Showing posts with label adventure. Show all posts
Showing posts with label adventure. Show all posts

Monday, 22 October 2018

Max Booth Future Sleuth: Stamp Safari

Max Booth Future Sleuth: Stamp Safari by Cameron Macintosh, illustrated by Dave Atze (Big Sky Publishing) PB RRP $12.99 ISBN 9781925675368

Reviewed by Kylie Buckley

Max Booth and his trusty robo-dog Oscar are back for another sleuthing adventure. Stamp Safari is the third book in this futuristic series for young readers.

The year is 2424 and the world is a very different place. There are floating skyburbs as well as the usual ground level suburbs and zoom tubes with aircells that transport people back and forth. Zip coasters move people around the city by looping over buildings and underneath bridges. Max Booth lives on Skyburb 6. Since his escape from the Home for Unclaimed Urchins, he secretly lives in the storeroom of the Bluggsville Museum. Max helps his friend Jessie to identify ancient objects for display in the museum, to earn a little cash.

Max and Jessie become intrigued by a tiny rectangular piece of paper that has a pattern cut into its edges. It has a picture on one side and is sticky on the other.   Unfortunately, the Great Solar Flare of 2037 destroyed the old Internet and its contents, and this patch of paper is too old to easily identify. So, Max sets off with his resourceful beagle-bot Oscar in search of clues to find the origin of this rare and fragile piece of paper.

It isn’t long before Max and Oscar get themselves into trouble and hopes fade for identifying the piece of paper. Max gets captured by Captain Selby (the leader of the Unclaimed Urchins Recapture Squad) and is separated from his beloved Oscar. Max needs to try every trick in the book if he is to safely return to the museum with his dog and the patch of paper.

This humorous book would appeal to children 7+ years old who are beginning their chapter book journey. Atze’s monochrome cartoon vignettes are scattered throughout the book to help young minds visualise the futuristic world that Macintosh has created. If you’re keen for more sleuthing fun after you’ve read this book, make sure you check out the other two books in this series: Tape Escape and Selfie Search.

Friday, 12 October 2018

The Book of Answers

The Book of Answers by A.L. Tait (Hachette Australia) PB RRP $14.99     ISBN: 9780734417695

Reviewed by Jeffery E Doherty

The Book of Answers is the second book in the gripping Ateban Cipher by A.L. Tait. It follows on from the first book in the series, The Book of Secrets.

Gabe and his companions must journey across the country to a remote mountain citadel to learn the secrets of the mysterious book he has been tasked to protect. They also need to find a way to rescue Merry and Gwyn's father from the executioner and to help their new friend, Eddie - Crown Prince Edward - to help prove he is the true prince. However, the king is gravely ill and the traitors who have put a look-a-like in Eddie’s place are hot on their heels and hunting them every step of the way.  

The remote fortress of Hayden's Mont does bring answers to Gabe and his companions, but not to the questions they were seeking. The stakes for the main characters have risen dramatically from the events in the first book and the group must re-evaluate their priorities in their life or death race to foil the traitors.

The Book of Answers is an excellent second addition to the Ateban Cipher series and is sure to be a hit with both girls and boys who love a great adventure story. The mix of female and male lead characters makes the story more interesting. Gwyn's stubborn confidence and young Midge's mysterious connection with animals, compliment Gabe and Eddie's determination. The companions will all have to build their trust and work together if they are to succeed in their quest.  This book is full of adventure and intrigue and would ideally suit readers 8-12 years old.   

Saturday, 3 March 2018

Quark’s Academy

Quark’s Academy by Catherine Pelosi (Lothian)

PB RRP $15.99

IBSN 9780734417800

Reviewed by Kate Simpson

“No parents, pets or soft toys allowed.” Quark’s Academy is the story of three young science whizz kids, Augustine, Celeste and Oscar, who are invited to spend a week at the prestigious Quark’s Academy to compete in the Best Invention Competition and win a prize of unspecified riches. But as the week progresses, it becomes clear that the academy is not what it seems and more is at stake than the offered prize money. It’s a sparkling and delightful debut from Catherine Pelosi, bursting with imagination and adventure.

