey, white, black and blue. They are images that tell of the whales joy and pain and of a future that does not need to be so horrific.

This important book is the perfect catalyst for educating and introducing children to the effects of whaling, to instil in them a care for our natural world and to spread the story that we must care for our animal world. It is a story perfect for the classroom and the family bookshelf, but one that should be read to adults and children alike.