I Love my Grandma and I Love My Grandma, by Anna Walker

Ollie, the main character of the ‘I Love…’ series from Anna Walker is an androgynous striped zebra. Or ‘everychild’ in a pyjama suit. In previous outings, Ollie has loved his Mum and his Dad. Ollie also likes holidays and Christmas, to sing and to dance. Ollie even has his own ‘I Love Ollie’ font that’s used for his stories. I Love My Grandmais about Ollie spending a day with Grandma at her house. They have a picnic, a singalong and a bath. And all the while Grandma is knitting.

At Grandpa’s house, Ollie and Grandpa are ready for a day of gardening. Ollie helps as only a small child can, as they weed and harvest in Grandpa’s vegetable garden. At the end of the day, the two share dinner and a chat and then doze off in the chair. Illustrations are watercolour with lots of white space. Endpapers depicting a child’s drawing of the day’s activities echo the colours on the front cover and spine. And cuddles. Both Grandma and Grandpa offer the best of cuddles.

Each of the ‘I Love…’ books tells the story of a day with Ollie, from Ollie’s point of view. Text is simple, with the illustrations illuminating the words and reflecting a sometimes different story. But they are full of the simple joys of just being. As with previous offerings in this series, children will enjoy Ollie’s adventures and adults will appreciate the relationships depicted. Ollie is full of life and curiosity and love. These are small format almost square hardback picture books, sure to be a favourite with littlies and with their families.

I Love My Grandma

I Love My Grandma, Anna Walker Scholastic 2010
ISBN: 9781741696363

I Love My Grandpa

I Love My Grandpa, Anna Walker
Scholastic 2010
ISBN: 9781741696370

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

Stick Dudes, by Felice Arena

Stick Dudes are four friends: Ben Milano; Martin Tang; Johnny Johns and Michael Tubble. They are mostly ten years old, or close to it. Their life is chock-a-block full of adventure. In Champions of the World all the friends catch World Cup Fever. They have a chance to meet a soccer hero, but only if they can win a game of soccer against their arch-enemy, bully Meeval.

In The Secret Four-ce the four decide to form their own secret spy network when treasures begin disappearing from the school. First it’s a book, then football cards. There seems to be no pattern and their initial suspects all prove to be in the clear. The Secret Four-ce is undaunted, even when it seems that the teachers could be suspects as well.

Stick Dudes are illustrated with stick figures also drawn by Felice Arena. There are illustrations on almost every page and each book provides frames at the end for readers to add their own stick dude stories.

Stick dudes are wild. They jump to conclusions, mete out their own justice and generally cause mayhem. There are boys in every school just like them, full of energy and enthusiasm, impossible to contain. They are aimed at mid-primary boys, particularly those who struggle to sit still long enough to read a novel (even the book stolen from Marty in The Secret Four-ce is a adventure one borrowed from his uncle and valued mostly for its extrinsic signed worth). They are also loyal and open and quick to help each other. Each title contains a complete adventure, with the problem identified very quickly. Each story positively zooms along, twisting and turning like a boy on a skateboard. The characters are introduced at the front of each book, and although the stories are told in first person by Ben, one of the main characters, all the others have equal time in the sun. Recommended for mid-primary readers, particularly reluctant ones.

Champions of the World (Stick Dudes)

Champions of the World (Stick Dudes), Felice Arena
Scholastic 2010
ISBN: 9781741696936

The Secret Four-ce (Stick Dudes)

The Secret Four-ce (Stick Dudes), Felice Arena
Scholastic 2010
ISBN: 9781741695502

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

Of a Boy, by Sonya Hartnett

It has never occurred to him – and he blushes faintly, for being so stupid – to think that children can vanish. The Metfords have not been lost or abandoned – they have been made to disappear. They have not run away – they have been lifted up and carried. They’ve been taken somewhere as distant as Jupiter. Adrian has never thought…that an ordinary child could be worth taking or wanting, a desirable thing.

Adrian has many fears, and the disappearance of three children who are going to buy icecream adds a new fear to his list – that he could disappear. Adrian lives with his gran and his uncle – removed from his mother and abandoned by his father. He struggles to make friends and to understand the world around him. How can you understand a world where nobody seems to want you?

Of a Boy is a gently moving tale of a child trying to make sense of a confusing world. With the insecurity of having been moved between his mother, his father and his grandmother’s care, Adrian tries hard to follow the rules so that he may remain secure, but his observations of other children, particularly orphan children at school, and his interest in the much publicised disappearance of three children, lead him to feel even more insecure. Readers will feel his confusion and longing for normality.

First published in 2002, this much celebrated novel has been rereleased as part of the Popular Penguin series.

Of a Boy, by Sonya Hartnett
This edition Penguin, 2009

April, by Gabrielle Lord

I was finally free to stand up. I stretched out my arms, and clenched and unclenched my aching fingers, sore from bearing the weight of Lachlan’s head. While the cop had been talking, my mind had been racing in overdrive – desperately thinking of a way to get my stuff and get out of there. More cops were coming and I knew that if I didn’t run, I’d be recognised and cuffed in no time. Psycho Kid, public enemy number one…the guy who’d attacked his uncle and put his sister in a coma.

Callum (Cal) Ormond has been on the run for three months, suspected of having tried to kill his sister and uncle, and being pursued by police, a private investigator and groups of baddies who want to kill him, for reasons he can’t grasp. What he does know is that he needs to keep on the run if he wants to stay alive. In the meantime, he must also solve the mysterious Ormond Riddle, which is his only chance at having a normal life again.

April is the fourth title in the Conspiracy 365 series, a fast paced action series from author Gabrielle Lord. With each of the eventual twelve titles being released in the month which bears its title, this series is both unique and satisfying in its blend of action and adventure. Like its predecessors, this title offers twists and turns and ends with a cliffhanger which will leave the reader looking forward to the May instalment.