Quark’s Academy is to science and invention what Willie Wonka’s chocolate factory is to candy-making. It’s packed full of fun, futuristic and sometimes downright outlandish inventions like jet packs, weather makers and an invention to combine the DNA of different animal species: fancy a lion mixed with an antelope? An anaconda crossed with an elephant? Anything is possible at Quark’s Academy.

With strong male and female protagonists, this book will appeal to both boys and girls aged 8 and up with a taste for fun and adventure. And if they weren’t science fans before they read the book, they will be afterwards.  

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

The Book of Secrets: An Ateban Cipher Novel

The Book of Secrets: An Ateban Cipher Novel by A.L. Tait (Lothian/Hachette)
PB RRP $14.99  ISBN 9780734417671
Reviewed by Liz Ledden

The Book of Secrets is the first book in A.L. Tait’s new Ateban Cipher series. It follows on from her popular Mapmaker Chronicles books, appealing to a similar middle grade audience of around 9 to 12 years old.

The story begins with an intriguing premise. Protagonist Gabe, who has lived in an abbey his whole life after he’s delivered to its doorstep as a baby, is handed a precious manuscript by the mysteriously wounded Brother Benedict. He’s given strict instructions to deliver the coded book to ‘Aidan’, and to guard it with his life.

So begins a thrilling, fast-paced adventure as Gabe bravely ventures beyond the abbey’s walls, and encounters a strong-willed group of girls with agendas of their own. Gwyn, Merry and co. battle gender stereotypes and help position this series as one for everyone.

Tait builds a believable and evocative middle ages world, rich in historical detail – think dungeons, danger, archery and royal double-crossings. The introduction of Eddie to the cast of characters around the halfway mark elevates the stakes even more. High on energy, The Book of Secrets is a compelling read with twists and turns to keep you guessing, and sets up a whole new exciting adventure for the next installment.

Saturday, 3 June 2017

Tarin of the Mammoths: The Exile

Tarin of the Mammoths: The Exile (Book 1) by Jo Sandhu (Puffin Books) PB RRP $16.99  ISBN 9780143309376

Reviewed by Kylie Buckley

Jo Sandhu has triumphed with her debut book, Tarin of the Mammoths: The Exile, the first novel in an upcoming series. Set during the Stone Age, this is a gripping fictional tale of adventure.

We are introduced to the main character Tarin in the prologue, where he declares his desire to hunt mammoth, bison and reindeer, just like those he admires. He longs to tell stories of hunting and bravery, but instead he describes his lack of strength, his leg that twists when he runs and the disheartening names he is called by his Mammoth Clan.

When an unfortunate accident sees a hunt go wrong, and Tarin’s clan facing starvation during the long dark winter, he is outcast by those he loves. ‘I ruined the mammoth hunt. I have brought shame to my family, and that will never leave me...’ With a heavy heart and little sense of belonging, Tarin decides to escape the pity and contempt from others and sets out alone on a quest to save the Mammoth Clan.

Tarin has overcome many obstacles in his life just to be alive, but this mission is by far his greatest challenge. He faces a long and treacherous journey ‘across the frozen tundar, across many rivers, through forests and over mountains…’ Now, more than ever, he must believe in himself and ignore the naysayers, as there are plenty more moments to test him! During his trek Tarin meets Kaija and Luuka who have also fled their home and face an uncertain journey of their own. But does this potential friendship help or hinder Tarin’s quest?

This is an engaging story, told in the third person, with themes of family, friendship, strength, persistence, resilience and belief. This middle fiction novel would suit children aged 10+ and is sure to appeal to those with a sense of adventure. No doubt they’ll soon be looking forward to the release of Book 2!

