Showing posts with label Jess Black. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Jess Black. Show all posts

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.

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Goldie Makes the Grade

Goldie Makes the Grade (Little Paws series) written by Jess Black, illustrations by Gabriel Evans (Penguin Random House Australia) PB RRP $9.95
ISBN 978-0-14-378183-7

Reviewed by Elizabeth Vercoe

Goldie Makes the Grade is one in a series of four short chapter books about the puppies that train to become Guide Dogs and the families who look after them. If I were back in primary school now, I know I would have devoured every one of these! For reviewing purposes I have read just this title in the series.

Author Jess Black has penned all four books, and hopefully illustrator Gabriel Evans has also worked on each. The simple, black and white pencil sketches dotted throughout this story are wonderfully evocative and well-placed to support the narrative. The delightful storyline is engaging and very readable.

Goldie is a fourteen-month old Labrador who is due to leave eight-year-old Abby Agresta and her family soon, to begin her final Guide Dog training.
However, young Abby faces the urgent dilemma of clearing Goldie’s ‘name’ in order to ensure that she will be accepted as a service dog. An unfortunate incident in the Agresta household involving cupcakes, has cast some doubt on Goldie’s ability to control her Labrador eating instincts!

This short chapter book punches well above its weight in terms of providing thoughtful ideas for both individual pondering and further classroom discussion. Without being at all ‘preachy,’ it opens up issues of gender and cultural stereotypes, friendships, loyalty, standing up for what you believe in, self-empowerment and doing the right thing, and, of course, information about looking after a guide dog puppy.

I really enjoyed the fact that although child and dog share a very close bond (Goldie even sleeps on Abby’s bed), the story doesn’t delve into the sadness that the two will feel at the time of separation. It rather focuses on the gifts that will be brought to both Goldie and her future vision-impaired owner.

A section with interesting facts and further information is included at the end of the story. An added bonus is that ‘Buying this book helps me become a Guide Dog!” as claimed by the gorgeous golden Labrador on the front cover.

Both girls and boys of primary school age will enjoy, and be informed by, this book.


Sunday, 23 August 2015

Keeper of the Crystals: Eve and the Runaway Unicorn

Keeper of the Crystals: Eve and the Runaway Unicorn by Jess Black (New Frontier Publishing)
PB RRP $ 14.99
ISBN 9780957988415

Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

Eve is staying at her Granny’s place in a town full of old people, with the exception of Oscar, who lives next door. ‘You are never to go into the attic!’ is Granny’s rule. Tell children not to do something and they will go straight and do it. Eve is bored and she and Oscar decide to explore the forbidden attic.

Eve takes the keys while Granny is sleeping and it’s in a locked metal trunk that she finds the crystal unicorn. The bright light generated by the unicorn is a portal into a strange and mysterious land. Eve and Oscar land on sand in the desert of Panthor near the Borderlands, and embark on the adventure of their life. Panthor is a land where animals and people live in harmony, and communicate through their thoughts.

 Eve discovers that the imprint of the crystal unicorn stays on her palm. This has a significance that is revealed later in the story.

Greeted by Callie, one of the outliers, Eve is surprised to learn that her arrival was foretold in a prophecy. Her coming means the return of the unicorn, and freedom for the people from the king who has enslaved them.

The children go to the Lakes of Trapor in the heart of the Borderlands and into forbidden territory, to find the unicorn and overthrow the king. Will they succeed in their quest? Can they find a way to return home?

This fantasy adventure for the 7+ age groups is the beginning of a series where animals, people and other living things, live in harmony. Eve for some unrevealed reason is chosen as the Keeper of the Crystals. Each story has a new and challenging quest. It has mystery and intrigue, secrets and revelations. This book ends with a dangling teaser alluding to Granny and why the unicorn crystal was discovered in her attic. The next book, Keeper of the Crystals: Eve and the Fiery Phoenix, is also out now.




Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Keeper of the Crystals: Eve and the Fiery Phoenix

Keeper of the Crystals: Eve and the Fiery Phoenix by Jess Black (New Frontier Publishing)
PB RRP $14.99
ISBN 9781925059441

Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

Eve and Oscar have become friends and constant companions, after sharing the experience in the desert of Panthor after Eve had summoned the power of the unicorn.

In the second book of the Keeper of the Crystals series Eve finds a tiny crystal phoenix in an Odditorium which once again, leaves an imprint on her palm.
A powered illuminated light appears just before a torrent of water sweeps Eve and Oscar away.

Everything is dark around them. Eve, who loses sight of Oscar, allows herself to be helplessly taken along by the water. Suddenly, she connects with something solid and clings to it.

The force of the water sends her down a river surrounded by jungle on either side. A log with Oscar clinging to it brings them together, and they manage to haul themselves to the bank by grabbing onto overhanging branches.

A tiger confronts them, with the boy Slate close by. The children must find his people’s sacred fire spirit. Its song is what brings the sun up to warm the land of Griffid, the tiger jungle. Eve knows that her magic power has brought her to this place where tigers and people live in harmony together for that purpose.

But where is the phoenix? Eve and Oscar’s quest is to bring the magical bird back to them as soon as possible. It is losing its feathers and each feather dropped starts a fire that destroys more of the landscape.

Can the children negotiate the maze of caves at Merden by following the imprint on Eve’s hand? Will the bird, like its legend, rise from the ashes reborn, to bring the sun back to its people?

This fantasy adventure with magical powers at play is now moving at a faster pace. The question of what Gran has to do with the magic crystals was born in the reader’s mind at the end of the last book, and fed in this one. It has generated an interest that expands beyond the story and a longing to find out what secret Gran is hiding.


Eve and the Mermaid’s Tears is due in October. Full of mystery and adventure, this exciting series is proving to be an addictive read. It is highly suited to the 7+ age groups. It carries subtle environmental themes, addressing the importance of nature and its survival through people, plants and animals living together harmoniously.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Bindi Wildlife Adventures: Lost

Bindi Wildlife Adventures: Lost by Jess Black (Random House)
PB RRP $9.95
ISBN 978-1-8647-1854-6
Reviewed by Oliver Phommavanh

Bindi’s largely successful series continues with Lost, one of four new books in the Wildlife Adventure collection. Lost is an interesting story set in Kakadu. The Irwins travel to the national park to visit some old friends. DJ is an aboriginal kid keeps Bindi and her brother Robert amused with all sorts of facts.

When Bindi and DJ find a tourist who has lost her boyfriend, they’re involved in the search. Bindi spots a cockatoo that seems to be trying tell them something. Will the cockatoo lead them to the missing boyfriend or will they become lost themselves?

DJ’s a funny character, eager to show his friends around, even if he’s unsure himself. The book briefly deals with what happens when you’re too proud to admit that you’re wrong. The story flows along, as Bindi and DJ try to find their way back. The book comes with a neat animal file on the sulphur-crested cockatoo.

Bindi’s latest book Lost will please fans with a great mix of facts and thrills. There’s also a wonderful conservation message that runs throughout every book. Recommended for ages 7 and up.