Showing posts with label short stories. Show all posts
Showing posts with label short stories. Show all posts

Friday, 19 October 2018

Twelve Angels Weeping


Twelve Angels Weeping by Dave Rudden, illustrated by Alexis Snell (Penguin Random House) HB RRP $29.99 ISBN: 9781405938273

Reviewed by Dannielle Viera

‘Every light casts a shadow. And every story needs a villain.’ During the Doctor’s travels to the limits of time and space in the TARDIS – a time machine that is ‘bright and blue and shining in the grim darkness’ – the renegade Time Lord has encountered a slew of adversaries. From the reptilian Silurians and Ice Warriors to the rhino-like Judoon, each race proudly displays its unique brand of brutality like a badge of honour.

Teen fans of the long-running television show Doctor Who will enjoy sinking their teeth into this collection of twelve thrilling tales. In a refreshing twist, each story focuses on a classic villain (rather than the Doctor) and expertly augments the expanded universe of the franchise. While it is helpful to be aware of the characters and the various guises of the Doctor when reading the stories, it is not essential – sci-fi buffs with no prior knowledge of the show will quickly become engrossed in the futuristic action.

Dave Rudden immerses himself brilliantly into the vast world of Doctor Who, intriguing readers with a Cyberman who sees a ghost girl; the origin of Strax the Sontaran, who later works alongside the Doctor; and a Zygon plan to turn a glorious glass city into shards that will grind ‘into the meat of the universe’. Humour and horror drip from the pages in equal measure, surprisingly tempered with a lot of heart. With a dozen battles between light and dark to savour, this is one book that teenagers won’t want to ‘Exterminate!’

Thursday, 20 September 2018

Total Quack Up!


Total Quack Up! Edited by Sally Rippin & Adrian Beck, illustrated by James Foley (Puffin Books) PB RRP $14.99 ISBN 9780143794905

Reviewed by Dianne Bates

‘Funny stories to make you feel good about some of your favourite authors!’ is printed on the cover of this book published in Australia. The authors are Matt Stanton, Deborah Abela, Tristan Bancks, Paul Jennings, Alex Miles, RA Spratt, Jacqueline Harvey and Oliver Phommavanh, as well as the two editors.

Superheroes, footy-obsessed pigs, birthday parties that go terribly wrong, criminal cats and hippos which prefer the beach rather than rivers are the subjects of some of these short stories.

In ‘Ratbagg’, Rory Albert Thomas Bragg has a mild superpower, which enables him to control rats with his mind. Of course, he owns pet rats, but when he discovers his school principal Mr Blart has a rat phobia, anything can happen! In Tristan Banck’s story, ‘The Pigs’, soccer team, the Kings Bay Pigs is down three to nil a few minutes from half-time: if they lose, they’ll hold the record for the Most Consecutive Losses by a Football Team in the World. In ‘How to Be A Super-hero’, Ann Small renames herself Arabella von Champion, and then attempts to reach up to the status. The title of Matt Stanton’s story, ‘What Hippopotamuses and Sharks have in Common’ signals what the story is likely to be about.

All ten stories are printed in large, easy-to-read font and black and white illustrations are scattered throughout. Not all of the stories are hilarious but there is enough humour in the book to keep a reader aged 8 to 12 years engaged for many hours.

Thursday, 7 December 2017

Jemma, Short Stories


Jemma, Short Stories by Stefan Nicholson (SAN publishers), PB RRP $19 ISBN 9780980460445

Reviewed by Pauline Hosking

In his publicity blurb the author writes that this book is primarily aimed at YA readers and anyone above the age of twelve. Young readers are interested in stories about people their own age or a few years older. Even though this book is titled Jemma, who is the youngest daughter in the Palette family, the main character in all the stories is Dad, a middle-aged writer of fiction.

Early in the second story we learn that Mum is in hospital with some undiagnosed problem. The story then focuses on Jemma meeting an old sea captain who sets her a riddle. The riddle’s answer will explain how humans should spend their lives. The story is thus high-jacked by adults, with the riddle being solved by Mum. (Her illness had been caused by the family dog’s new herbicidal shampoo).  