Saturday, 15 April 2017

Jinny and Cooper: Revenge of the Stone Witch

Jinny and Cooper: Revenge of the Stone Witch by Tania Ingram (Puffin Books) PB RRP $14.99 ISBN 9780143308997

Reviewed by Dianne Bates

This is the fourth in a series of chapter books suitable for readers 7 to 10 years. The narrator of this book is Jinny (short for Jinnifer) while Cooper is her scruffy, teleporting and talking guinea pig – a very greedy one at that with a preference for junk food.

During the school holidays too-polite Katie comes to stay next door to Jinny which is nice at first but soon Jinny is feeling jealous. Even brother Tyrone (who calls himself Super Booger) thinks Katie is ‘super awesome’. More trouble arrives when Miss Morgan moves into the nearby house last occupied by a witch: is the new neighbour a witch, too? (In the previous book, there is an adventure about a teacher who is a witch living in this house.)

Suspicions are aroused when a cloaked woman is seen digging in Jinny’s front garden at night. Who is the woman? Jinny and Tyrone discover a series of knotted strings where the woman dug. This is a clue which they follow – only to find that Miss Morgan was the culprit. She reveals much information to the children about a coven of witches and lets it be known that there is mischief afoot. Who is the real witch?

With Cooper’s help, the children find themselves in the home of elderly Mrs Goodfellow, Katie’s grand-mother. Females are turned to stone! Can the salt and potatoes – said to ward off witches – help save the day? And how does Cooper work to prevent more trouble?

There are lots of possibilities in this story which are sure to have young readers guessing, and too there is a lot of humour. The action moves quickly and the characters, especially Cooper, are idiosyncratic and engaging. 

Friday, 14 April 2017

Jinny and Cooper: My Teacher’s Big Bad Secret

Jinny and Cooper: My Teacher’s Big Bad Secret by Tania Ingram (Puffin Books) PB RRP $14.99 ISBN 9780143308751

Reviewed by Dianne Bates

Readers aged 7 to 10 years who’ve discovered the Jinny and Cooper book series, no doubt will have eagerly been awaiting this latest book of the adventures of Jinny, a girl, and her guinea pig, Cooper. This story starts when, after years of begging for a pet guinea pig, Jinny goes with her mum and brother Tyrone to a pet shop. There are plenty of beautiful, shiny guinea pigs for sale, but the shop-keeper has a dirty, scruffy pig under the counter which he’s keen to let go. (Wonder why? Mmm…) Mum is in charge so when she’s offered freebies to go with the guinea pig, a bargain is grabbed and Jinny is forced to take on this particular one.

At first Jinny names the guinea pig ‘Frizzy’, but a few days later, to her and Tyrone’s astonishment, said pig starts talking, telling them that his name is Cooper. This is no ordinary guinea pig, folks! Not only does he refuse typical guinea pig food – carrots, lettuce and the like – but he’s a glutton for anything sweet or any junk food. And there’s more: Cooper is able to make himself invisible. He can teleport, too! All of this leads to misadventures throughout this book and the book that follows.

Child readers will love the fact that Cooper is so determined to go to Jinny’s school that he makes use of his magical powers. But once there, Cooper becomes convinced that Jinny’s kind, elderly teacher, Miss Bunney, is a witch. Sorry, there is no spoiler alert in this review; suffice to say that Cooper turns out, through misadventure, to be the hero of the tale.

A teacher as a witch? Seems politically incorrect at a time when society is trying to show women in a good light. But kids don’t care – many fantasise about their teachers’ private lives. Some schools might not want a chapter book about witches in their library (but Roald Dahl’s The Witches was immensely popular). Each to her own…

My Teacher’s Big Bad Secret is a fast-paced, easy to read book with feisty child (and animal) characters (but not so nice adults). Having a talking pet is a dream of many children and thus this book is likely to find a happy and wide readership.

