This is Shyness, by Leanne Hall

The bouncer stares at my ID, his expression murky, his face tinted purple by the neon sign above us. I rub my bare arms. The temperature must have dropped five degrees in the last few minutes.
Neil hovers behind us, just inside the swing doors. He’s still wearing his work shirt, and everything about him is limp and sweaty. He twitches as if he’s about to step in and say something. I widen my eyes, trying to send him a telepathic message. Leave it to me. I have this under control.

This is Shyness is a novel in a night, where a boy named Wolfboy takes a girl called Wildgirl on a ride through the darkness. They meet in a pub. Not so unusual. Except she is underage and he howls. Then they cross the tracks to where he lives, where the sun doesn’t rise. In the endless night, they both run away from their usual lives. They take turns in the decision-making, but share the consequences of the decisions, good or bad. They meet musicians, agents, black marketeers, tarsiers, Kidds and more. Wolfboy and Wildgirl alternate between caution and bravado, a combination that gets them into and out of trouble. Because trouble is what they encounter most.

Shyness is a suburb where things are different. The darkness is a recent thing, but it’s getting worse. Both Wolfboy and Wildgirl have secrets which slowly emerge as they learn to trust one another. There’s a hint of the developing werewolf in Wolfboy, but only a hint. Adults, one in particular, are interested in finding out just what makes Wolfboy tick. ‘This is Shyness’ is told in first person, from alternating viewpoint of the two main characters, although not always chapter-about. Wildgirl wants to forget, even temporarily, her life. Wolfboy is trying to hold on to memories, closing himself down on them. Their night together – like no night imaginable – gives both the seeds of perspective, and the tools to move on. Recommended for mid-secondary readers and beyond.

This is Shyness

This is Shyness, Leanne Hall
Text Publishing 2010
ISBN: 9781921656521

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

This book can be purchased in good bookstores, or online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

Samantha Seagull's Sandals, by Gordon Winch & Tony Oliver

 long time ago
there lived a young, silver gull
who wanted to be different.
Her name was Samantha.

Samantha wants to be different and although she is advised that in time she would be different, she just can’t wait. She decides that shoes will be what makes her different. So she tries high heels, gumboots and more, but each has limitations for a seagoing gull. When her shoes fail, her fiend Simon is there to tell her that she is beautiful just as she is. Not that Samantha believes it. And with each failure she has to endure ridicule from the other gulls (except Simon). The ridicule causes her to blush, red feet, red eyes and beak. Finally, she thinks she has found the perfect shoes to make her different. Illustrations are pencil and watercolour and realistic in style, although the hermit crab has a few extra features! His eyebrows are fabulous.

Many children are in a hurry to grow up, to find their way, their own special place. And because they are impatient, they can’t hear the advice they’re given, nor can they see some of the consequences of their actions. Samantha is keen to be different, but doesn’t realise – or perhaps doesn’t value – the unconditional friendship offered by Simon. Simon on the other hand is patient, uncritical and supportive. The crowd? Well they’re a crowd and act as one with no heed for the impact. This is a 25th birthday for Samantha Seagull’s Sandals , a tremendous achievement for a picture story book. In a post script, there is information about silver gulls. It’s true, their legs, eyes, beaks do really change colour as they become adults. Recommended for early primary readers.

Samantha Seagull’s Sandals , Gordon Winch, ill Tony Oliver
New Frontier Publishing 2010
ISBN: 9781921042591

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

This book can be purchased in good bookstores, or online fromFishpond.

Mr Badger and the Big Surprise, by Leigh Hobbs

Mr Badger lives in Mayfair. However if you ever find yourself in this part of central London, I wouldn’t bother searching for Mr Badger’s house. People have walked past it every day for years without ever noticing it.

Mr Badger has a grand job in a grand hotel. He is the Special Events Manager at the Boubles Grand Hotel. He, with his assistant and staff, has managed weddings, engagements and many other Occasions. But today his special event is the most special on his calendar. It’s the seventh birthday of a very fussy, very indulged little girl, Sylvia Smothers-Carruthers. Her grandparents are the owners of the hotel. They adore their granddaughter, and are apparently blind to some of her less than adorable behaviours. Mr Badger has prepared for every contingency at this most grand of parties, and is on hand to ensure a drama-free event. As if that’s possible…

Mr Badger is a master of preparedness and an island of calm. Nothing fazes him. He is ready for any emergency. But behind that demeanour is a person (okay, a badger) who feels things just like anyone else. Mr Badger and the Big Surprise is a story about behaving badly and behaving well. But behind the behaviours the thoughts are much the same. We all need to be valued. Readers will enjoy the atrocious behaviour of Sylvia. Each opening includes black and white illustrations, making this a perfect introduction for newly confident readers in transition to longer texts. Fans of Leigh Hobbs will appreciate his dry humour.