The third story is a variation on Six Characters in Search of an Author, with the imaginary Palette family talking to the author.

The fourth story, which has the most potential for 8-12 year olds, concerns the theft of a golden eagle. Jemma plays more of a role here, but at the climax of the story, instead of being actively involved in saving the eagle, she and her friends retreat to eat pizza and wait patiently for news.

This book would probably work best for an adult audience.  


Sunday, 16 July 2017

An elephant living in the house (and other pet stories)

An elephant living in the house (and other pet stories) written by Sharyn Bajerai
Available as an e-book                                                      Kindle - https://books.pronoun.com/serve/8a237296-aa6d-4d9a-a1c5-9ceb0769dc65/final~mobi/
ePub - 
https://books.pronoun.com/serve/8a237296-aa6d-4d9a-a1c5-9ceb0769dc65/final~epub/

Reviewed by Elizabeth Vercoe

An elephant living in the house is one of three short stories about pets, available in this online anthology by West Australian writer Sharyn Bajerai. The other stories are titled Matt’s pet tarantula and Lee.

Each of the stories contains easy-to-read dialogue and interesting facts about the featured animals…

In the first story, Olivia wants an elephant for a pet but pesky old Mum and Dad say no. So what’s a girl to do but steal one from the zoo and keep it in her bedroom? Soon however, Olivia discovers that elephants aren’t all that easy to hide - or to look after - because they eat so much! An entertaining twist at the conclusion, after Olivia has returned the elephant to the zoo, is quite delightful.

The second story is also about a child keeping a pet in his bedroom – this time a pet tarantula. Although he doesn’t ask his parents about keeping the spider, Matt’s a ‘responsible’ pet owner who finds the correct foods for Wolfgang to eat, and also creates a proper habitat so that the spider has places to hide and moult. When the spider foils a home invader, the jig is up and happily, Matt’s allowed to keep Wolfgang.

The third story is about a mistreated greyhound who is found and helped by a young boy who takes her to the nearby animal shelter. Through watching the greyhound’s interactions with other abandoned animals, the boy is able to convince the shelter to keep the dog as a ‘helper’ so he can visit her.

These stories variously contain appealing and entertaining ideas that explore the notion of longing for something impractical, of looking after other creatures, of taking responsibility for actions.

One little aside is that I was surprised that the idea of ‘screaming like a girl’ was included - but that’s just me taking umbrage!

With illustrations to break up the text, each story in the compilation consists of four chapters and has a satisfying, sometimes surprising, conclusion.

This is an entertaining series of stories that will appeal to both boys and girls.


Monday, 10 July 2017

Phantasmagorical Phobias

Phantasmagorical Phobias by Michelle Path PB Available on Amazon published by Rowanvale Books RRP $10.57 
ISBN 9781910832189

Reviewed by Karen Hendriks

Australian author Path has creatively written an engaging book with a collection of short stories that delve into fears and how they affect our lives and how the characters manage to overcome them. Path’s clever use of fairy tale, pirate and cowboy and girl characters opens a menagerie of fears that impact greatly upon each character’s ability to function within their world. Imagine a witch who is afraid of toads or a dragon that can’t breath fire.  I like the fact that the book uses short stories so that they can easily be visited and revisited over and over again.  Teachers will find this book a useful resource in their classroom due to the stories having an educational slant.  This book would be suitable for 8-12 year olds.

Path’s style of writing engages young readers with a little old world charm, and a touch of the modern day too.   The stories move along easily with a mix of short and long sentences.  The vocabulary used has a sprinkling of new words that will expand the younger reader (including the title).

‘Chika’s words hurt Jiro. The dragons’s wings drooped and he hung his head. He began to cry. The macaque did not care. He was too intent on his own selfish desires. He ran off into the forest in search of the orchard, leaving Jiro alone with his grief.’

Path is an independent author who is clearly following her passion to write for children with sixteen books published to date and more to come.  She is clearly determined to spread her writing wings.