Friday, 24 March 2017

The Smuggler’s Curse

The Smuggler’s Curse by Norman Jorgensen (Fremantle Press) PB RRP $16.99 ISBN 9781925164190

Reviewed by Teena Raffa-Mulligan

The Smuggler’s Curse is a swashbuckling adventure that delivers a rollicking good read guaranteed to keep young readers glued to the pages throughout. This not-so-young reader was captivated from the opening lines by the tale of a boy sold to an infamous smuggler in the closing days of the nineteenth century.

The adventure unfolds through the boy’s eyes and Norman Jorgensen captures his young narrator Red Read’s voice beautifully. He also draws a vivid picture of life in colonial times. History comes alive for the reader as Red is caught up in life-threatening encounters with cutthroat pirates, head hunting guerrillas and the forces of nature when he joins the crew of Captain Black Bowen’s ship The Black Dragon as ship’s boy.

Jorgensen has set his gripping tale of smuggling and piracy off the north-west coast of Australia, with the ship sailing from Broome and travelling to South East Asia. Historical detail is woven seamlessly into the story, which has clearly been well researched.

There is some violence in the book but there’s also a liberal sprinkling of humour and a strong element of warmth underpinning the relationships between the Captain, his crew and young Red.

Jorgensen is an award-winning author whose books for young people have won critical and popular acclaim both in Australia and overseas.
He is a consummate tale teller and has delivered this latest release in inimitable style.

The Smuggler’s Curse is sure to be a favourite with 9-14 year olds who enjoy a ripping yarn told well. It would also be a great addition to the classroom for its perspective on life in colonial times. Teaching notes are available from the publisher.    

Tuesday, 4 October 2016

Sage Cookson’s Sweet Escape

Sage Cookson’s Sweet Escape by Sally Murphy (New Frontier) PB RRP $9.99
ISBN 978-1-92505-961-8

Reviewed by Jenny Heslop

Sage Cookson has a life many young people would envy. Her parents are famous television cooks and food experts who travel the world to many exotic locations, taking Sage with them. Although she misses her best friend Lucy when she travels, Sage enjoys this lifestyle. And to make sure she doesn’t miss school either she has tutors to keep her schoolwork up to date.

On this first adventure, the Cooksons travel to Western Australia to be guest judges at the Newhaven Cooking Contest. Sage senses something strange is going on when they are offered a tour of a chocolate factory. Things turn grim and she and her parents need to be brave and resourceful to get themselves out of a sticky situation.

Celebrity cooking and foodies are very popular themes currently and combining these with adventure and suspense makes for a clever and appealing series for 7 to 10 year olds. Sage is a realistic and likable character, the villains aren’t too villainous, just a bit naughty and there is a smattering of facts about food and cocoa beans throughout the story. 

Short chapters, which mostly end with a hook, make this a hard-to-put-down adventure story. It is well written, easy to read and the recipe at the end of the book – Cheat’s Chocolate Fondant – is pitched perfectly at the readership age.

Sage Cookson’s Sweet Escape will appeal to a wide range of interests with themes explored being cooking, travel, adventures, family, celebrity status and friendships. I liked Sage’s voice and enjoyed spending time with her on her adventure. This is the first book in a new series and I look forward to travelling with the Cookson family again.

Thursday, 1 September 2016

A Child of Books

A Child of Books by Oliver Jeffers (Walker Books)
HB RRP $27.99
ISBN 9781406358315

Reviewed by Ashling Kwok

A Child of Books is one of the most beautiful books I have ever had the pleasure of reading. It is an absolute masterpiece in concept and design.
On the surface it appears to be just another lovely picture book but delve deeper and you will soon uncover a magical world where words and images collide to create a magnificent piece of art.

A Child of Books is the story of a young girl who sails her raft across a sea of words, arriving at the house of a small boy and calling him away on an adventure.

Through a forest of fairy tales and across mountains of make believe, the two travel together on an amazing journey that unlocks the boy’s imagination. Now a lifetime of magic and adventure lies ahead of him.
A Child of Books features lovely words and elegant images by Oliver Jeffers, along with Sam Winston’s typographical landscapes, shaped from excerpts of children’s classics and lullabies.