April (Conspiracy 365)

April (Conspiracy 365), by Gabrielle Lord
Scholastic Australia, 2010

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

Fire Lizard, by Sandy Fussell

Reviewed by Liam Murphy (Age 12)

This is a good adventure book about the Samurai kids meeting the Sensei’s teacher, Pak Cho so they can defeat Hyo Moon and send a warning to the governor.

The book is full of excitement and humour. It is a great story about friendship and teamwork.

Once you begin reading it is impossible to put down, as it is unpredictable what will happen next.

Samurai Kids Book 5: Fire Lizard

Samurai Kids Book 5: Fire Lizard, by Sandy Fussell
Walker Books, 2010

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

When Courage Came to Call, by LM Fuge

We do our work under the cover of darkness.
If you trust me, I will trust you.
We work for the good and safety of Zamascus. This will include killing.

Imm and Saxon have a childhood growing up in Zamascus, until the night that the unthinkable happens and everything changes. Suddenly Zamascus is at war – a war which comes out of the blue and leaves them scurrying to survive amongst the ruins of their city. They make friends with other young survivors and wonder what to do next. Then they meet Knight, a stranger who recruits them to his team, fighting for Zamascus. But as Imm comes to question who Knight is, and what he is doing, he also finds himself at odds with his twin. Could the cost of survival be just too high?

When Courage Came to Call is a thrilling, chilling read set in a fictional city, in an unspecified time, but with a familiarity which adds to the impact of the scenes which unfold. The sixteen year old hero and his twin brother witness terrible scenes, coping by drawing on unknown courage and on the friends around them. Young readers will be drawn to the familiarity of Imm’s past, and its chilling contrast with his new reality.

A first novel from a teen author with a big future.

When Courage Came to Call

When Courage Came to Call, by LM Fuge
Random House, 2010

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

A Strange Little Monster, by Sue Whiting

‘You’re strange, Sasha,’ said Hissy.
‘So very strange,’ agreed Grissy.
Sasha shrugged. She didn’t care.

The monsters of Grotty Hollow are loud and tough – all except Sasha. Sasha would prefer to enjoy the flowers, or a starry night, preferably while playing her flute. Her family think she’s strange, and her parents wonder where they went wrong. But Sasha likes being different.

When Sasha sees a Mountain Troll heading straight for the other monsters, her difference is the very thing that allows her to save them – and show all the monsters that being different can be a good thing.

A Strange Little Monster is a wonderful easy read tale about having the courage to be yourself. Part of the Aussie Nibbles series, the text is complemented by delightful black and white illustrations, by Stephen Michael King, on every spread.

A fun read with a gentle, but important, message.

A Strange Little Monster (Aussie Nibbles S.)

A Strange Little Monster , by Sue Whiting, ill by Stephen Michael King
Puffin Books, 2010

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

The Wildkin's Curse, by Kate Forsyth

Next shall be the king-breaker, the king-maker,
Though broken himself he shall be.

Zedrin, Merry and Liliana are very different – Zedrin is a starkin lord, Merry is a hearthkin boy and Liliana is a wildkin girl – yet the three must journey together on a perilous, secret mission to rescue a Princess.

Princess Rozalina is a powerful enchantress and a wildkin princess, cruelly imprisoned in a crystal tower. Her three rescuers must use all their combined skills to rescue her.

A companion to The Starhorn Tree, The Wildkin’s Curse is an exciting fantasy tale set in a magical world filled with magic, heroes and villains, about the power of stories. With a diverse cast of characters, both likeable heroes and clearly portrayed villains, this will delight young fantasy fans.

The Wildkin's Curse

The Wildkin’s Curse, by Kate Forsyth
Pan Macmillan, 2010

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

Tom Sawyer, illustrated by Robert Ingpen

On an Australian-focussed website such as this one it is not often that you’ll find a review for an iconic American novel. However, whilst The Adventures of Tom Sawyeris just that, this particular edition of the book has been illustrated by one of Australia’s foremost illustrators, Robert Ingpen.

This sumptuous hard cover offering presents the original text with seventy delightful coloured illustrations as well as beautiful end papers and slip cover.

With thick parchment paper, and the aforementioned illustrations which are simply breath taking, this is an offering for collectors, and would make a beautiful gift, yet is also something kids would love to own.

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, by Mark Twain, illustrated by Robert Ingpen
Walker Books, 2010

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

Snitch, as told to Jimmy Thomson

I’ve been on first name terms with some of the most notorious criminals in this country and some of the most famous policemen. I have collected money from pimps and gamblers and delivered bribes to corrupt cops. I have been shaken down by dirty cops and I have sat down with others who wouldn’t take a bribe if you offered it to them. I have seen violence you wouldn’t believe but I’ve never so much as slapped anyone myself…The Royal Commission gave me a codename. My friends called me The Inspector.

Few Aussie television shows of recent years have attracted the same kind of following as Underbelly. Based on true events in Australia’s gang underworld, it as been followed avidly, discussed over breakfast, at work, on the street. Snitch is not part of the Underbelly franchise, but will appeal to its fans. It is the first hand account of life in Kings Cross by someone who claims to have been intimately involved in the events depicted in the most recent series of the show.

”The Inspector” recounts the events to author Jimmy Thomson, giving his own perspective of what did and didn’t happen, and his own role in them. An accessible and intriguing text.

Snitch: Crooked Cops and Kings Cross Crims by the Man Who Saw it All

Snitch: Crooked Cops and Kings Cross Crims by the Man Who Saw it All, as told to Jimmy Thomson
Allen & Unwin, 2010

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