The Shadow Thief, by Alexandra Adornetto

Ernest’s nostrils flared to the size of bottle caps with indignation. He marched over to the spot where the creature had been seen and started searching. Milli watched him with curiosity. After a moment Ernest let out a gasp. He had found a small burrow at the base of the stone wall, hidden by the creeper. Fortunately, it was just large enough for two small, inquisitive children to wriggle through.

Millipop Klompet lives in the boringly uneventful town of Drabville, but she longs for adventure. Her friend Ernest Perriclof is less sure of the need for adventure, but his friendship with Milli leaves him little choice. When Milli takes him on an adventure to explore the house that lies beyond the town park, neither anticipates just how big an adventure will follow. Soon, the pair find themselves unwilling residents of the house, owned by the fearsome Lord Aldor, who has stolen the shadows of all of Drabville’s residents. Milli and Ernest decide that it is up to them to free the shadows and restore Drabville to normal.

The Shadow Thief is a humorous fantasy, with twists and turns and a wonderful cast of characters. From the opening page, where the narrator declares that the reader will need to come up with the opening sentence for him/her self, the reader is taken on an adventure filled with surprises.

The first in the Strangest Adventures series, The Shadow Thief will appeal to 10 to 14 year old readers.

The Shadow Thief, by Alexandra Adornetto
Angus & Robertson, 2007.

Aphrodite Alexandra, by Gillian Bouras & Anna Pignataro

When she is in a good mood, Aphrodite Alexandra asks, ‘Why don’t we go to Yiayia Aphrodite’s place? Just you and me, right now.’
Granny Alex always says, ‘That won’t be necessary, dear,’ and shuts her lips in a thin line.

Aphrodite Alexandra has two long names because of her two grandmothers, but although they live quite close to each other, they don’t get along, much to their granddaughter’s dismay. Aphrodite is sure that they have a lot in common, but one Sunday she inadvertently brings them together.

Part of Lothian’s Giggles series, Aphrodite Alexandra is a quick-read chapter book of just sixty pages, with a gentle message and a mix of humour and adventure. With plenty of illustrative support – each spread has at least one illustration – the book is equally suited to independent reading or to sharing with an adult. Aphrodite Alexandra is a likeable main character and her two grandmothers believably rendered.

A feel good story.

Aphrodite Alexandra (Giggles)

Aphrodite Alexandra, by Gillian Bouras and Anna Pignataro
Lothian, 2007

This book can be purchased online at Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

Tashi and the Mixed-up Monster, by Anna & Barbara Fienberg

A second later, Wise-as-an-Owl burst out of the workshop. “Tashi, children, run! – no, it’s too late. Hide!” He pulled them over to some thick bushes.

When Much-to-Learn finds instructions for creating a Chimera, he does so, and soon the monster is creating havoc. As always, it is Tashi who comes up with a solution to this latest problem.

Tashi and the mixed-up Monster is the fourteenth title in the Tashi series, and offers as much fun, adventure and whimsy as previous titles in the series. Once Tashi has dealt with the Chimera, he must also figure out who has killed Soh Meen’s carp. Clever Tashi always finds a way.

Tashi is a feisty fantasy character who shares his stories with a contemporary family. The stories are told in response to events happening in the family’s lives, sometimes told in first person by Tashi himself and other times recounted by a family member who has heard Tashi’s story.

Suitable for middle primary aged readers, Tashi deserves a place in every child’s heart and library.

Tashi and the Mixed-up Monster (Tashi S.)

Tashi and the Mixed-Up Monster, by Anna & Barbara Fienberg, illustrated by Kim Gamble
Allen & Unwin, 2007

This book can be purchased online at Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

Collins Australian Dictionary

Is a lactivist:

a) A strong advocate of breast-feeding as opposed to bottle-feeding?
b) A nurse specialising in lactation issues for mothers of newborns?
c) A small duct in the corner of the eye where tears flow from?

If you don’t know, then perhaps you’d benefit from the newly released ninth edition of the Collins Australian Dictionary (Incidentally, the answer is A).

