Donald Loves Drumming, by Nick Bland

Donald drummed all day long.
He even dreamed about drumming.
But nobody else seemed to enjoy Donald’s drumming quite as much as he did.

Donald loves drumming, but no one around him seems to enjoy the drumming as much as Donald does, so Donald decides he needs to find something new to love. His attempts are not very successful, but finally Donald hits upon an idea which gives him something new to do, and ultimately a new place to do his drumming.

From the author-illustrator of the much-acclaimed A Monster Wrote Me a Letter, Nick Bland, Donald Loves Drumming is a very cute picture book offering. With Bland’s trademark animal characters – Donald is a rhinoceros – and soft colours, as well as a simple, but feel good, story line, the book will appeal to preschoolers and to adult readers.


Donald Loves Drumming

Donald Loves Drumming, by Nick Bland
Scholastic Press, 2008

This book is available online at Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

A Little Bit, by Christine & Peter Maniaty

I’m a little bit big
and a little bit small.
A little bit short
and a little bit tall.

The simple rhyming text of this picture book shares experiences which most youngsters will be able to relate to – being old enough to hold a new baby, but still small enough to cuddle on Gran’s knee, or being naughty enough to make paper dolls out of Dad’s newspaper, but nice enough to give them to the baby to play with. Not only can toddlers sometimes be a mass of seeming contradictions, but to them life can seem contradictory, too, with all its rules and expectations.

The text here is simple, with just one line per page and a lot of the work being done by the illustrations, which demonstrate the different qualities of the child protagonist. The artist has used watercolour paints and ink lines to bring the child and his family to life.

This hardcover offering is ideal for bedtime reading. Very cute.

A Little Bit, by Christine and Peter Maniaty, ill by Claire Richards
Omnibus, 2008

Blaze of Glory, by Michael Pryor

Before the accident, Aubrey knew he would have completed the challenge without difficulty…he’d always managed to surprise people with his determination in running, boxing or games. Boys much larger than him had learned that provoking skinny Aubrey to fight could be a poor idea. He could drag himself over broken glass if he set his mind to it.
But since the disastrous magical experiment, things were different. Balanced on the edge of true death as he was, physical strain – even emotional strain – could tip him over. He only kept the semblance of a normal existence by a combination of arcane spells and strength of mind. If his magic failed, it would be the end of him.

Aubrey Fitzwilliam is far from being an ordinary boy. His father is an ex-prime minister, his grandmother a dame, and he himself is a skilled magician. But it his magic which has landed him in trouble – because technically Aubrey is dead, even though those around him are unaware of the fact. To complicate matters, two prominent magicians have dies in suspicious circumstances, and an attempt to assassinate the Crown Prince is foiled when Aubrey and his friend George disturb a Golem sent to perform the assassination.

Blaze of Glory is the first in Michael Pryor’s Laws of Magic series, and a first instalment which will have readers eagerly seeking out the next. Aubrey is a nicely flawed main character – good at so many things, but rash and a little arrogant, and unable to communicate with the girl who takes his eye. There is plenty of action and a fantasy world which is delightfully parallel to the real world of pre-World War One, with notable differences including the existence and acceptance of magic.

Suitable for teens and for adult readers, this outstanding tale is as good as fantasy gets.

Blaze of Glory (Laws of Magic)

Blaze of Glory, by Michael Pryor
Random House, 2006

Murderer's Thumb, by Beth Montgomery

Adam’s hand and neck were suddenly clammy. He stumbled closer, fighting back an urge to flee. But there was no mistaking what he saw. It was bone. He ran over to the black object, which lay on the soft bed of fallen silage. It was a boot. A black boot with a metal buckle. His eyes swung back to the silage in the grab/ the idling tractor had shaken free more of the dead grass. Adam could make out the curving bones of a ribcage.

Adam is not impressed when he and his mother have to move to rural Falcon ridge. They are on the run, hiding from Adam’s violent father. This is supposed to be a safe place for them, but a few days after his arrival, Adam discovers a body buried in a silage pit on the farm where they live.

Unsettled by the find, Adam is nonetheless intrigued. He likes mysteries, and here is one right under his nose. Helped by the diary he finds hidden in his house, Adam sets out to figure out who killed the girl, the teenage daughter of the farm owner, who disappeared six years previously.

Murderer’s Thumb is an intriguing murder mystery for teen readers, but it also something more, exploring the issues of secrets in small communities, and of being an outsider in such a place, among others. There are several twists and a diverse and interesting cast of characters.

Murderer's Thumb

Murderer’s Thumb, by Beth Montgomery
Text Publishing, 2008

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

Dragon Dawn, by Carole Wilkinson

Danzi walked over to a snow-covered mound. In previous years, the sleepless winters had passed quickly and pleasantly. He’d had the company of his Dragonkeeper, Chen-mo. They had sat around a cheerful fire, composing poetry, playing chess and reading from the one bamboo book that the Dragonkeeper had owned. This year, Danzi would spend the winter alone.

