The ABC Book of Christmas

And there in the stable the stable this special baby was born, just as the angel Gabriel had said.

Here is a Christmas picture book with a difference. The story is the real Christmas story of the nativity, retold by Mark Macleod in straightforward, yet lyrical text, at a level accessible for young readers. What makes this version a little different is not the text but the illustrations. Each spread is brought to life by the work of a different illustrator, meaning that each turn of the page brings a fresh perspective and a different illustrative technique. Lovers of Australian picture books will recognise the work of favourite illustrators, including Ann James, Stephen Michael King and Wayne Harris. Back of the book biographies of each illustrator are provided.

A collector’s item which will delight adult lovers of the picture book form, this will equally be enjoyed by children, who will like seeing the different styles of the illustrators’ work. An excellent Christmas gift.

The ABC Book of Christmas

The ABC Book of Christmas, by Mark Macleod
ABC Books, 2009

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

Brucie Saves Christmas, by Yvonne Morrison & Michelle Pike

All the other kangaroos,
Thought him rather shy and small.
They didn’t think poor Brucie,
Could be any help at all…

Brucie is a small joey who isn’t brave and is not good at any of the Christmas things the other kangaroos can do. So, when Christmas time comes, he feels sad and left out. But when Christmas Eve comes and it’s foggy and cloudy, it is Brucie who comes up with a solution.

Brucie Saves Christmas! is a fun rhyming tale for Aussie kids. A sequel to An Aussie Night Before Christmas, it also has some parallels with the story of Rudolph, with the odd man (or, in this case kangaroo) out, being the very one who can save Christmas. At the end of the story, there is also a song about Brucie, to the tune of Rudolph the Red Nosed reindeer.

With humorous illustrations by Michelle Pike, this is sure to appeal to youngsters and would make a great Christmas gift.

Brucie Saves Christmas!

Brucie Saves Christmas! by Yvonne Morrison and Michelle Pike
Scholastic, 2009

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

Stink-off Battle of the Century, by Felice Arena

In the middle of a thick wooded forest on the outskirts of the bustling, grand ancient city of Rome, two teenage boys were hunting for wild pigs.
‘Shuush,’ whispered Cornelius, the older of the two.
‘What?’ croaked Rufus, Cornelius’s cousin, who was visiting from the southern city of Pompeii.
Cornelius gestured for Rufus to follow him. He had heard a rustle in the bushes. He cocked back his bow-and-arrow and tip-toed toward the sound.
‘Is it a pig? Is it? Is it?’ asked Rufus, who had never been hunting before.

Farticus Maximus – Stink-off Battle of the Century is the second in a new series from Felice Arena. The title story is told in two parts – the first instalment opens this collection of stories, the second closes it. In between, there are stories of a dad with an absolute intolerance of in-car flatulence, a Stick-dudes cartoon story about school camp (also told in prose), a Sherlock Holmes and Dr Buttson mystery to solve, a stinky take on the movies and more. Arena has illustrated as well as written this collection. Illustrations include movie posters, a flip book, cartoon story and other scattered images. Text is large and easy to read, with many phrases in ‘bold’ for emphasis.

There is no doubt about the intended readership for Farticus Maximus – Stink-off Battle of the Century. It’s pitched squarely at mid-primary boys who chortle, snigger and chuckle at any vaguely bottom-related humour. It’s all here. From the smallest accidental pop to the lay-‘em-out-flat emission and the King of Them All, SBD, there’s a fart for every boy. Along the way though, there are wonderful character/nose names like Sinus and Rhina and Ancient Rome information that floats in with the jokes. But shhh! don’t tell! Let no one call ‘Farticus Maximus – Stink-off Battle of the Century educational! Not out loud. Readers who love the sound or not-sound of their own (or others’) hot air, will love this.

Farticus Maximus - Stink-off Battle of the Century and More Stories that Reek!

Farticus Maximus – Stink-off Battle of the Century and More Stories that Reek!, Felice Arena
Scholastic Australia
ISBN: 9781741693782

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

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

Big Stories from Little Lunch, by Danny Katz

Mrs Gonsha has a big bum.
It’s a huge bum. Her bum is so big and wobbly, it looks like a gigantic beanbag made out of porridge.
Whenever Mrs Gonsha goes walking around the school, her bum wobbles and jiggles and wiggles and bobbles – and when she stops walking, her bum keeps wobbling and jiggling and wiggling and bobbling for a bit longer.
One day Mrs Gonsha was walking around the school with her big bum wobbling and bobbling, wiggling and jiggling. All the kids were playing on the slide, going up and down, up and down.
Mrs Gonsha came over and said, ‘Hey kids, that looks like fun, can I have a go?’

Big Stories from Little Lunch is a collection of the five ‘Little Lunch’ titles from Danny Katz and illustrated by Mitch Vane. Each of the individual titles comprised 3 stories. All stories feature the same children although different children take the lead role. Their teacher, Mrs Gonsha, appears in some of the stories, and the principal is mentioned but unseen. Each story occurs during ‘little lunch’, or recess, in a school yard. Characters range from show offs to fairy-artists, from naughty to nice, as seen in most school yards. There’s Manny with his amazing little lunch packs, Rory who has his own special chair in the principal’s office and Atticus who needs his glasses. Text is spare and there are illustrations on most pages.