Monday, 29 May 2017

Henrietta and the Perfect Night

Henrietta and the Perfect Night by Martine Murray (Allen and Unwin)
HB RRP $16.99   ISBN 9781760290245

Reviewed by Daniela Andrews

Fans of Henrietta the Great Go-Getter will be pleased to discover this hardcover book by Martine Murray, featuring five new Henrietta stories.

Henrietta is just as spirited and adventurous as ever: ‘I’m an explorer of life, and that includes trees, bugs, animals and all mysteries.’ In this collection, she practices how to be patient and be a good big sister (‘The Waiting Game’), how to rescue somebody and make a friend at school (‘The First Day’), how to survive a sleepover with the pesky older brother of her best friend (‘The Sleepover’), how to save the school play when the lead gets stage fright (‘The School Play’) and how to adjust to life with a new baby brother (‘The Arrival’). The stories need to be read in sequence to be properly enjoyed, with the title alluding to the final story’s conclusion.

The book is illustrated in full colour by Martine Murray, award-winning author of How to Make a Bird and Molly and Pim and the Millions of Stars. Each double page features an illustration to break up the text, making this a great novel for readers aged 5 years and older who are starting to read chapter books. The design is likely to appeal to the age group too, with key phrases appearing in an alternate font of different size or colour.

Henrietta is ‘a Big Thinker’ and her thoughts and observations are highly amusing! The stories are told in first-person perspective, allowing the author to offer fantastic examples of friendship, courage and kindness without seeming to preach these values to her readers. (‘You only need one friend in a room full of strangers to feel perfectly happy.’) Henrietta is, at times, bold and sassy, at other times quiet and afraid, but the range of emotions she feels gives scope to her situations and makes her very real and lovable.







Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Exploding Endings

Exploding Endings - Books 1(Painted Dogs and Doom Cakes), 2 (Cursed Pants & Cranky Cops) and 3(Dingbats &Lollypop Arms) by Tim Harris, illustrated by Ryan Perno (Harbour Publishing House)
PB RRP $14.99
Book 1 ISBN 978-1-922134-57-8
Book 2 ISBN 978-1-922134-69-1
Book 3 ISBN 978-1-922134-70-7

Reviewed by Joanne Pummer

Short Stories With Big Twists - that's how author Tim Harris describes his trilogy of short stories called 'Exploding Endings'. Each story is told by a child narrator in the first person about contemporary family life in suburban Australia. All are extremely whacky and sure to illicit laughs and groans in equal measure from Primary School children.
Book 1 begins with a list of the top 79 excuses for being late. Book 2 begins with a list of the top 79 excuses for talking in class and the third book begins with the top 79 excuses for not doing your homework - just the kind of subversive humour that children relish. Jokes, riddles and 'knock knocks' appear between stories, recipes and 'Page Wars' - the ongoing war between the right hand page and the left hand page, named (appropriately), 'lefty' and 'righty'.
A recipe for Murphy's Chocolate Cake has 43 steps and a Prep time of 204 days 2 hours and 17 minutes. Step 42 is 'Forget about it and go to the beach instead'. Step 43 is 'Get eaten by a shark'. Ryan Perno's black and white illustrations, which are little more than zany emojis in Book 1, become more sophisticated in the books that follow.

The final story in Book One (‘Psycho, Sweet Tooth Seagull’) ends after two chapters with 'to be continued'. This is a hook, bound to induce readers to buy the next book. Cleverly, Tim Harris repeats the first two chapters of 'Psycho Sweet Tooth Seagull' in the second book so each book works as a stand-alone story book as well as part of a series.

The large type face, easy reading and accessible stories make these books suitable for all children from newly independent readers (7 years and up ) tackling their first chapter books to eleven year olds, reluctant readers included.


Friday, 13 January 2017

Rain Stones

Rain Stones by Jackie French, (Harper Collins) PB RRP $16.99
ISBN 9781460753170

Reviewed by Karen Hendriks

The 25th anniversary edition of Rain Stones was recently released. It is Jackie French’s debut book, a collection of five short stories that have a unique Australian flavour. The stories, with a strong environmental theme, show a great love for our country. The imaginative and thought-provoking writing draws primary school aged readers into a world of adventure and freedom.
 