Danzi is nearly 1000 years old – young for a dragon. Once again he is without a keeper, and this time he has decided he does not need a new one. But he must travel, and with soldiers on the march and unrest throughout the provinces, it is a dangerous time for a dragon to be without a keeper. When he meets a trickster called Bingwen on the road, his determination to be alone does not waver.

Dragon Dawn is a delightful prequel to the award winning Dragonkeepr trilogy. Shorter in length than the books in the trilogy, it offers a glimpse of the dragon Danzi’s life which can be read alone, or as an introduction or follow up to the other books.

This is a wonderful fantasy story, allowing fans to enjoy more of Danzi’s adventures and his life.

Dragon Dawn, by Carole Wilkinson
Black Dog, 2008

What Willow Knew, by June Colbert

My name is Sarah Carter, and, when I was sixteen, my aunt disappeared.
Missing presumed dead, was how the police put it. .
My beloved auntie and legal guardian, missing, presumed dead? .
Don’t think so! Not my Willow! .
She was too smart and tough to get killed. She was too paranoid to get killed.

Sarah is seventeen and has lived with her unconventional aunt Willow since her mother died five years ago. Willow used to be a hippy and is still slightly less than conventional. But with her disappearance, Sarah has to move in with her father, his second wife and their family. Sarah still blames Sandy, her stepmother, for the break-up of her parents’ marriage. Moving in with them, sharing a room with ‘the baby’, just makes Sarah more determined to find her aunt and to get her life back. With the help of two friends, the mysterious ‘Hawk’ and an old diary, Sarah discovers more about her aunt’s past. She also hopes to find clues that might lead her to Willow.

What Willow Knew is an intriguing title and this is an intriguing read. The central story question is very clear. What did Willow know and does it have anything to do with her disappearance? Sarah’s childhood has moved in roughly five year stages. First she lives with her parents, then with her mother after her parents’ divorce, then with Willow until her disappearance. When What Willow Knew begins, Sarah is entering a new stage – post-Willow’s disappearance. As well as searching for her aunt, Sarah has a lot of adjusting to do. She has little understanding of, or empathy for, the effect the changes to her life have on others around her. Only as she learns more about her aunt, and realises that she may not come back, does she slowly develop new relationships with her ‘new’ family. Themes of loss, adjustment and family structures sit next to power, corruption, conspiracy theories and long-kept secrets. The reader moves back and forth from the present to the 30-years-ago world of the university student Willow, until the two worlds connect across time. Recommended for upper-primary to mid-secondary students.

What Willow Knew

What Willow Knew, June Colbert
Lothian 2007
ISBN: 9780734409973

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

The Other Anzacs, by Peter Rees

‘I had my right arm under a leg, which I thought was [the patient’s], but when I lifted it I found to my horror that it was a loose leg with a boot and a puttee on it. It was one of the orderly’s legs which had been blown off and had landed on the patient’s bed. The next day they found the trunk about 20 yards away.’

When Australian and New Zealand men went to fight in the Great War, they entered the pages of Australia’s history, rightly earning the tag of heroes. But wherever the men fought, there were also women, bravely risking their lives to tend the wounded, the ill and the dying. Few modern day Australians are aware of the extraordinary courage and compassion shown by these women, who have been largely forgotten.

The Other Anzacs is an in depth account of the lives and contribution of the nurses who volunteered to go to war and provide nursing support to not just Australian and New Zealand troops, but also to the wounded from other Allied nations, and even enemy soldiers. Using the unpublished diaries, letters and photographs of these women, as well as carefully researched facts, author Peter Rees provides not just a history of these women, but an insight into their emotions and sacrifices as he provides their firsthand accounts of the war. With approximately 3000 Australian and New Zealand women having served during the war, and forty-five killed and over two hundred decorated for their service, this is an important piece of our history which must be preserved. Rees is ensuring this by not only documenting it, but also making it accessible.

An important, informing and engrossing book.

The Other Anzacs: Nurses at War 1914-1918

The Other Anzacs, by Peter Rees
Allen & Unwin, 2008

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

Victor's Quest, by Pamela Freeman

“My mother’s sending me on a quest,” Prince Victor said gloomily. He bit into the pumpkin scone Marigold had just handed him. “Mum says if I’m going to take over the queendom from her I have to find myself a princess to marry who’ll show a bit of sense.”

Prince Victor is not very bright and not very happy. His mother, the queen, is sending him on a quest. Fortunately he has a smart horse, Quince, and is armed with some potions made by his friend Marigold. Victor and Quince venture bravely into the Dark Forest of Nevermore, where there is plenty of trouble afoot, and where somebody needs help.

Victor’s Quest is a delightful fantasy book for younger readers. First published in 1996, it has been republished by Walker Books Australia, and is likely to appeal to young readers as much now as it did twelve years ago. As well as adventure, humour and appealing characters, the story is brought to life in grey scale illustrations by Kim Gamble.

A wonderful offering for primary aged readers.

Victor's Quest

Victor’s Quest, by Pamela Freeman, ill by Kim Gamble
Walker Books, 2008

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