101 Great Solar System Facts & Trivia, by Simon Torok & Paul Holper

Is there life elsewhere in the solar system?
How do you remember the order of the planets?
Why is Mars red?
Where do comets come from?

All these questions and many more are answered in this intriguing title from science writers Simon Torok and Paul Holper. Readers journey through the book from the Sun, to Mercury and all the way to Pluto, with sections exploring the Moon, comets, asteroids and more.

There is a chapter devoted to each planet explaining the origin of its name, its size and composition, its discovery and observation. Humorous cartoons and serious facts pepper the text, all presented in down to earth language and with an Australian focus, which will engage young readers.

The authors both work for the CSIRO. Simon Torok has previously edited Helix magazine and Paul Holper has a an education qualification to go along with his science degrees, making both well qualified to write on science topics for kids. Previous titles include 101 Great Australian Adventures and the Amazing Science series.

101 Great Solar System Facts and Trivia would make a great addition to the classroom or school library, but is just as suitable for private reading.

101 Great Solar System Facts and Trivia, by Simon Torok & Paul Holper
ABC Books, 2004

Hang Loose, Mother Goose, by V Sterling

Mother Goose directed a challenging look at Miss Muffet.
“I suppose you expect me to kill the spider?”
“Of course not!” said Miss Muffet. “I love my spider. It’s the curds and whey.” She shuddered at the thought of it. “Can I have a bowl of custard instead?”

Mother Goose has trouble on her hands. A whole busload of characters from her nursery rhymes have just turned up on her doorstep – and they are demanding changes. Humpty Dumpty wants a lower wall, Jill wants a turn of Jack’s crown and Mrs Ladybird wants smoke detectors insalled in her home. If Mother Goose can’t make them happy, they might decide not to appear in her rhymes any more.

Hang Loose, Mother Goose is a funny title from the yellow level of the new Breakers series from Macmillan Education. Aimed at children aged between 8 and ten, and at a reading age of around 8.5, it is a title sure to create some laughs.

Suitable both for classroom use and for private reading.

Hang loose, Mother Goose, by V Sterling
Macmillan Education, 2003

Something Fishy, by Liz Flaherty

Lizzie hesitated – she didn’t know whether to go forwards or backwards. Should she get Mum and Dad? Tears sprang to her eyes as she thought of their parents sleeping peacefully in the beach shack, only a few minutes away. They’d know what to do.

Lizzie and her brother Nick are unimpressed about the poachers stripping the fish stocks in the area. When Lizzie sees two strange men hanging around the beach at night, she is determined to do something about it. With Nick, she tracks down the suspicious characters and sets about proving their guilt.

It is not easy keeping track of the poachers and collecting evidence against them, especially when you are keeping what you are doing a secret from your parents. Tracking smugglers can be very dangerous – as Lizzie and Nick find out.

Something Fishy is a fast moving title in the Breakers series from Macmillan Education. While parents (and teachers) might shudder at the thought of two young children chasing criminals – including a boat trip at night – kids will enjoy the excitement of the plot and the fact that Lizzie and Nick triumph over the bad guys.

A gripping read for 8 to 10 year old readers.

Something Fishy, by Liz Flaherty
Macmillan Education, 2003

The Adventures of Pete Paddock-Basher, by John Heffernan

Pete was a paddock-basher…A paddock-basher is an old vehicle that’s used on a farm to smash and crash about the place. It can be a utility or a small truck, or just a car, which is what Pete was. But whatever it is, it’s always old and worn out, which is also what Pete was.

Pete the Paddock-Basher is worried that he might live out his days on the farm and never go into town again. So when two nice men decide to ‘borrow’ him, he is excited. Little does he know just how big his adventures will be!

The two ‘nice’ men are bank robbers trying to escape the police and, rather than taking Pete to town, they drive along many country roads before dumping him at the beach. After being bogged in the sand, Pete is taken away to a scrap yard where he is destined to be crushed – until he is rescued by another nice man, Mr Morgan, who lovingly restores him to his former glory. But Pete’s adventures are still far from over. There is another meeting with the robbers, a race, a brush with the demolition derby and even an encounter with aliens. In the meantime, Pete has decided that a quiet life on a farm wouldn’t be so bad after all.

The Adventures of Pete Paddock-Basher is a delightful collection of six stories which kids aged 8 to 12 will love. Three have been previously published in an earlier edition of the book, first released by Margaret Hamilton Books in 1999. This expanded collection extends Pete’s adventures and will still leave readers looking forward to the possibility of more tales.

Heffernan uses humour and action to draw readers in to the adventures of this car and his human friends – Mr Morgan and young Nick, a boy who lives nearby and joins Pete on some of his escapades.

Great fun!