It is a stunning prose poem that pays homage to the history of literature, based on the stories and influences that impacted the creators.
See how many excerpts of children’s classics and lullabies you can find intertwined in the illustrations.

It’s difficult to express how truly lovely this book is. There is nothing else like it on the market. It is a beautiful, timeless treasure that I thoroughly recommend to readers of all ages. 

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Born to Sing

Born to Sing by Sally Morgan, illustrated by Craig Smith (Omnibus Books)
PB RRP $12.99
ISBN 978-1-74299-151-1

Reviewed by Jenny Heslop

The holidays are here again and during a family meeting Dad announces they will all be taking a special trip. He is taking the boys to Tasmania to see the penguins and Mum will take Maddie and Nan to Shark Bay to see the whales. Maddie is a little concerned when Mum says they are taking the ratty caravan, but nothing can spoil her excitement at the possibility of seeing whales. Maddie loves to sing and her favourite music is whale songs. She is super excited!

Born To Sing tells the story of the adventure Maddie has with her Mum and Nan as they make their ten-hour journey. It also shares the fun they have when they arrive, including an encounter with the huge and magnificent whales in Shark Bay.

A humorous and happy story, it is based around an indigenous family with a lovely bond and is set firmly in the Australian landscape and culture. Where else would you see an emu walking down the main street with no-one batting an eye?

Informative and entertaining, this is a great book for those just starting to extend their reading skills to chapter books. It is well written with easy to read sentences for younger readers. Lovely black and white illustrations break up the short chapters, filling the pages and enhancing the light, fun atmosphere of the story.

Sunday, 26 June 2016

Hell and High Water

Hell and High Water by Tanya Landman (Walker Books)
PB RRP $17.99
ISBN 9781406366914

Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

The brilliant Buffalo Soldier won Tanya Landman the Carnegie Medal. Here is an equally brilliant and exciting adventure in three parts, about courage, resilience and race, and secrets and truths.

Fifteen year old Caleb is the dark-skinned son of a fair-skinned man. Pa protects Caleb from the racist attacks he frequently faces. All that Caleb knows about his mother is that she died at childbirth. In fact Pa has shared very little about his own life. They are a loving pair that wants nothing more than what they have.

The two make their living by travelling through the country with a wagonload of hand-made Punch and Judy puppets, entertaining crowds.

Pa is set up and arrested for theft. He is taken to jail and condemned to seven years in America. Caleb must reach his aunt Anne, a person he has never heard mentioned before.

In Tawpuddle, Anne lives a frugal life as a dressmaker with her young daughter and stepdaughter Letty, while her husband is at sea. Another mouth to feed is the last thing they need.

‘It’s astonishing what a person can get used to if their circumstances change’, Anne tells Caleb. His sewing skills come in handy when he can’t find work in the poverty-stricken town due to his colour.

When Caleb finds Pa’s body washed up on the beach, slowly secrets and truths are unwrapped.  Caleb and Letty are determined to discover the real story behind the treachery and lies they have been forced to accept as truth. But he is surrounded by corruption and deceit and can find no justice. Who can be trusted when no one is who they appear to be?

Yet his strong sense of right and wrong learnt from his Pa never wavers. His belief in truth as its own reward is what keeps him from giving up.

Tanya Landman has the ability to create characters that readers immediately fall in love with. Their situations are carefully crafted individual storylines that weave into a larger story that continues to expand. Once you’ve read her work, you will never forget it.

Tuesday, 14 June 2016


Gary by Leila Rudge (Walker Books)
HC RRP $24.99
ISBN 9781925081695

Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

Racing pigeons are travellers. Gary is one of them, but he never travels because he can’t fly. He has to be content with collecting mementos, maps, tickets, and flight path and waypoint information to fill his scrapbook. He listens to the other pigeons discussing their journeys. He records this information perched in the loft, to experience a travelling life in absentia and dream he is part of it all.

