Showing posts with label Penguin Books. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Penguin Books. Show all posts

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.

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, 16 March 2017

Lion: A Long Way Home

Lion: A Long Way Home by Saroo Brierley (Penguin Books) PB RRP $16.99 ISBN 9780143784760

Reviewed by Dianne Bates

By the time this review appears here in the Buzz Words’ blog, the story told in this book for readers aged 9 to 12 years, will have been seen by thousands of Australians in cinemas where it has screened as a major motion picture.

At the age of five, Saroo Brierley became lost on a train in India. Unable to escape the carriage he travelled in alone, he spent many hours until he arrived in a foreign city where he had to survive on his wits. After numerous adventures he was taken to an orphanage in Calcutta from which he was adopted by the Brierly family in Tasmania Australia. Despite being happy in his new home, Saroo kept memories of his mother, sister and two brothers but he could never remember the name of his home town. He spent hours staring at a map of India in his room and when he was an adult, working in his adoptive father’s business and with an Australian girl-friend, he began to pore over satellite images on Google Earth seeking out landmarks he remembered.

By looking at train tracks leading into Calcutta, Saroo was able to restrict his search zone to ‘only’ 962,300 square kilometres – over a quarter on India’s landmass, in which lived 345 million people. How on earth could he be expected to rely on his memory at the age of five and yet find four family members nearly 25 years later? The incredible thing is that Saroo succeeded by eventually being able to locate childhood sights of an overpass, a bridge over a river and a train station!

This is a fascinating book because Saroo’s life story is fascinating – and certainly inspirational, showing readers how it is possible to achieve success through relentless perseverance. Saroo is reunited with his mother, brother and sister. He learns that the night that he disappeared, so too did his teenage brother Guddu (who he was to find out had been killed). On seeing him, his Indian mother called out ‘Sheru’ – even his first name was mispronounced differently!

This is a simply told story of winning against immeasurable odds and is sure to be enjoyed immensely by keen readers.

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

The Things I Didn’t Say

The Things I Didn’t Say by Kylie Fornasier (Penguin Books) PB RRP $19.99 ISBN 978 0143573630

Reviewed by Dianne Bates

Losing the power to speak, though physically capable of doing so, is called Selective Mutism. Seventeen year old Piper Rhodes suffers from this mysterious condition even though, as she says, ‘I’ve used up every dandelion wish since I was ten wishing for the power to speak whenever I want to.’ She communicates with hand signals, facial expressions, text and hand written messages and emails. However, she can speak – but only to people she feels most comfortable with – her family, her psychologist (who is on a year’s Sabbatical) and Cassie, her best friend with whom she’s had an altercation, leading Piper at the beginning of the book to starting at a new school despite the fact she is in her final year at school.

It is certainly a brave thing to face people knowing that although you look normal (or, in Piper’s case, attractive), but happily teachers at the new school are prepared, though not the students. It’s surprising then, that despite not speaking, Piper is almost immediately befriended by West, a boy she regards as a ‘Royal’, one of the school’s elite – and coincidentally the school captain. Most of the other students accept Piper’s Mutism, but there are some episodes where she is tormented by ‘invisible’ others.

Piper and West become an item, even though the former never speaks. West seems almost too good to be true the way he accepts Piper’s Mutism, even when the two – Piper still mute -- go to a holiday house to have sex. It is only towards the end of the book when there is a dramatic turn of events that Piper finds her voice around him – and around others.

This is a well-written novel, sympathetic to Piper’s plight. My only quibble is that the final school state-wide exams are down-played with family and social relationships taking the forefront. Piper’s plan to become a journalist is replaced by her desire to study psychology.

Recommended for the readers aged 13+ years.

Saturday, 30 April 2016

The Secrets We Keep

The Secrets We Keep by Nova Weetman (UQP) PB RRP $16.99
ISBN 978-0-7022-5421-5

Reviewed by Joanne Pummer

 This novel by Nova Weetman, is highly recommended for all children (9 yrs+), but it's especially relevant for children feeling anger towards a parent who's struggling with depression, mental illness or addiction.

Written in the first person, by eleven year old Clem, the story starts on the first day at a new school, when Clem and her Dad are living in a flat because their house has burnt down. The fate of her mother is a mystery; 'Mum was asleep' is all Clem tells us. This is the hook that entices the reader.

Clem's new friend, Ellie, is inquisitive about the reasons she has shifted schools.  'My mum died,' Clem says. Three words she'll live to regret. Ellie, believing she's found someone who understands, tells Clem her mother is dying of cancer.

We feel for Clem when she has flashbacks of her mother before the fire, in bed, crying, unable to cope with housework, the signs of depression. Ellie's mother dies and Clem is unable to face the funeral.