The Adventures of Pete Paddock-Basher, by John Heffernan
ABC Books, 2004

Cry of the Cat, by Emily Rodda

Shadow usually goes for an evening stroll and then climbs up the gum tree, leaps onto the balcony and crawls through the window to curl up on the end of my bed. Then she sleeps there for the rest of the night. But tonight she was missing, just like Mooshka and the others. What if she’d been run over?

Something is happening to the cats of Raven Hill. All over town cats are going missing. And of course, the Teen Power gang are caught up in the mystery.

When they get an after school job at Purrfection, the local cat store, the Teen Power crew think it will be an interesting way to earn some cash. But the store gives them the creeps. Then, when one of the teens, Elmo, loses his cat, they wonder if the strange owners of Purrfection could be involved. They have to find Shadow, and the other missing cats, before it is too late.

Cry of the Cat is the fourth title in the Raven Hill Mysteries series by Emily Rodda, perhaps best known for her Deltora Quest and Rowan of Rin series. Whilst this series is different from the others, which are both fantasies, young readers will enjoy the Raven Hill stories, which were previously published under the series title of Teen Power. Rodda combines mystery with themes of friendship and independence, and the six teen characters take turns narrating the tales, allowing readers to get to know each character well.

Cry of the Cat, by Emily Rodda
Scholastic, 2004

Nourish and Nuture

Reviewed by Magdalena Ball

A good knowledge of nutrition is essential for everyone, but at no time in life is it more needed than when a new baby comes along. For a pregnant mother, it is important to make every bit of food count for the growing baby inside, and for breastfeeding mothers, ensuring that enough of the right nutrients are taken in is vital for keeping both the child and mother healthy and strong. It is around 5-6 months though when a baby begins taking in solids that the real testing begins. Sophie Blackmore’s new book Nourish is part of a series of books for new parents which are in cute small square sizes with a bright cover and easy to absorb information. The series also includes Nurture, a guide to taking care of a new baby, Name a guide to baby names, and Nest, a guide to preparing for a new baby.

Nurture and Nourish together would make a lovely gift package for a new parent. Nourish includes a simple guide to developmental stages and suggested foods, a guide to when, and how to introduce solids, along with a one page list of which foods to introduce when. The rest of the book is an A (apple) to Z (zucchini) listing of common foods, including information on when is the best time of year to buy, how to store, nutritional information, how to serve to babies and other members of the family, and a recipe or two for each one. The book is geared towards babies and provides lots of simple, useable information on how to make these foods work for the youngest member of your family, but many of the recipes and ideas are suitable for the whole family. The simple and clear format makes this book easy to use, and the recipes are all suitable for a harried and tired parent. Foods like banana pancakes, pesto, celery casserole (got my 4 year old to eat this one happily though he swears he hates celery), or stuffed mushrooms will probably become family favourites long after your infant has graduated to eating whatever everyone else in the family eats.

Nurture follows a similar format and covers all of the basics for managing a new baby. There are chapters on getting a new baby home from the hospital, obtaining help, dealing with crying, first aid, feeding, changing nappies, bathing, swaddling, baby massage, dealing with sleeping issues, establishing routines, dealing with parental health, getting organised, returning to work, and managing the extended family. The book is geared towards life in Australia, and there are specific lists of hotline and contact numbers for Australians, government assistance, and other country based information. The light tone, and simple, quick to read format will be suitable for parents who have little time to read and can also be used as a reference guide to problem solving and dealing with issues as they arise. This is really only a book which will be of use to first time parents though. The information doesn’t extend beyond the first 3-4 months or so, and it is all fairly basic. However, this is just want a first timer needs. It can be augmented later by one of the more thorough reference/health books like Penelope Leach’s Baby & Child (the book I still turn to when my children have behavioural or health concerns that trouble me), or a specific guide targeted to your children’s age. In the meantime, Nurture is a lovely little book perfectly suited to an Australian parent who needs to learn the basics fast.

Both of the books are very neatly presented, with sidebars, helpful hints and suggestions, and lots of little cartoons to make reading easy, even for the bleary new parents. The bright square portable design and well structured chapters make these a very appealing gift set. For more information visit: ibispublishing.com.au.

Nourish: Food for Your Baby
By Sophie Blackmore
Ibis Publishing
Paperback, IBSN1920923314, Sept 2004, rrp$18.00

Nurture: Caring for Your New Baby
By Debra and Kim Choate
Ibis Publishing
Paperback, ISBN 1920923306, Sept 2004, rrp$18.00


This review first appeared at Preschoolentertainment.com. It appears here with permission.

