Time for Bed, Isobel, by David Bedford & Leonie Worthington

“It’s time for bed, Isobel.”
“I don’t want to go to bed,” said Isobel. I want to be with you.”
“You will be with me,” said Mum. “I’ll be here reading my book.”…
“I’ll read my book,” said Isobel. And she did.

Isobel isn’t keen on going to bed. There is too much happening. She wants to do whatever Mum is doing – reading a book, picking up toys, doing exercises. But when Mum gets tired and lies down in Isobel’s bed, Isobel decides perhaps she is better off having the bed to herself.

Time for Bed, Isobel is a fun, affectionate story about bedtime, sure to ring true with parents of toddlers, who know the games toddlers will play to get out of going to bed. Artist Leonie Worthington (well known for her work on the Bananas in Pyjamas picture books), uses warm blues, pinks and purples, as well as splashes of sunshine yellow to give the illustrations a gentle feel, and her portrayal of Isobel and Mum as panda bears is delightful.

This is a lovely bedtime story.

Time for Bed, Isobel, by David Bedford & Leonie Worthington
Little Hare Books, 2006

Pagan's Daughter, by Catherine Jinks

“You’ll have to feed him, and wipe his bottom, and save him from the giant olives,” Sybille continues maliciously…
So they seriously expect me to spend the next ten years cleaning up after an incontinent old man in the middle of nowhere?
If so, they’re going to be sadly disappointed.

Babylonne has lived a hard life with her violent, heretical aunt and grandmother, who have looked after her since the death of her mother, but treat her as a slave because she is illegitimate. When her aunt decides to marry her off to an aging invalid, Babylonne decides she wants out, and runs away.

But someone is following Babylonne, and soon she comes face to face with her pursuer – a priest who says he knew her father. Can Babylonne trust Isidore, a priest who stands for so much that she abhors?

Author Catherine Jinks’ Pagan series, published in the 1990s, was an award-winning, popular story set in medieval times. Now Jinks picks up the story without the much-loved Pagan. Instead, she introduces us to Pagan’s daughter, a daughter who never met her father, yet has inherited his feisty spirit. Babylonne is a girl in a man’s world, where women are at best inconveniences and at worst, goods to be use misused at any opportunity. Isidore, who featured in the earlier books is a gentle, educated and wise man, who comes to be a father figure for Babylonne, as they form a bond.

Whilst the book details some horrific events during the bloody battles and sieges of the Cathar crusade, it is also filled with humour and action, as well as maps and inserts which provide historical information without intruding on the narrative.

Aimed at readers 12 and up, this one will please history fans.

Pagan’s Daughter, by Catherine Jinks
Allen & Unwin, 2006

Shipwrecks, Sailors & 60,000 Years, by Jackie French

How can we know what happened sixty thousand years ago?This is a question asked by Jackie French in an author note at the beginning of this book. She points out that we don’t know much of the past for certain, although we are helped by stories passed down through generations and by scientific work. She goes on to say that this book is as accurate as the team which put it together could make it. What is important about this author’s note, and its prominent placement at the beginning of the book, is that it does what so many other history books have failed to do, by admitting that history is both fallible and changeable.

After this note, the book provides an outline of the history of Australia from the arrival of Aboriginal people roughly sixty thousand years ago, until Captain James Cook claimed the land for England in 1770. There are chapters detailing how the many Aboriginal people explored and settled the continent, and how they lived, hunted and traded. This is followed by a detailed discussion of how Australia was ‘discovered’ and mapped by Dutch, French, Portuguese and British sailors, and how these people’s visits to a land they regarded as occupied by savages impacted on the Aboriginal people.

French provides a no holds barred version of events, but does so without being preachy. For example, she points out that Cook declared New South Wales to be terra nullius, despite knowing that the land was inhabited by people who didn’t want Europeans there, but rather than offering an opinion of Cook’s actions, she leaves readers to draw their own conclusions.

The other highly appealing element of this book is its humour, which makes it accessible to even reluctant readers. On every spread, cartoons and illustrations by Peter Sheehan provide humorous interpretations of the text, and French also makes sure she puts plenty of high-interest and often humorous facts, knowing intuitively which gross or gruesome facts will appeal to young readers.

This is history as kids and schools have not previously seen it.

Fair Dinkum Histories: Shipwreck, Sailors & 60,000 Years, by Jackie French
Scholastic, 2006

Whose Family, by Jeannette Rowe

Whose family can you see? Whose family can they be?

Toddlers love interactive books, and with the Whose titles of author/illustrator Jeanette Rowe, there are always plenty of opportunities for interaction. Previous titles, including Whose Ears?, Whose House? and Whose Baby? have proven so popular with littlies that they have sold over a million copies worldwide, and to celebrate, ABC Books have released the ninth title in the series, Whose Family?

Using the same flip the flap format of the earlier titles, Whose Family? uses simple text (the repetition of ‘Whose family?’ on each spread) and enough clues for littlies to be able to guess at the identity of the family under each spread on the first read, and to be able to remember on subsequent reads. There are plenty of fun animal characters and the bold colours for which Rowe is known.

Lots of fun.

Whose Family? by Jeannette Rowe
ABC Books, 2006

Jack Jones and the Pirate Curse, by Judith Rossell

Jack jumped backwards like a startled kangaroo, bumping into Rachel. Stewart’s face had twisted into a mean leer. It was almost unrecognisable. Jack saw a shiny gold tooth in his mouth, and a gold earring in one ear. The new, frightening Stewart leaned towards them, waving the bottle of green fizzy drink threateningly.