Things change one day when Gary falls from his perch with his travel mementos into the travel basket. He ends up in the city, far away from home. Can clever Gary utilise his collection of maps, mementos and information to navigate his way back?

This is a terrific story about dreams and the longing for adventure. It shows how while we are longing to experience what others do, others are longing for an experience like ours.

The illustrations are outstanding. Intricate details add information to the story that isn’t covered by the text. Mixed media is used to create the drawings. Delightful and soothing soft colour shades carry us from cover to cover. The end papers and title pages share the reveals. I loved the whole package; adored gorgeous, clever Gary, and admired his innovative ideas. 

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

‘Kick-Ass’ Tyler

‘Kick-Ass’ Tyler by Clancy Tucker (Clancy Tucker Publishing)
PB RRP $15.00 plus $3.00 postage in Australia
EBook $3.00 via Clancy’s blog
ISBN 9780646940571

Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

Another fantastic piece of work by Clancy Tucker, ‘Kick-Ass’ Tyler is Book 1 in a series about a gutsy fourteen year-old girl called Sam Tyler. She is smart in mind and mouth, but is still grieving for her father who was killed two years ago. This grief won’t allow her to accept Max, who has filled her dad’s place.

When her school mate Zoran is kidnapped and held to ransom, Sam’s life changes drastically. Sam now needs Max’s help. Her investigation into the missing boy’s life gives her a sense of purpose. It fires her up. The kidnapping gives birth to a new relationship between Sam and Max. The shift in Sam’s character is brilliantly built up.

Together with her friends Neve, Tina and Jason, Sam creates a committee to help the police find Zoran. This leads to their community being brought together by the school children to keep the search alive and vivid in people’s minds, and find the missing boy. The group also discover inside themselves hidden strengths that give meaning to their life.

Never one to shirk the hard issues, Clancy Tucker has again addressed powerful themes.  The main one here is missing children. It is tied to threads on teen suicide, bullying and its lasting effects, domestic violence, grief and loss.

This story is fast-paced and full of mystery and as always, comes with strong messages full of optimism and hope. It is aimed at the 8-80 year age group and I can’t wait for Book 2!

Friday, 29 April 2016

Beetle Boy

Beetle Boy by M.G. Leonard (Chicken House) PB RRP $16.99
ISBN 978-1-910002-70-4

Reviewed by Jenny Heslop

After the disappearance of his dad, Darkus is sent to live with his Uncle Max. The police seem to think his father ran away and have given up looking for him. So with the help of his uncle, his two new friends and the strange beetles that live in the dump next door, Darkus sets out to rescue his father.

This story hooked me straight away and I was surprised by just how much I loved it. Darkly humorous, the storyline is quirky and unique, with a huge dose of magical realism which sneaks up on the reader. The characters too, are wonderfully quirky, and though some appear on the surface to be a little clich├ęd, they become less so as the surface is scratched.

Darkus, brave and resourceful, becomes friends with two unlikely kids Bertold and Virginia. They are full of life and jump whole-heartedly into the adventure with him – although Bertold has to overcome his uneasiness with bugs. The ridiculous and horrible cousins who live next door are spectacular in their nastiness, and the vibrantly vile villain Lucretia Cutter has one redeeming feature, a beautiful daughter/fair damsel in distress Novak, to whom Darkus can appeal for help. Even Uncle Max who warned Darkus ‘Adventures are dangerous, Darkus, and villains are real.’ was up for helping the kids rescue his Darkus’ dad.

Darkus, Virginia and Bertold have the ultimate base camp from which to plan their moves. A den buried deep in a heap of furniture on enemy territory, with many different tunnels, escape routes and booby traps. This is the ultimate in cubby houses!

And then there are the beetles which include Baxter, Newton, Marvin and Hepburn. These are beetles unlike any I’ve seen or read about before. Larger than your average beetle, they have the advantage of being able to communicate with humans through body language - but only if the human in question cares to look closely enough. And it’s a good thing these beetles are on the side of good – aka Darkus and his friends – as they can provide a whole army.