Mr Badger and the Big Surprise

Mr Badger and the Big Surprise, Leigh Hobbs
Allen & Unwin 2010
ISBN: 9781742374178

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

This book can be purchased in good bookstores, or online from Fishpond.

How to Draw Dangerous Beasts, by Marc McBride

Marc McBride’s animals are well known to book lovers and to budding artists. This new collection of beasts is as fantastic as his mythical beasts. All the animals in this collection are real, although there is some license used for the ‘nastiness’ of some. Each opening offers a staged drawing plan and a picture of the completed animal. The cover and most pages are bordered with a very toothy, very scaly, scary-eyed crocodile pattern. There are colour pages to suggest colours for each beast, but they are just as scary in black and white. How to Draw Dangerous Beastsis a large portrait format paperback, sturdy enough to withstand repeated openings and drawings-from.

In the introduction, McBride recalls his earliest ‘ultimate animal’, made from the best bits of many animals. It had strength, speed, protection, intelligence and more. But although others loved his drawing, some also pointed out things he hadn’t considered. The introduction also details the materials he uses for best effect. He continues to draw his beasts, imaginary and real, and to give them presence. Monster- and beast-loving children who enjoy drawing will find plenty of material here to extend their monster menageries. Recommended for competent drawers who love all things wild.

How to Draw Dangerous Beasts

How to Draw Dangerous Beasts, Marc McBride
Scholastic 2010
ISBN: 9781741694017

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

This book can be purchased in good bookstores, or online from Fishpond.

The Fidgety Itch, by Lucy Davey & Katz Cowley

Down beneath the fru-fru trees
Timpkin was gleefully
gobbling his cheese,
when something began to bother his knees.

Poor Timpkin! When a mouse finds some cheese, he doesn’t want to put it down, not even to scratch the most fidgety itch. So he calls for help. Feather McDoo flies in to help. Now Timpkin is feeling better, but not poor Feather. She has an itch that ‘jiggles and tickles like porcupine prickles’. Next comes Possum. And…you guessed it…he develops an itch too! But when Fuzzy O’Hare arrives and develops an itch of his own, who will scratch it? Illustrations are in ‘watercolour and mosquito sweat’! The animals have very expressive faces and body language, reflecting the irritation and the relief of terrible itches.

There’s nothing worse than an itch that’s inconvenient to reach to scratch. And there’s nothing like the relief of having that itch scratched. The Fidgety Itch grows a chain of cooperative scratchers all happy to be helping out. Readers will enjoy finding the itch-maker on each opening. The text is in rhyme and cumulative, and full of interesting words, just made for repeating. As well as the rhyme, there’s repetition and alliteration. Recommended for pre-schoolers and early primary readers.

The Fidgety Itch

The Fidgety Itch, Lucy Davey, ill Katz Cowley
Scholastic NZ
2010 ISBN: 9781869439675

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

This book can be purchased in good bookstores, or online from Fishpond.

Quillblade, by Ben Chandler

As the timbers of Itsu’s new airdock rocked in their brackets, a familiar creaking reverberated through the airship’s hull and lulled Lenis closer to sleep. Aeris was snuggled into his chest, purring in her sleep, her tail wrapped up around her nose. On the other side of the engine room the rest of the Bestia huddled together in their hutch, a thrumming pile of contented fur. the trip from Pure Land to Shinzo had been long, and they had all earned their rest.

Lenis and his twin sister, Missy are slaves, sold on many times at the whim of their owners. Now they have been gifted with an airship to a warlord. Lenis is a Bestia Keeper and has an empathy with animals. Missy can read thoughts and also understand World languages. When the newly delivered airship is stolen just as the new owner comes to take possession, the thirteen-year-olds embark on an adventure beyond their imagining. Fleeing the wrath of the warlord, they encounter demons and wastelands, kindness and evil. The crew is a motley bunch – some eccentric, others mad, all individual – and the twins must learn who to trust. They must also learn to trust themselves and their growing powers.