'Rain Stones tells of the hardship of drought and the desperate need for water: our hard dry land can be a tough place to live in. ‘Afternoon with Grandma’ touches on Alzheimer’s, dreams and determination.  ‘Jacob Saw’ warmly shows there are ways to see other than with one’s eyes.  ‘Dancing with Dinosaurs’ cleverly imagines the rolling hills of Canberra as dinosaurs come to life in their nightly dance. In ‘Dusty the Dragon’ a magical dragon is hidden in a sleepy bush valley.

There is a touchingly warm afterword from French about how her writing journey started and about the inspiration for each story.  The first story,  ‘Rain Stones’, French says, written out of a desperate need for income as well as to express her passion for writing.  Needless to say French’s talent shone through and her writing career took off.

Today’s children will enjoy the stories as they still manage to connect and touch readers.

The book is handy for teachers looking for stories that are distinctly Australian to share in their classrooms. These stories will surely lead to much discussion about what it means to be an Australian.



Sunday, 25 December 2016

Snot Chocolate

Snot Chocolate by Morris Gleitzman (Puffin Books) PB RRP $16.99 ISBN 9780143309222

Reviewed by Dianne Bates

‘Funny stories from one of Australia’s favourite authors,’ reads the title page of this collection of nine stories that follow earlier titles Give Peas a Chance and Pizza Cake. Yes, there is certainly humour in the stories, but sometimes, too, the author sneaks in political statements: ‘Trump our dog sits on the floor next to me liking his bottom, which is his hobby.’

The first story, ‘King Ned’, set in the thirteenth century, features a boy who, with his Uncle Vern, always gets up at dawn in a hovel ‘in case the pigs needed a lie down.’ Overnight events have changed in England so that suddenly, to his immense surprise, Ned is proclaimed King. His Lord Chamberlain is a ruthless man: ‘before Ned could say anything else, the Lord Chamberlain’s sword flashed and the heads of two courtiers plopped onto the ground, followed by the thud of their bodies.’ Despite the goriness of numerous beheadings, there is a lot of humour in the story.

Other stories in the book are set in modern times and include the secret diary of a dog, the story of how one slice of bread can make you the most popular person in school, and how to defeat a bully using a demolition ball. One story focuses on pig-nostril gruel, another on a child who lives in a house 'that gets wiped clean more often than a bottom'; the FDC title of one story refers to a Fairy Demolition Contractor who grants a boy wishes to demolish whatever three structures he chooses. The final, title story is told from the point of view of a boy whose chocolate-addicted mother is in court defending her clients accused of hijacking over five thousand Easter bunnies. There she is, ‘a top lawyer picking her nose and eating it.’

As in many of his books, Gleitzman’s stories display a wild and clever imagination. Also, too, he appeals to kids’ basic instincts with numerous references to peeing and pooing: ‘Sometimes life does a poo on your head and you just have to wear it.’ And too, he tells his tales in simple, easy-to-read sentences. There's no doubt young readers with a penchant for gross – and more subtle -- humour will enjoy this book.   


Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Annie’s Snails

Annie’s Snails by Dianne Wolfer, illustrated by Gabriel Evans (Walker Books)
PB RRP $11.95
ISBN 9781921720635
Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

Annie loves the glistening snail trails that lead to her beloved pets. She collects snails, takes them to her cubby house to play with, and names them. But can snails live in a plastic ice cream container?

Annie discovers many things about snails, their needs and their environment. A lesson is learnt when she has to make a major decision about freeing them so they can live.

This story is a terrific example for young children on rules about keeping living things in confined spaces. It is presented in three short stories ideal for early readers. Its outdoor theme encourages play in the natural world and will certainly create discussion about how things in nature live and survive.


The delightful black and white illustrations reflect Annie’s dilemma beautifully alongside the sorrow and acceptance of her final decision.

Sunday, 23 February 2014

Tales from the Waterhole

Tales from the Waterhole by Bob Graham (Candlewick)
PB RRP $11.95
ISBN 9780763668761
Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

Tales from the Waterhole comes from fantastic Candlewick Sparks series for those just beginning to read. There are 27 books in the series written and illustrated by popular authors, using loved and known characters.