This is an appealing book on many levels. The cover is eye catching, reflecting the humour and subject of the story inside, with beetles and insects climbing across the fore edge. Scattered throughout the pages are fabulous little illustrations of the beetles and people as well. It is an adventurous tale of a daring quest, with many nail-biting moments balanced out by very funny scenes.

Beetle Boy is for lovers of danger, quirkiness, beetles and great story telling. It will delight readers from the age of 10 years (but is a solid /lengthy read) and has an entomologist’s dictionary at the end for those who are beginners in the world of insects.

And better still, it is the first of a trilogy. 

Friday, 22 April 2016


Rockhopping written and illustrated by Trace Balla (Allen & Unwin) HB RRP$24.99 ISBN 9781760112349

Reviewed by Dianne Bates

From its front cover and then onto its fly pages and title page with numerous illustrations of Australian flora and fauna, it’s obvious this graphic picture book is about venturing into our country’s bush. First, though, Balla acknowledges the cooperation of a number of Aboriginal organisations which gave her permission to include cultural references. Indeed, throughout the book Balla has chosen to use Jardawadjali/Djab Wurrung place names followed by English names in brackets. The story is set in Gariwerd (the Grampians) and acknowledges those clans whose country it is.

The first page starts with a boy and a man lolling in a boat wondering where the (Glenelg) river water comes from and the man responding, ‘How about we go and find out something, kid?’ Thus it is that Uncle Egg and ten year old Clancy spend some time organising for a long walk and then the beginning their trek. The story is told in comic book style with lots of small and detailed illustrations showing things such a spread of what they take with them and later the vast wilderness. On the trek, which Clancy often finds strenuous and tiring, there are many adventures and some misadventures, such as when he falls off a rock onto an outcrop.

Throughout the story the reader checks out the many plants and animals along the way, all of which are labelled. Clancy communes with nature up close and from afar and learns much from being still and observant. On day five, he and Uncle Egg come upon the river which has Clancy wondering about the history of the place – of gold-miners, Chinese gardeners, squatters, bushrangers, and of course, natives who lived off the land.

There is a lot of writing in this book which isn’t story text; Balla thanks many people who collaborated with her to create the book, including numerous Indigenous peoples. It would take days to read every single word and examine all of the illustrations. The drawings in this book are wonderful and will reward the patient reader with many hours of discovery and learning. No doubt Clancy and his uncle’s adventure will resonate with children who enjoy bushwalking with their families, and might even inspire them to take an extended walk.

This is Balla’s second book, the first, Rivertime, winning the Readings’ Children’s Book Prize, the Wilderness Society’s Environment Award and short-listings in three other state and national book awards. This one, too, is sure to win awards. Suitable for readers 6+ years.

Sunday, 28 February 2016

Johnny Danger: Lie another Day

Johnny Danger: Lie another Day by Peter Millet (Puffin Books) PB RRP $14.99

Reviewed by Dianne Bates

Wow, this is a busy book with so much happening that at times I must confess I wasn’t really sure what was happening. The action is certainly fast-paced with the ultimate goal of the protagonist and friends saving the planet from Weapons of Gas Destruction (there is a major farting antagonist, The Blank Space). The book abounds with slapstick humour and features some wacky secondary character such as Major Pain, Dr Disastrous and Agent Pounds.

Jonathan Dangerfield, boy wonder, aka Johnny Danger, is joined by his spy team, Tim Lee and Penelope Pounds as they head off to a remote Amazonian jungle village to confront old foes. Using crazy gadgets and with numerous references to computers and social media, they also employ bungee bogies in their quest.

This a book for readers (probably boys) aged 9+ years who enjoy adventure and lots of nonsense with battles between secret spies, eccentric and mad villains, and double agents. Oh, and there is also an annoying brother, school scenes and numerous codes to be broken. There is plenty here to engage readers.