Lactivist is just one of hundreds of new words included in this new edition, but the new words are not the only thing that is new, because as well as being published in book form, the dictionary is newly available online. Users can choose to find a word or definition in the print version, or by searching the full dictionary online, or through Collins’ WAP site using a mobile phone. They can also download a copy to their desktop.

With words printed in blue font, and definitions in black, the dictionary is visually easy to search, and notes on usage are added where relevant. For example, following the definition for the word gargantuan, a usage note points out that some people believe the word should only be used in connection with food – ie a gargantuan meal or his gargantuan appetite.

Whilst smaller pocket dictionaries can be handy, no home or office should be without a comprehensive dictionary such as this one.

Collins Australian Dictionary, 9th Edition
Collins, 2007

Santa's Aussie Holiday, by Maria Farrer & Anna Walker

Each year Santa likes to have some fun,
a chance to get some rest and sun;
he spins his globe for inspiration
and finds the perfect destination…

We all know that Santa lives amidst the ice and snow at the North Pole, but when Christmas is over he deserves a little rest, so he heads down to Australia for some fun. His reindeer are left at the Australia Zoo while he tours the country, surfing, scuba diving and more.

Santa’s Aussie Holiday sees Santa touring Australia, from the Great Barrier Reef to Rottnest Island, as he takes a well-earned break in the days after Christmas. The illustrations emphasise the whimsy of the piece, with little details such as the pink galahs in the grasses near Uluru, and the emu and its chicks running alongside Santa’s ute, providing plenty for the reader to discover.

A fun offering with rhyming text and a true-blue Aussie feel, this would make a lovely Christmas gift for a child aged three to six.

Santa’s Aussie Holiday, by Maria Farrer and Anna Walker
Scholastic, 2007

Dragon Mode, by Sally Odgers

Reviewed by Kathryn Duncan

Every little boy has times in his life when he is in dragon mode and this is definitely no different in this wonderful book by Sally Odgers. Unlike real little boys, the main character knows what he does wrong when he is in dragon mode and that mothers, brothers, teachers and even the cat “don’t like dragons much.”

The illustrations are bright and entertaining and Chantal Stewart has done a wonderful job of capturing the emotions of each character – even in dragon mode, this little boy is rather appealing. Sally Odgers has kept the text simple and easy to understand for young children and uses repetition throughout to reinforce the two modes – dragon and boy.

As with all books, people will read different things into this story, but I found Dragon Mode to be about a boy being a boy (all little boys have two modes), and also about how children react to the behaviour of others. As the story progresses the main character appears in dragon mode when he is not getting the attention of someone, or when he does something they do not like. Maybe there is a message here for parents.

Dragon Mode is a book ready to become a favourite with pre-schoolers and early readers.

Dragon Mode, by Sally Odgers, illus by Chantal Stewart
New Frontier Publishing, 2007
HB rrp $24.95

An Aussie Night Before Christmas Pops Up, by Kilmeny Niland & Yvonne Morrison

’twas the night before Christmas
there wasn’t a sound.
Not a possum was stirring;
no-one was around.

Since it was first published in 2005, An Aussie Night Before Christmas has been one of Australia’s most popular Christmas offerings. Now this title is available in a pop up format, certain to delight young Aussies.

With the text an Australianised version of Clement Moore’s famous A Night Before Christmas, the book is filled with Australian images – from Santa arriving in a ute, to thongs, farm dogs and gum trees. The pop up elements are delightful, including the outback house, a big Christmas tree, kangaroos with wagging tails and Santa sliding down the aforementioned gum tree.

This would make a great Christmas gift, appealing to kids aged 2 to 8, though as with any pop up book, the smallest readers may find the pop ups just too tempting.

An Aussie Night Before Christmas Pops Up, by Kilmeny Niland and Yvonne Morrison
Scholastic, 2007

Why is Uranus Upside Down? by Fred Watson

It’s my scribbled records of a decade of listener questions – together with a number of emails – that form the backbone of this book. Each of the 148 questions presented here has been asked by a lively enquiring mind, and I’ve tried to answer in a similar vein to the radio shows. Going into print does allow more detail, of course. But it’s the questions themselves that are special, because they address the issues that people actually want to know about – rather than what we scientists think they want to know about.