When people start turning into pirates, Jack Jones is scared. But when he learns that this is happening because he has inherited a curse, he is, quite frankly, terrified. The pirates are after him, seeking retribution for the actions of his great-great-many-times-great grandfather and they’ll continue chasing him until they get retribution, or until he dies. Jack soon realises that there’s no way he’ll ever outrun the pirates, but perhaps there is some chance he can outsmart them?

Jack Jones and the Pirate Curse is an action-packed, funny novel for 10 to 12 year old readers, full of swash-buckling pirates, zany parrots and rousing sea-shanties. There are also plenty of chases, fights, silliness and laughs.

This is the first novel for author Judith Rossell, who is better known for her illustration skills, but Jack Jones and the Pirate Curse is a first novel which proves Rossell is a talented writer.

Good stuff.

Jack Jones and the Pirate Curse, by Judith Rossell
Little Hare Books, 2006

Slinky Malinki Catflaps & Schnitzel von Krumm's Basketwork, by Lynley Dodd

He liked all the tatters
he liked every tear,
the broken down edges,
the holes and the hair.
the smell was so friendly
and as for the fit –
if he needed to squeeze,
did he mind?
Not a bit.

Little kids love the stories of Hairy Maclary and his friends Scnitzel von Krumm and Slinky Malinki, and what better way to enjoy those stories than in a sturdy board book format just right for reading over and over again?

ABC Books have just released two board book editions of the lively works of Lynley Dodd – Schnitzel von Krumm’s Basketwork and Slinky Malinki Catflaps. Each story in rhyme features the gorgeous artwork and fun stories for which Dodd is famous. In Basketwork, Schnitzel is devastated when his family throw out his old basket. Nothing is as comfortable as that basket, and Schnitzel pines for it, as he searches desperately for a replacement. In Catflaps Slinky sneaks out for a late night get together with his feline friends, but when their get together is interrupted, Slinky takes his friends home for a nap by the fire.

Nobody combines rhyme with gorgeous animal illustration in quite the same way Lynley Dodd does, and it is wonderful to see these two favourites repackaged in boardbook editions.


Schnitzel von Krumm’s Basketwork and Slinky Malinki Catflaps, both by Lynley Dodd
These editions, 2006

Number 8, by Anna Fienberg

I think the best number in the whole universe is eight. My friend, Asim, likes numbers about as much as me, but he likes them all – odd or even. Esmerelda, though, who lives across the street, isn’t so fond of numbers and she hates maths. Singing’s more her thing. She’s really good, too. Nearly as good as my mum. Mum’s a professional singer. Or was, until we had to move.

Jackson isn’t so sure about his new house. Mum has brought him to live in the suburbs, away from their life in the inner-city, to hide out from criminals who want to keep her quiet. But Jackson liked their old life and isn’t sure he can be happy here. When he meets Esmerelda, the girl from across the street, though, he realises it isn’t all bad. Then there’s his friend Asim, who shares his passion for numbers, and for the possums who live in Jackson’s yard.

But the criminals who Jackson’s mum has upset, aren’t finished with her. There’s a mustang driving up and down the street at all sorts of hours, and the phone rings constantly; mystery callers who don’t identify themselves. Jackson and his new friends could be in danger.

Number 8 is an action-packed offering from award-winning author Anna Fienberg. As well as the danger-filled plot, there is plenty of humour, and themes of friendship, family and teen relationships, as well as those of difference and of immigration. This is a lot for one book to explore, but Fienberg does it well, leaving the reader satisfied.

Suitable for readers aged twelve and over.

Number 8, by Anna Fienberg
Penguin, 2006

M.O.T.H.E.R., by Danny Katz

Whenever I used to have my school sports carnivals, Mum would always give me a little hug and kiss before I left home, and she’d say, ‘Remember, Danny, slow and steady wins the race.’ So when it was time for my race I always ran very slowly, and I always kept my body very steady, and I always came about second last.

With Mother’s Day coming up, this little offering is sure to bring laughter both to mothers and to their children. Comedian Danny Katz shares his observations of mothers and motherhood in a collection of comments and recollections about his own mother, his wife, mother-in-law, and mothers in general.

From the mottos and sayings mothers use, to obsessive cleaning and overprotectiveness, Katz has a keen but affectionate eye for the absurd, which are both witty and very true. Illustrations, by Jenny Griggs, who also designed the book, are simple but amusing, and the design, in small format, with a tactile cover and muted colours, makes this an appealing gift book.


M.O.T.H.E.R., BY Danny Katz
Harper Collins, 2006

Monkey Undercover, by Gabrielle Lord

Gusty and her younger sister, Paula, perched high up in the large mulberry tree at the end of the lane. Well-hidden amongst the dense leaves, Gusty watched through her father’s binoculars as Skull, leader of the Black Commando motorcycle gang, kick-started his powerful Harley Davidson.

When Gusty and her siblings find a mistreated dog chained in the yard of some bikies, they decide they have to do something about it. But when they liberate the dog in a night time raid, they have little idea of the magnitude of the events they are becoming involved in.

Soon Gusty, Paula, their brother Sebastian and their friends Todd and Elizabeth, find themselves investigating a smuggling ring, and putting their lives on the line to rescue a mistreated monkey. But have they bitten off more than they can chew?

Monkey Undercover is an exciting new novel for younger readers from one of Australia’s leading writers of crime fiction for adults, Gabrielle Lord. Lord uses a mix of action, danger and humour, in a blend children aged 10 and over are likely to love.

Parents and teachers may wish to screen this one before reading – some of the things the children get up to in order to solve a crime are a little worrying from a parental viewpoint – but, of course, good triumphs in the end and the baddies are brought to justice.

An exciting read.

Monkey Undercover, by Gabrielle Lord
Scholastic Australia, 2006