Saturday, 13 February 2016

Now you See Me, Now You Don’t

Now you See Me, Now You Don’t by Silvia Borando (Walker Books)
HC RRP $17.99
ISBN 9781406364217

Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

This superb wordless picture book for age 2+ is a seek-and-find book that will absorb and entertain beginners. Its eye-catching cover in teal is followed by vibrant full- colour pages. There are animals on every page but with each turn of the page, one or more are missing. The reader embarks on an adventure to discover which are missing from the page they are viewing. The only clue is a pair of eyes. The game is to whom do they belong?

There is a choice of elephant, crocodile, mouse, chicks and a mother hen, rhino, trees, a rabbit, a bird and a cat.

Counting can be encouraged in this educational journey through the animal parade. I can see very young children carrying this attractive book under their arm to bed for story time.

Sunday, 10 January 2016

Cinnamon Stevens Crime Buster

Cinnamon Stevens Crime Buster by Pauline Hosking (Lilly Pilly Publishing)
PB RRP $16.99
ISBN 978-099439826-0
Reviewed by Kel Butler

Cinnamon Stevens wants nothing more in life than to be a crime buster, a super sleuth, the world’s greatest detective. Just like her dad…and her brother. So when classmate, Becki, disappears without a trace from school camp one night, Cinnamon sees it as her big chance to crack the case. Recruiting the help of friends Meera and Cossie, the girl brigade embark on a hapless adventure of twists and turns, chasing down criminals and steering themselves straight into the heart of danger. Will this team of amateur sleuths find Becki and save the day? Or has Cinnamon bitten off more danger than she can handle?

Cinnamon Stevens Crime Buster is a fun whodunit chapter book, for the 10 plus age group, with a definite skew towards girls. Written in a diarized format, complete with footnotes and diagrams, this book is Cinnamon’s own account of the case of the missing Becki.

Cinnamon is an interesting character, caught between a strong sense of purpose, a desperate need to prove herself and the insecurities teenage girls struggle with the world over. Before she can unravel the case and prove her detective skills, Cinnamon needs to face her own fears, overcome her anxieties and learn to trust herself. This is as much an everyday story of friendship, family and acceptance, as it is a kidnapping mystery.

Cinnamon Steven’s Crime Buster is Pauline Hosking’s first book but certainly not her first piece of writing for this age group. Pauline has a long history of writing plays for children, teens and adults and as I type this review she is writing Cinnamon’s next big adventure…

Thursday, 31 December 2015

The Last Kids on Earth

The Last Kids on Earth written by Max Brallier, illustrated by Douglas Holgate (Egmont UK)
PB RRP $16.95
ISBN 9781405281638

Reviewed by Liz Ledden

The Last Kids on Earth is an action-packed middle grade adventure novel described by its publisher as The Simpsons meets The Walking Dead. It does indeed meld humour with a heavy dose of monster and zombie slaying. At 13, protagonist Jack Sullivan is at the upper end of the intended eight plus readership. He not only has to survive a zombie apocalypse, but wishes to impress girls along the way. Enter June del Toro – a smart, sneaker-wearing, student newspaper editor (own spin-off series please!).

Jack teams up with science-loving best friend Quint, reformed bully Dirk and pet monster Rover to battle the zombies and monsters who menace the town, and to try and save June (who clearly doesn’t need saving, as she points out). Despite being 13 years old, the characters drive a vehicle called Big Mama and also have a tree-house dwelling, sure to appeal to readers’ own wishes for greater independence.

References to things like Cherry Pepsi, Oreos and middle school, mark this book as undeniably American, yet the good versus evil battles, humour and friendships hold universal appeal. US-based author Max Brallier has been paired with Melbourne illustrator and freelance comic book artist Douglas Holgate, whose dynamic drawings complete with comic-style speech bubbles work wonderfully to enhance an already very lively story.

This would be a great book to entice mid to late primary school-aged reluctant readers who still prefer a graphics-laden narrative, or for those who have ploughed through Andy Griffiths’ Treehouse series and are ready for something new.