Quillblade is the first instalment in a new fantasy series from first-time Adelaide author Ben Chandler. And a rich adventure it is too, set some hundreds of years in the future. Although there is no reference to an old world, there is a sense that it no longer exists. Instead there are several lands, quite different in culture, and all struggling with the wastelands, areas full of poisonous miasmas and demons. Protective elements/totems have gradually been taken over by destructive ones and the crew of the Hirya (with help from individuals) are trying to save their world. There are themes of good vs evil, loyalty, friendship, family and more. The thirteen-year old twins, sold off at age four, have been accustomed to just doing what they are told, expecting nothing, thinking nothing. Their journey includes them emerging from this state to discover who they are. A thrilling read.

Recommended for secondary readers and beyond. Look out for Book Two: ‘Beast Child’ due for 2011 release.

Quillblade: Voyages of the Flying Dragon: Bk. 1

Quillblade: Voyages of the Flying Dragon: Bk. 1, Ben Chandler
Random House 2010
ISBN: 9781864719789

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

This book can be purchased in good bookstores, or online from Fishpond.

Lucy the Lie-Detector, by Marianne Musgrove

‘How about that one?’ said Lucy, pointing at a car parked in their street.
She looked over her shoulder to see if anyone was watching.
Her best friend, Harriet, took out a ruler and held it up against the tyre. ‘Just as I thought. More than thirty centimetres away from the kerb.’ She shook her head disapprovingly. ‘Some people have no respect for the law.’

Lucy and her best friend, Harriet, are playing outside the house when disaster strikes. She scratches Dad’s new car with her bike. Lucy decides to fix the car herself and thereby avoid any trouble. Harriet is not convinced this will work, but Lucy is sure. But when Dad sees the scratch, not only does he notice it, he’s furious. On a whim, Lucy blames her brother, and that’s where the trouble really begins. Every time she opens her mouth, Lucy digs herself a deeper hole, a hole of lies and half-truths that ties her up in knots. Black and white illustrations are scattered throughout, and help break up the text for younger readers.

Lucy is a forthright, adventurous girl, who surges forward into everything, full of confidence and enthusiasm. Unfortunately that wonderful energy sometimes lands her in places she’d rather not be. Her friend Harriet acts a bit like a moral compass, one that Lucy doesn’t always read well. Along the way, Lucy learns about honesty and lies. She also learns a little more about discretion and diplomacy. Lucy is bright and funny and very real. She’s trying hard to do the right thing, but there seems to be a whole pile of unwritten rules about telling the truth that no one has told her about. Funny and real. Recommended for independent readers to mid-primary.

Lucy the Lie Detector

Lucy the Lie Detector, Marianne Musgrove
Random House 2010
ISBN: 9781741664553

How Frogmouth Found Her Home, by Ambelin Kwaymullina

On the dawn of the very first day,
Grandmother Frogmouth said, ‘We Tawny
Frogmouths will make our home in the trees.’
All the Frogmouths said, ‘Yes, Grandmother.’
Except for one, who said, ‘Not me!’

When Grandmother Frogmouth tells all the Frogmouths where they will make their home, young Frogmouth decides she will find her own home. She looks in many places, including a kangaroo’s pouch and a wombat’s den. These homes might be perfect for kangaroos and wombats, but they didn’t suit Frogmouth. She thought she might live with the Sun, but Sun ran away, leaving the world in darkness. Now all the animals are confused about who they were. But Frogmouth, having travelled so far in search of a home, had all the answers. But although she helped them, they were unable to help her find Sun. Frogmouth looks again to the sky. And there she finds the answer she’s been seeking: her perfect home. Illustrations are simple shapes with wonderful colours and design, each a piece of art. End papers feature the bright colours of the interior in bold stripes.

There’s one in every family, every crowd, isn’t there? The one who has to do their own thing. And in this family, it’s Frogmouth. Her restless searchings send her in all sorts of wrong directions and see her involved in the games of others. But her journey also helps her sort out the other animals when Sun disappears. And eventually she finds her home, and also helps Grandmother Frogmouth in leading the other Frogmouths. There are themes of family and world, helping and asking for help. This is a delightful creation story with very engaging illustrations, ideal for young children both pre-school and school age.