Big Stories from Little Lunch is off-beat, ordinary, gross and spectacular…often all in the same story. Stories are short and ideal for the newly confident reader wanting to transition from picture books but not yet ready for chapter book. Each story deals lightheartedly and humourously with the wonderful ordinariness of the playground. Children will recognise themselves and their playmates and the things that happen in the playground. All manner of adventures happen in the 15 minutes of little lunch, and all are wrapped up neatly and satisfactorily by the time the school bell rings. Mitch Vane’s pen and ink drawings set the tone for these funny tales. Recommended for lower primary.

Big Stories from Little Lunch , Danny Katz, ill Mitch Vane
black dog books, 2009
ISBN: 9781742031071

Big Stories from Little Lunch (Little Lunch S.)

reviewed by Claire Saxby, children’s writer

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

Cicada Summer, by Kate Constable

Eloise floated on a sea of red and orange swirls. Dazzling golden threads shimmered through the cloth, the tiny fish embroidered on Mum’s favourite skirt. Mum’s arms were around her and Mum was singing softly.
…and little fishes, way down below, wiggle their tails, and away they go…
She was falling asleep on Mum’s lap, safe and warm, wrapped in the billows of her skirt. The red and gold and purple of memory enfolded her and floated her away.’ ‘Wake up, El for Leather!’
Eloise’s eyes sprung open, and she struggled upright. A sheet of white light flashed from the rear window of the car in front, blinding her. She shut her eyes again and watched a dark shape drift down the inside of her eyelids, then jump up again, over and over, endlessly receding but never quite fading away.

Twelve-year-old Eloise has been silent for the last two years, since her mother died in a car accident. Her father concocts grand schemes that never seem to pan out, just like the girlfriends that never last. Eloise and Dad have moved many times in the past two years. This time they are moving to Turner, the town where Dad grew up. Dad has plans to turn the house his mother grew up in into a convention centre. Mo, his mother and Eloise’s grandmother lives in a little house in town. She is trapped inside her house, too scared to leave. Tommy, the boy next door does her shopping. Mo and Dad are only recently speaking to each other after a fight five years earlier. Dad dumps Eloise with the grandmother she hardly knows and disappears back to the city in search of finance for his latest grand plan. Eloise is fascinated by the big old house, and Mo seems happy for her to find her own entertainment. Then Eloise meets a girl in the old summerhouse, a girl just younger than her. Mo says the family has a history of running away from their problems. This summer, Eloise must face hers.

Cicada Summer is a story of the different ways people respond to trauma. First there is Eloise, who in response to her mother’s death, has simply ceased speaking. She expresses herself in her drawing. Eloise’s Dad races furiously into the future, meeting and discarding girlfriends frequently, never stopping to examine what’s important in his life. Mo has become so accustomed to living within the four walls of her house, that she is as prickly as a cactus. The Durranis next door have fled Afganistan and are working to establish a new life. Linking them is a rundown old house. Eloise struggles to understand the mystery surrounding the house. In doing this, she comes to understand herself a little, and helps her father and grandmother address their own issues and behaviours. Recommended for mid- to upper-primary readers.

Cicada Summer

Cicada SummerKate Constable
Allen & Unwin 2009
ISBN: 9781741758283

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

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

The Wiggles Go Bananas!

The Wiggles Go Bananas! is a collection of Wiggles songs about animals. Some, like ‘Cock-a-doodle-do’ are traditional songs given a wiggly workover, but others are original Wiggle songs. There are songs about monkeys, lions, crocodiles and even Wags the Dog. An extra feature on each opening is a fact box, with information about animals or about the origins of the song. Illustrations are photos on brightly coloured backgrounds. Wiggles members feature ears and noses to match each song. The Wiggles Go Bananas!is a mid-sized robust paperback with glossy cover and pages.

The Wiggles have been entertaining preschoolers for many years. Their songs and rhymes are designed to be easy to sing along with and include actions to get kids up and moving. This collection of songs includes both familiar and perhaps less familiar songs, and will appeal to Wiggles fans. It’s great to see old traditional tales getting a new life too in the irreverent Irish folk song ‘The Dingle Puck Goat’.

The Wiggles Go Bananas!

The Wiggles Go Bananas! The Wiggles
ABC Books 2009
ISBN: 9780733325762

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

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

Wombat Divine, by Mem Fox & Kerry argent

Wombat loved Christmas. He loved the carols and the candles, the presents and the pudding, but most of all he loved the Nativity Play.

When Wombat goes to the auditions for the Nativity, he tries out for every part – from the Archangel Gabriel to the Three Kings, and even Mary. But someone else is chosen for every part, because Wombat is too big or too heavy, or too short or too sleepy. Finally, just when it looks like Wombat is going to miss out completely, Bilby has an excellent idea. Wombat could be the Baby Jesus. When the night of the play comes, everyone is nervous, except Wombat. He plays his part to perfection – even falling asleep.