Ruby Roo books by Lucy Nichols

Reviewed by Magdalena Ball

Ruby Roo is a cute little kangaroo with a large head, a long pointy tail, and an orange and green spotted shirt. She is about the same age as a toddler and they will relate to her adventurousness. They will also learn along with Ruby as she discovers the world and her place in it. In Ruby Roo Jumps Too High, Ruby is proud of her great jumping skills, and ignoring her parents’ warnings to be careful, she jumps up over the rose bush, the fence, the house, the bridge, the school, the tower, and then she jumps so high she reaches the moon. Once on the moon she is too scared to come down, but in the end, a little help from some pointy roo tails saves the day. Ruby learns a good lesson about taking care which children will also learn. Children won’t mind suspending their judgement about the logistics of a kangaroo jumping up to the moon, and will love the sliding back part. The progression from small jumps to larger jumps will help children learn early maths and provide an opportunity for further expansion of the story.

Ruby Roo’s Teddy is a very simple lift the flap book with the familiar topic of trying to find a missing teddy. If you have any lift the flap books already (Spot, Miffy, or Caillou for example) they will probably have a similar theme, but young children do love to lift those flaps, and the familiarity of the story will appeal to children and make the book instantly accessible.

Both books are illustrated in rich deep colours, with simple, naïve pictures that children will like. On the back of each book are tips for extending the reading experience. For more information visit www.ibispublishing.com.

Ruby Roo Jumps Too High
ISBN 1920923029, rrp $15.95
Ruby Roo’s Teddy
ISBN 1920923098, rrp $12.95
By Lucy Nichols
Illustrated by Christina Miesen
Ibis for Kids, paperback, 2004

This review first appeared at Preschoolentertainment.com. It appears here with permission.

Two by Two, by John Winch

There was a time, long ago, when the animals lived together in peace and contentment.
Life was good. The days were long and warm…

In this skilful retelling of the story of Noah’s ark, it is the animals who take centre stage. When their peace is shattered by the great flood, they seek shelter in the boat which features, along with its maker and his wife, as an unnamed refuge.

In this way, author and illustrator John Winch makes the story both timeless and non-demoninational. As he says in his introduction, the tale of a great flood is told in over three hundred cultures and this is just one retelling, with the common theme of the earth being cleansed of evil and of the rebirth of goodness.

The evil in this story is portrayed only through the illustrations. While the animals live in harmony in the opening pages, around them are denuded forests and the smoke of men’s fires. When the animals finally leave the ark it is to grassy plains and blue skies.

This is a beautiful tale, to be read just for that beauty, although it would be fitting for use in a religious or ethics studies classroom and also for classes studying themes relating to the environment.


Two By Two, by John Winch
Scholastic, 2004

My Dad and My Grandad, by Jeannette Rowe

My dad…lets me dance on his feet.
My grandad…rides with me on his old scooter.

There is a range of dads and grandads in these two books as well as a range of children – but the important focus of both books is that of the child sharing time with one of the men in his/her life.

Each double page spread shows the child on the left hand page and the thing s/he does with his grandad or dad on the right hand page, partially concealed by a large flap. Some of the things shared are everday – My dad…helps me brush my teeth – while others are more adventurous (like riding on Grandad’s scooter).

It is lovely to see books which celebrate grandads and dads, and especially pleasing to see grandad reading stories to one of the children. The books might even encourage dads or grandads who don’t share books with their kids to do so – an important but sometimes missed part of early literacy.

Both books are alive with the colour always present in Rowe’s books. Lovely.

My Dad and My Grandad, by Jeannette Rowe
ABC Books, 2004

Kered's Cry, by Kaaren Sutcliffe

A great roar and clamour made his stomach turn over. Gripping his lower lip with his teeth, Kered looked back to the outer wall. He had to lean on the stone ledge to steady himself. The entire road and lands beyond the walls teemed with large barbarians in garish armour. Already, arrows whistled over the wall, randomly striking soldiers or fleeing peasants.

When his castle home is attacked, Kered loses everything – his father, his mother and the throne to which he should have been heir. His own life is spared, but only just. First he is tortured by his captors, the Sarods, then he is cast out into the desert. He is rescued from death by Chelosan, a chameleon with magical powers.

Taken in by a desert tribe far from his home in Tanaria, Kered recovers physically, but his emotional healing is more difficult. He doesn’t know who to trust or what he should do next. Does he have the strength to save his people and his land?

Kered’s Cry is the first title in a new trilogy from talented author Kaaren Sutcliffe, who weaves a complex and absorbing tale, centered on a reluctant and damaged hero. Kered appears to be the central player in the fulfillment of a prophecy guarded by the chameleon, Chelosan, but Kerod’s trauma at the hands of the Sarod’s has left him almost incapable of trust and of the courage he needs to undertake his quest.

As well as Chelosan, Kered is supported by a girl from the desert tribe. Shouffa is given the task of caring for Kered as he recovers and finds herself drawn to him. Both struggle with the complexities of their growing romance.

This is a well-drawn and richly levelled plot, which is equally suited to young adult and to adult readerships. All readers will look forward to the release of the second instalment of Kered’s tale.

Kered’s Cry, by Kaaren Sutcliife
Loranda Publishing, 2004