Guess what rainbows in fog are called? Fogbows! What would happen if you could drop a stone down a hole through the Earth? Why do we need leap seconds? What is the space elevator and will it work? All these are questions that have been asked of Fred Watson, mostly when he’s been on radio. In Why is Uranus Upside Down? Fred answers these and other astronomy questions in terms complex enough to be accurate, yet simple enough for a lay person to comprehend. The final chapter includes some big questions eg ‘Can we ever know everything?’ and ‘Do Astronomers believe in God?’ but ends by answering ‘Did you ever sing with Billy Connolly?’ – evidence of the broad range of listener inquiry.

Fred Watson is Astronomer-in-Charge of the Anglo-Australian Observatory in Coonabarabran. He’s also a science communicator, deciphering complicated science for the (mostly) non-scientific community. He regularly broadcasts on ABC radio and has answered many listener questions over the years, including those included in Why is Uranus Upside Down?. Why is Uranus Upside Down?’ features eleven chapters, suggestions for further reading and a detailed index. Watson’s style is humorous, conversational and easy to read. This title will intrigue all those who look upwards and wonder what’s going on out there. It will also help those who have inquisitive children who ask difficult questions. Recommended for stargazers of any age.

Why is Uranus Upside Down?: And Other Questions About the Universe

Why is Uranus Upside Down? , by Fred Watson
Allen & Unwin 2007
ISBN: 9781741752533

This book can be purchased online at Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

Natasha, by Catherine Harker

Reviewed by Kathryn Duncan


Hidden behind a floral pillow on a yellow couch, Natasha is a very shy cat that is not even sure that she is a cat. She knows she is not a mouse, so maybe she is a bird. As she searches for her identity, Natasha meets Douglas, “a handsome, orange tom cat” who helps her to discover her identity and overcome her shyness.

Paul Harvey’s comic like illustrations highlight Natasha’s character, emphasising her shyness and her search for identity. The bright, natural colours add warmth to the story and provide a humorous depiction of the text as we see Natasha knit her bird costume.

As with all of New Frontier’s books there is a message in Natasha. Along the lines of Taming Butterflies (text by Sue Whiting and illustrated by Mini Goss) Natasha is about overcoming shyness and finding your own identity.

Natasha is an enjoyable story for the pre-school age group or for children who are newly independent readers.

Natasha, by Catherine Harker, illus by Paul Harvey
New Frontier Publishing, 2007
HB rrp $24.95

Squeezy Cuddle Dangly Legs, by Peter Whitfield

A small girl is keen to prolong the pre-bedtime fun with Mum. Interspersed with every-night tasks like cleaning teeth there are familiar games to play and cuddles to share. Mum and daughter make their way towards sleep time enthusiastically. The action moves from the bathroom to the bedroom and through story-time, drawn on by the regular refrain of ‘squeezy cuddle dangly legs’. The type of cuddle varies, but each is warmly given and received. The end is inevitable as the girl snuggles into her bed, secure in her mother’s love.

Bedtime rituals are often a memorable part of childhood. Children will recognise most of the games in Squeezy Cuddle Dangly Legs and want to share in them. There is enough detail for those unfamiliar with the games to also join in. Peter Whitfield’s text is very simple and the refrain of the title strongly featured. Jacqui Grantford’s illustrations are photo-realist, warm and almost cuddly in themselves. An obviously well-loved soft-toy dog accompanies the girl and her mother on every opening. This dog dances across the endpapers, travelling from wakefulness to sleep. There is plenty of white space on each opening, keeping the focus on the relationship between mother and child. It is easy to imagine children wanting to read this story again and again, sharing the games within and adding their own variations.

Recommended for 2-5 year olds.

Squeezy Cuddle Dangly Legs, by Peter Whitfield ill Jacqui Grantford
New Frontier, 2007
ISBN: 9781921042584