Wombat Divine is a touching Christmas story from one of Australia’s best known picture book authors, Mem Fox. The richly coloured illustrations, by well-known artist Kerry Argent, bring the Australian animals to life in a perfect complement to the tale.

First released in 1995, the book has been rereleased to mark its fifteenth year.


Wombat Divine


Wombat Divine, by Mem Fox, illustrated by Kerry Argent
Omnibus Books, an imprint of Scholastic Australia
First Published 1995, this edition 2009

The Australian Twelve Days of Christmas, illustrated by Heath McKenzie

With shops full of tinsel and presents, it’s pretty obvious Christmas is on its way. But there’s a catch. Alongside the tinsel and lights, are scenes of snow, plum puddings and all the trappings of a Northern Hemisphere style Christmas. Here in Australia, Christmas usually entails cooling down and trying to escape the heat as we celebrate this special event in the midst of our summer.

The Australian Twelve Days of Christmas, puts an Aussie slant on the old song, with partridges and maids a milking replaced with a kookaburra up a gum tree, wombats, possums and, of course, flies.

Accompanying the humorous text are colourful, funny illustrations with illustrator Heath McKenzie interpreting them in a unique way. The seven possums playing are in front of the TV with Playstations, and the six sharks are swimming in paddle pools.

This is a fun Christmas offering which will appeal to Aussie kids, but would also make a novel gift for overseas friends and family. First released in hardcover format in 2006, it has been rereleased this Christmas in board book format.

The Australian Twelve Days of Christmas [Board book]


The Australian Twelve Days of Christmas [Board book], illustrated by Heath McKenzie
Black Dog Books, 2009

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

40 Super Human Body Tricks, by Ruben Meerman

You are the exclusive owner of a highly advanced, super sophisticated and utterly unique human body. There isn’t, and there never will be, another human body exactly like yours. But while you and I and the other 6.7 billion (6 700 000 000) people on the planet all look noticeably different, we are all, in fact, nearly perfectly identical. We share the same master body plan, the same organs, the same types of cells, the same fundamental needs and the same basic abilities. We are all, by far, much more alike than different underneath our skins.

Ruben Meerman, surfing scientist, is back! This time he’s sharing the magic of the human body, with 40 Superhuman Body Tricks. He promises there’ll be no lecturing on eating well and exercising, although admits that a healthier respect for your body may result after reading. There are 40 experiments, aimed to demonstrate some of the marvels of the human body. Experiments are simple and clever and most can be completed without needing parental supervision. On the opposite page to the experiments is the science underpinning it. Discover the location of your own personal blind spot. Learn how to make sugar sweeter than…sugar!

Most people are aware of the importance of science, but for many, the language of science is as foreign as another country’s language. Ruben Meerman seeks to share the passion he has for science by making it as fascinating and easy to understand as possible. He does this both in the language he uses to describe what’s going on (although he also uses the scientific terms) and also helping children to learn by doing. His experiments are noisy and smelly and visually arresting! Perfect! Very little equipment is required for most of the experiments…all you need is your body! Recommended for mid-primary and beyond…but in fact older and younger readers will also enjoy the experiments and the trivia.

The Surfing Scientist: 40 Superhuman Body Tricks, Ruben Meerman
ABC Books 2009
ISBN: 9780733325694

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

The Surfing Scientist: 40 Superhuman Body Tricks

Funny Little Dog, by Kyle Mewburn

Flyn hung upside down from the oak tree, with his limbs wrapped tightly around a branch. He held his breath and carefully turned his head so he could scan the park. The boys were standing directly below him. Flyn could have dropped an acorn down Toby Downer’s collar. But that was the last thing Flyn wanted to do.
He just wanted to get to school without a fight.

Flyn is not having fun. His route to school involves passing the school bullies and they delight in tormenting him. What he needs is a big, tough dog to do all the things he can’t. Then the bullies would leave him alone. Enter Pop Hooper and his amazing collection of pets. On the side of each wagon, Pop Hooper’s Pet Express promises ‘Perfect Pets Guaranteed’. Flyn stops running away from the bullies and chases after Pop Hooper. He knows exactly the sort of dog he needs, a dog called ‘Chomper’ who will be brave where Flyn is not.

Funny Little Dog is the second title in the ‘Pop Hooper’s Perfect Pets’ series from Little Hare. The magical Pop Hooper seems to appear where he is needed, with the perfect pet. But he can’t find the pet Flyn describes so asks him to look after Pumpkin. Pumpkin has none of the attributes Flyn is sure he will need, and lots of characteristics sure to make his life worse. Poor Flyn! But Pumpkin allows Flyn’s nature to shine through his anxieties. Although it is Pop Hooper who chooses Pumpkin for Flyn, it is the boy who shows his true character and ample reserves of bravery when necessary. Funny Little Dog is a lovely mix of humour and seriousness, complemented by Heath McKenzie’s black and white illustrations on most openings. Recommended for newly confident readers ready for a slightly longer story.

Funny Little Dog (Pop Hooper's Perfect Pets)

Funny Little Dog (Pop Hooper’s Perfect Pets), Kyle Mewburn ill Heath McKenzie
Little Hare 2009
ISBN: 9781921272769

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

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