This four chapter book offers short stories with Morris and his animal friends that live around the waterhole of the African savannah.

Bob Graham’s easily identifiable watercolours bring to life the animals’ antics, their fun-loving characters, and the theme of friendship within a perfect blend of illustration and simple prose.

This series is produced in a new edition which is smaller than the normal sized picture book, and will fit neatly on any child’s book case.

Friday, 14 February 2014

Stories for Girls

Stories for Girls a selection of stories by Australian authors, illustrated by J. Yi (Random House Australia Children’s)
PB RRP $14.95
ISBN 9780857980861
Ebook ISBN: 9780857980878
Reviewed by Marian McGuinness

Who’s up for a story, or 12? This anthology of short stories is perfect for so many people. Young readers aged six to eight will laugh out loud, parents will rejoice at bedtime with the witty selection they can share with their children and teachers will be pestered by their students to read another story.

Jacqueline Harvey, Dianne Bates, Janeen Brian, Tania Cox, Claire Saxby – it’s a galaxy of writers presenting a stellar smorgasbord of stories about ghosts, glamour and games.

In Jess Black’s A Pony for Alice, there’s a wonderful unicorn connection. Maisie Dubosarsky’s short story tells of young Grace who wished so hard for long hair that it grew out the window. Just as well Mrs Finn, the violin teacher, had a great solution.

George Ivanoff is up to his usual funny stuff in his story of Ug the troll who wants to make a fairy pie as he ‘really, really liked eating … even people, when he could catch them.’

For dance enthusiasts, there’s Grace Atwood’s story of Arabella the ballet-dancing giraffe. Her perfect manners forbade her to show her long, blue tongue in company … ‘If she couldn’t reach the leaf with her lips, it was not the leaf for her.’

Challenges abound in David Harding’s Monkey Man. It’s the day of the Dad and Daughter school picnic and the permission note sternly states ‘No animals!’

In Deborah Kelly’s story about a pet rat, secrets abound– with a delightful twist on the theme of sibling rivalry.

There’s even a twist on fairy tales, as Martin Chatterton weaves his magic in The Tale of Handle and Kettle.

There’s so much to recommend this collection of short stories for girls. The stories are a great segue into chapter books with plenty of white space, large type and scatterings of illustrations by the quirky J. Yi (illustrator of the Alice-Miranda, Clementine Rose and Ghost Club series). There’s even a bio on each author at the end of the book with plenty of author goss.

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Sir Mouse to the Rescue

Sir Mouse to the Rescue by Dirk Nielandt, illustrated by Marjolein Pottie, translated by Laura Watkinson (Book Island)
HB RRP NZ $24.99
ISBN 9780987669629
Reviewed by Vicki Stanton

Everything about Sir Mouse to the Rescue is delightful and you will not find a better collection of short stories anywhere for young children.

Mouse and Dragon are best friends. With wit and humour, Belgian author Dirk Nielandt treats us to a very human relationship between Mouse and Dragon in all its wonderful complexity. No didactic 'you must act in this way' preaching to children in this book. Instead, children can explore what it means to be a friend through the adventures of these two, and in their interactions with each other and other characters.

Mouse and Dragon are as different as chalk and cheese with Mouse being proud and extrovert and Dragon thoughtful and introvert. Yet this is the strength of their friendship.  Rather than being friends because they are alike, they are friends because they like one another. Each brings their strengths to the friendship and helps the other grow.

Mouse is hilarious. When the two friends, discover a Prince in a tower calling 'help', Mouse calls back 'How do you want me to help you?' She wonders if he needs help with his homework or is on the loo and has run out of paper!

Throughout the five stories, Dragon is generally the one who comes up with solutions to the friends' dilemmas and to smooth things over, even if Mouse is inclined to take the credit. However, the heroic actions of Mouse in the final story in the book 'About War and Friendship' sum up friendship.

Marjolein Pottie's illustrations complement and extend the text perfectly with a combination of collage and paper-cutting techniques, True to her character, Dragon appears particularly loveable with her patchwork appearance and Mouse's determination is evident in every depiction. I particularly loved the pages with the paper cutting art which tell the stories in an unique fashion.