How Frogmouth Found Her Home

How Frogmouth Found Her Home, Ambelin Kwaymullina
Fremantle Press 2010
ISBN: 9781921696015

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

This book can be purchased in good bookstores, or online from Fishpond.

Stew a Cockatoo, by Ruthie May

This is a book for the whole family – kids and oldies alike. It’s full of old-time Aussie recipes, with a few new ones added in. Some you will have heard of, like Damper and Lamingtons – others are brand-spanking-new versions of golden oldies, like Edna Split and Roo Doo in a Patty Case. Some of the recipes have come all the way Down Under from faraway places like Italy and Mexico, but here they are given a you-beaut Aussie twist. All the recipes celebrate the grub that Aussies love to eat – from barbies with the rellies to fine dining with mates beside the pool.

When a recipe book is titled, Stew a Cockatoo there is a frisson of anxiety about the contents. And there is a recipe for Cockatoo Stew in amongst the other offerings. It may not ever become your favourite meal. But Stew a Cockatoo is more than a recipe book. It does have a list of the bits and bobs you might need in a kitchen, but there’s more. Like a late night tv advertisement that always promises more, ‘Stew a Cockatoo’ delivers Aussie-isms and an entertaining dollop of history. Some recipes, like that for damper, may see familiar, but can you guess what a ‘Redback Spider’ is and how you might make it? Each double page spread features an Australian saying, a bite of history and perhaps a definition or two, as well as a recipe or three. Leigh Hobbs’ fans will recognise his illustrations, and trademark humour. And with recipes for You-Beaut Snapper and Banana Benders, you’ll not go away hungry.

Stew a Cockatoo is both hilarious and serious, sometimes simultaneously. The recipes (mostly) can be made in any kitchen, or over any campfire. Some of the names have been changed to protect the innocent. Readers will take several journeys through Stew a Cockatoo . Firstly they’ll giggle at page titles like ‘Horse Doovers’ and ‘Whacko the Chook!’, then they’ll try to imagine the taste of recipes like ‘Roo Doo in a Patty Case’ and ‘Echidna Delight’. Finally they’ll return, again and again, to the recipes. Recipes are written in plain language, with easy to find ingredients (well…mostly). The target audience is pre-teens and it is suggested that children seek assistance and company in the kitchen. Sure to become a kid’s kitchen favourite, Stew a Cockatoo would also make a great gift for overseas visitors.

Stew a Cockatoo: My Aussie Cookbook

Stew a Cockatoo: My Aussie Cookbook, Ruthie May, ill Leigh Hobbs
Little Hare 2010
ISBN: 9781921541513

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

This book can be purchased from good bookstores or online from Fishpond.

Princess and Fairy Twinkly Ballerinas, by Anna Pignataro

Princess and Fairy’s calendars were full,
Of fun and activity at Briar Wood School!
Horse riding, swimming and passing each test,
Winning awards for the fairest and best.

Princess and Fairy are at school together and very good friends. They love everything about school, but best of all they love dancing classes. So it’s easy to imagine their excitement when they receive an invitation to the Royal Bunny Ball. But first there’s some work to be done. Not that they mind. They must wear the red slippers that let them fly, then visit all manner of magical places to collect a barrow load full of glittering things to take to the ballet. Their first port of call is Sleeping Bunny Land where the Princess and all her people are fast asleep. Then it’s off to visit more magical lands. The illustrations are in soft pastel colours with pale blue borders. The text is as if hand written and sits in scrolls across the bottom of each opening. The invitation to the ballet is in a tiny envelope on the second opening, and there’s a list of the items they seek. When they reach the ballet itself, it is more exciting – and more sparkly – than they could possibly have imagined.

Princess and Fairy – Twinkly Ballerinas is for little girls who love to dress up and twirl and most of all to dance. Many little girls spend time wanting to be a princess, or a fairy. Here they can do both, they can play both. The two bunny ballerinas are living the dream and more! With the help of magic shoes they can fly through many of the most famous classic ballets, recognising or being introduced to many elements of each. The text is sprinkled with ballet terms, while the illustrations are full of delightful details to pore over. There are items to be found on each opening. Expect plenty of dancing and twirling around the house, after reading Princess and Fairy – Twinkly Ballerinas.

Princess and Fairy – Twinkly Ballerinas, Anna Pignataro
Scholastic Australia 2010
ISBN: 9781741695359

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

This book can be purchased from good bookstores, or online from Fishpond.