A turning point comes when Clem receives a letter from her mother and refuses to read it. Clem is angry, believing it was her mother who started the fire, When Ellie finds out she flees in tears, because Clem has lied to her.

I had a lump in my throat when Clem, eventually, between sobs, reveals her shameful secret. She wished her mother had died in the fire because it's easier to talk about a dying mother than one who's unavailable. My tears came at the last page, when Clem sees her mother at the school athletics carnival, with her 'arms out and ready' and Clem says ''Mum''.

Warning: Copious amounts of sugar were eaten by the characters, during the writing of this book.

Friday, 27 December 2013

The Boy and the Toy

The Boy and the Toy by Sonya Hartnett, illustrated by Lucia Masciullo (Penguin Books)
HC RRP 24.95, PB 14.99
ISBN 9780670073627
Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

Sonya Hartnett has ventured into children’s writing with her first picture book, The Boy and the Toy. The writing is still the imaginative and meaningful prose that we have come to expect from this author. It’s the illustrations by painter Lucia Masciullo, the illustrator of the fantastic Our Australian Girl series that elevates Hartnett’s work to a higher plane with her perfect interpretation of the text.

This is a wonderful tale about human needs; friendship and its expectations.

The inventor is going away and the boy will be alone during his absence. He invents a machine/toy to keep him company and entertained during this time. But can a machine that can do everything be the perfect playmate/companion for a boy? Can it ever replace the unconditional love of a living, breathing being?

Emotive and wonderfully thought-provoking, with detailed full page colour illustrations, this book has an identical jacket to the cover, superb fly pages and priceless artwork on double-page spreads. It is one for collectors of fine children’s books. The paperback edition will be available in February, 2014.

Saturday, 21 December 2013

Baby Bedtime

Baby Bedtime by Mem Fox, illustrated by Emma Quay (Penguin Books)
Padded Cover RRP $24.99
ISBN 9780670075195
Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

Baby Bedtime is a tender and gentle expression of love from a mother to a baby – no matter what form or shape the baby takes. Here it is a purple elephant. Every line of Mem Fox’s delicate rhyming verse is a caress of love; the cuddle, the tickle and stroke is a hymn to love. From the singing of songs her mother sang to her, to reading a book or listening to the child breathing, every action speaks of love.

The impeccable illustrations have been created by the stylish and innovative illustrator and writer Emma Quay, whose work has been purchased by the Victoria and Albert Museum, shortlisted for the CBCA Book of the Year Awards, chosen as CBCA Notable Books, and who has collaborated with writer Andrew Daddo and a string of other authors in creating all types of books for young children. It has been produced in a delightful, soft blue padded cover.

Here Emma’s illustrations are born through imagination and the use of acrylic paints, pencil, and Photoshop. The patterns and textures are from knitting by Byrnece, and objects found in Op Shops such as handkerchiefs, doilies, lace, belts and baskets. It is the ideal present for new born babies, or a simple expression of love.

Friday, 10 August 2012

Ann Whitehead book signing

Ann Whitehead book signing at Dapto

Okay, this isn't Buzz Words Books usual post but Ann is a personal friend and a fabulous writer.

Ann Whitehead will soon be having a book signing for her new adult historical sage Waratah House (Penguin Books). The signing will take place at Newings Bookstore, Dapto Mall, opposite Woolworths from 11am-2pm on Saturday 18 August. Please go along to support our terrific local author who lives at Oak Flats.

Please pass this message on to others who might be interested.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

The Ghost of Miss Annabel Spoon

The Ghost of Miss Annabel Spoon written and illustrated by Aaron Blabey (Viking)
PB RRP $29.95
ISBN 978 0 670 07474 7
Reviewed by Gail C Breese

In landscape format the cover illustration sets the scene for this delightful ghost story in mixed media using subdued colours of greys, browns and greens.

The people of the village of Twee had a problem. They feared that the town was haunted by a ghost called Miss Annabel Spoon. She appeared amongst the townspeople at any time of the day or night and they were terrified.

‘Enough is enough,’
Puffed the Mayor in a huff
To a crowd who were equally cranky.
‘Things must be improved,
Yes she must be removed.’
Then he patted his head with a hanky.

Brave young Herbert Kettle had an idea: he’d go to the witch’s house in the woods and ask why she haunted the town. Annabel was so glad to see Herbert and in tears told him that she was tired of being alone. Herbert promised to be her friend and now she no longer haunted the townspeople who were happy again.

The rhyming text has a pleasing rhythm which is fun to read aloud. The illustrations are intriguing and expressive.

Aaron Blabey’s first picture book Pearl Barley and Charley Parsley received a CBCA Award in 2008. Sunday Chutney was shortlisted for CBCA picture book of the year 2009.