As with Book Island's other two inaugural titles (read my reviews of  Sammy and the Skyscraper Sandwich and Bernie and Flora), Sir Mouse to the Rescue is beautifully presented: gorgeous endpapers, quality paper and would make a wonderful gift to an emerging reader. I look forward to many more translations into English of Flemish children's literature from Book Island.

Sunday, 26 August 2012

City


City by James Roy (UQP)
PB RRP $19.95
ISBN 978-0-7022-4926-6
Reviewed by Jo Antareau

In this companion piece to his previous short story collection, Town, award-winning Australian author James Roy brings us a cross-section of city life told in twenty-two short pieces. Although aimed at a Young Adult audience, I (an adult) found it enjoyable. There are some drug references in the novel, but substance use is not portrayed.

Set in an unnamed modern Western city, Roy offers us tantalizing glimpses into the lives of some young adults. Roy is a skilled tease. With economical use of words, he gives us a lot – and leaves the reader wanting to know more.

The characters span the social spectrum – the unemployed, junkies, poets, artists, private school boys, students, speed-daters, workers, visitors from the country – mostly strangers, are linked by invisible threads. The connections that bind a city's inhabitants similarly unite the protagonists... the music, the streets, nightlife, the buses, the poem scrawled on a wall, the sporting teams. Roy elegantly demonstrates that we are all only separated by a few degrees.

Each piece in this anthology skilfully portrays the hopes and disappointments, wisdom and stupidity, prejudices and tolerances, pain and resilience of these people. They are all unique, yet easily recognisable. My favourite was Lauren the nurse, and her budding romance with an African musician, but admit to a soft spot for the slow-witted Chunks, who takes umbrage at a thug and ends up naked and hog-tied, dragging his equally impulsive mates into a head-on confrontation with a group of armed men.

City can be read as a series of discrete short stories. But this would be denying the fun of referring back to a previous story, to confirm where you might have read about this particular person earlier as they make a cameo in another's story.

Beautifully written with an economy of words, City had the effect of making me want to go back and read Roy's previous work Town. I can offer no higher praise to a writer than that.

A set of teaching notes is also available from the publisher, RRP $19.95.

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Bink and Gollie


Bink and Gollie, Two for One Bink and Gollie, Two for One by Kate DiCamillo and Alison McGhee, illustrated by Tony Fucile (Walker Books)
HC RRP $ 24.95
ISBN 9781406337396
Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

The creators of Bink & Gollie have a list of successes behind them. From this band of highly talented people comes the second book about two best friends that are totally opposite in every way. One is tall, the other small. And that’s only where it begins.

They have fun all the time. They have their strengths and weaknesses, individual characters and tastes. Of the three comical stories in this book, the first, Whack a Duck, had me in stitches. The girls decide to go the spring fair. Bink wants to whack a duck of which the prize is the world’s largest doughnut. Three balls are on offer. The man tells her she’s got winner written all over her. Bink looks for the sign on her blouse. (Children take things literally which makes it even funnier)

She gets ready, lines the ball up and sends it flying – right between the man’s eyes breaking his glasses!  He’s a bit confused but hands over ball number two. Bink lines it up again and it flies faster than the first, right against his nose. With glasses bound and nose bandaged the man hands over the third ball. By now his words are jumbled and he’s cross-eyed. With a bandaged head, broken nose and glasses, Gollie hands Bink some money and off she goes to the doughnut stand. Bink returns with a bag full of doughnuts and they sit and share them together with the comforting thought from Gollie, ‘but we’re all still alive’.

Two more stories follow of equal enjoyment and laughter guaranteed: You’re Special aren’t You? and Without Question. The conversation/dialogue throughout the book is incredibly clever and entertaining. The illustrations, full of movement and expression, give a more potent translation to the text. The two together are priceless!

This book can make an adult laugh out loud. It has interesting and valuable themes running through them such as being different can be fun, and opposites attract. There is a lot for the adult reader to discuss with the young listener. It is produced with a hard, durable and attractive cover with vibrant colours which continue onto the end pages. It will most surely be available in paperback later as was the first book.

Monday, 28 November 2011

Bruno Fiddlestein’s Dilemma, Mrs Papadopoulos’s Purple Hippopotamuses and Widow Hegarty’s Goat

Bruno Fiddlestein’s Dilemma, Mrs Papadopoulos’s Purple Hippopotamuses and Widow Hegarty’s Goat: collections of short stories by Vashti Farrer, illustrated by Naomi Kelly (Five Senses Education P/L)
PB RRP $12.95 each
Reviewed by Felicity Pulman

Vashti Farrer’s humorous and quirky short stories and poems have long been enjoyed by readers of NSW School Magazine, and her work will now reach a far wider audience with the publication of both old and new stories in these collections with subtitles: ‘stories to snortle at,’ ‘tall tales,’ and ‘unlikely escapades’. Readers will chortle over the antics of such things as a friendly emu called Ethel, a pair of naughty purple hippopotamus slippers, a pigeon with street smarts, the match-making goat of Widow Hegarty, and the garden gnomes who make themselves useful. They’ll also discover how Miss Muffet overcame her fear of spiders, and what happens when you play the violin to vegetables.

Of particular interest to my grandchildren were the fun stories about their favourite animals: cats and dogs that often got into trouble or had to save their owners. Some old favourites are also included in the collections: the stories of Lulubelle and Bones, Mr Pavlov’s Possum, and Green Piece’s Princess Euphorbia (ribbit!)

Alert readers will enjoy the puns. Imagine having classmates with names like Will Argue, Aidan Abbett, Wanda Round, Iona Broome and Luke Heare, and being taught by Miss Happ!

Naomi Kelly’s delightful drawings illustrate most of the stories and poems, adding an extra dimension of fun. Enjoy these wonderful collections, and remember:

‘Don’t maffle, cronk or chimble

When a bumblepuppy’s nigh,

It might clawscrunt up your mazzard

Nurk your goblocks on the sly.


It might knoup your knevel slister,

Sloom your snortle on the run,

Till you’re faffled, motched and gloppened

And it’s had its bit of fun.’

(c) Felicity Pulman, 2011

Monday, 19 September 2011

Rangers Apprentice: The Lost Stories


Rangers Apprentice: The Lost Stories by John Flanagan (Random House)
PB RRP $17.95
ISBN 978-1-8647-1818-8
Reviewed by Oliver Phommavanh

Rangers Apprentice has been a phenomenon with no signs of slowing down. Flanagan has received many letters from fans around the world and he’s responded with a different kind of book. The Lost Stories is a collection of tales that go back and forth in Halt and Will’s lives.

Flanagan explains how Will really met Halt and the event behind Halt’s decision to join the rangers. There are also a few stories that follow after Book 10 such as the long awaited wedding between Cassandra and Horace.
It’s nice to see the supporting cast get their own little stories. Gilan and Jenny have some amusing adventures. My favourite story is about Will and his relationship with Tug, his loyal horse. The inspiration behind the story was a fan that raised a very interesting point. Flanagan admits that there are a few gaps in his Rangers’ universe that slip through the cracks. I’m glad that he has the chance to settle the score on a few matters.

The short story format is a refreshing change. Each story is broken up into mini chapters just like in the other Rangers’ books. Flanagan shows his trademark narrative, full of action and suspense. The Ranger’s aura is as legendary as ever, I love seeing others react to Rangers, friends and enemies alike. As always, the animals get their fair share of jokes when they share banter with their owners.

Fans will get the most of this book and it’s a nice pit stop before the next thrilling instalment. The Lost Stories is recommended for ages 10 and up.  

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Space Footy and other stories

Space Footy and other stories by Goldie Alexander (Teaching Solutions)
PB RRP $19.95
ISBN 978-1-921613-30-2
Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

Space Footy and other stories, a book for boys aged 9-13 years, (I’d say people aged 9- 100) is the companion to the previous book of entertaining tales for girls of the same age group, My Horrible Cousins and Other Stories. It covers various genres including science fiction, mystery, adventure, historical fiction and humour. Ghosts, aliens and bullies are only a few of the main characters the stories are built upon. There are contemporary issues addressed and handled in a comprehensive but subtle way.

My favourite of all the eleven stories, although each one has merit, was Freaky. Imaginative and meaningful, it tells the story of an inter-galactic boy, Jay, ‘found under a cabbage patch’ who was ‘a freak, an idiot, or both’, as he had an extra head ‘that hung from his left shoulder like a dead weight’. Cloned in a fertility lab, his origins had been kept secret. But he’d inherited the gift of inexplicable strength, and a step-father who adored him.

Forced to land on the asteroid Salisia, his planet of origin, Jay and his father Bruth meet Beyong, a boy always on the run because he refuses to tell a lie. Jay is told never to be separated from Bruth no matter what occurs. As he grows, so does his head. It is the explanation of the unnatural circumstances of his form that explodes into crystal-like perfection at the climax of the story.

Goldie has a gift for drawing in the reader at the beginning with a little unexpected twist that promises excitement and something unusual. The whole of the collection and the previous one have this sustainment. The characters are unconventional; but they have something specific that’s extraordinary about them. They do outrageous things, have significant setbacks, but every story ends in a positive outcome.

Teacher Notes are available for both collections as with all the author’s works.

Thursday, 23 June 2011

My Life and Other Stuff I Made Up

My Life and Other Stuff I Made Up by Tristan Bancks and illustrated by Gus Gordon (Random House)
PB RRP $15.95
ISBN 978-1-8647-1817-1  
Reviewed by Oliver Phommavanh

My Life and Other Stuff I Made Up is a collection of short stories for younger readers. These bite-sized bursts of fun are inspired by Paul Jennings, Andrew Daddo and Andy Griffiths, the sort of stories that will keep kids enthralled and wondering if it really happened or not.

Tom Weekly is just your normal kid with a wacky life. This collection kicks off with his pet dog that is constantly getting kissed by a weird dog lover. Bancks just keeps upping the zaniness and laughs from there. Tom takes part in a hot dog competition, dared to eat vegemite off his sister’s toe and gets attacked by magpies. Kids will be able to relate to that for sure! In fact, kids will find a part of themselves in Tom, who always finds himself in all sort of weird situations. My personal favourite is to see who has the toughest nan. When his nan and his mate’s nan battle, it reads like a wrestling match.   

Bancks is joined by Gus Gordon, who provides some illustrations to flesh out Bancks’ out-there descriptions. They’re a reliable combination to deliver laughs on each page. The notebook layout will inspire kids to write out their own fantastic tales.

My Life and Other Stuff I Made Up has been tried and tested by Bancks. There are some amusing lists and answers from kids on his school visits. He has tapped into a kid’s curiosity and runaway imagination with these short stories. They’re easy to devour and perfect for reading out loud.      

My Life and Other Stuff I Made Up is highly recommended for ages 9 and up. 

Friday, 8 April 2011

Head Spinners: six stories to twist your brain

Head Spinners: six stories to twist your brain by Thalia Kalkipsakis (Allen and Unwin)
PB RRP $15.99
ISBN 9781742373454
Reviewed by Nean McKenzie

Head Spinners is a collection of six short stories, each with a unique kind of twist. These fun tales are written for middle primary aged children who will relate to characters very much like themselves — to begin with anyway. Divided into short chapters, this page turner has humour, a bit of irony and a healthy dose of imagination.

Catchy titles include Tick-Tock Time Machine and Evil Eye. There are ghosts, out of body experiences, strange deformities of the body and things coming back to life. Sound interesting? There's certainly a lot in here to catch a kid's attention. The snappy writing and action packed chapters work together to sustain this attention until the twist is revealed at the end of the story. 

In each story there is a character (boy or girl) who seems quite normal, until something unusual arises. The character must then rise to the occasion in order to deal with this difficulty. Although adults are present in the stories it is the kids who are responsible for the turn of events. Ultimately, they learn something along the way.

The cover makes a statement with a dog wearing glasses in the  middle of a brightly coloured vortex. The tone of the writing is conversational and there's a smattering of science to make some of the situations seem more plausible. Suitable for both boys and girls, this combination of reality with a splash of fantasy will be a hit with even not-so-avid readers.