Troggle the Troll by Nick Falk and Tony Lowe

Troggle, small troll, lives with his parents and his baby brother. Stamping feet and grinding teeth are popular pasttimes but the family’s favourite activity is eating. Troggle is bored with the sameness of the diet, but none of his efforts bring any change. Then he meets Tom. Together they find the perfect solution and bring harmony to the dinner table. Illustrations are bright and colourful and almost cartoon-y.

Under a bridge

in a hole in the ground

lived a troll.

A small troll.

Called Troggle.

Troggle, small troll, lives with his parents and his baby brother. Stamping feet and grinding teeth are popular pasttimes but the family’s favourite activity is eating. Troggle is bored with the sameness of the diet, but none of his efforts bring any change. Then he meets Tom. Together they find the perfect solution and bring harmony to the dinner table. Illustrations are bright and colourful and almost cartoon-y.

Trolls don’t get very good press. They live under bridges and underground and are generally grumpy and violent and not all that attractive. And Troggle’s family are working hard to meet the stereotype. But not Troggle. He’s sick of the family’s all-meat diet. He could leave, but he clearly loves his family despite their limited palate. He’s a sensitive soul. So, with the help of someone who could otherwise have been dinner, he finds a solution that keeps everyone in the family happy. Recommended for pre-schoolers and early primary-readers.

Troggle the Troll

Troggle the Troll, Nick Falk ill Tony Lowe
Random House 2012
ISBN: 9781742756011

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

www.clairesaxby.com

Available from good bookstores or online.

The Amazing Illustrated Floodsopedia by Colin Thompson

‘The Amazing Illustrated Floodsopedia’ is jam-packed with information about Transylvania Waters and its ruling family, the Floods. There are advertisements, stories, jokes, puns, poetry, inventions and more. Many of these are illustrated. Discover the life cycle of a wizard. Learn the Nalphabet. If you don’t know what a ‘preface’ is or a ‘postscript’, ‘Floodsopedia’ is here to enlighten you. You can even read your horoscope. And then, there’s bacon. Floodsopedia is a sturdy large format paperback, built to withstand multiple readings and referring-to and sharing with friends.

Dear Reader,

It is impossible for you to ever realise just what a MASSIVE honour it is for you to be able to buy this book. Although Queen Scratchrot warned that it would end in tears, because they are the kindest, greatest wizards who have EVER lived, the Floods have decided to shared their immense wisdomness, magic and bacon-orientated secrets and history with you, even though you are mere pathetic humans. Of course, they realise that because you are mere pathetic humans, lots of this book will be much too full of cleverness for you to understand, and by no means should you use this book without supervision and extremely strong pants.

CAUTION: This book contains words. Some of them have more than four letters and may improve your life in exciting and dramatic ways.

The Amazing Illustrated Floodsopedia is jam-packed with information about Transylvania Waters and its ruling family, the Floods. There are advertisements, stories, jokes, puns, poetry, inventions and more. Many of these are illustrated. Discover the life cycle of a wizard. Learn the Nalphabet. If you don’t know what a ‘preface’ is or a ‘postscript’, Floodsopedia is here to enlighten you. You can even read your horoscope. And then, there’s bacon. Floodsopedia is a sturdy large format paperback, built to withstand multiple readings and referring-to and sharing with friends.

If you are a fan of ‘The Floods’ you will know many of the characters featured in this Floodspedia, but not all. Perhaps you will learn things you didn’t know. If you are unfamiliar with the series, this will give you an introduction to the characters and their world. Like most kingdoms there is good and evil and it can be difficult to tell which is which (or witch is witch?). There is plenty to chuckle over, and when you’ve finished reading you can write a letter to Mr Thompson using the stamps featured and post it in the Transylvania Waters Post Office which is just over the nearby horizon. Recommended for a laugh.

The Amazing Illustrated Floodsopedia

The Amazing Illustrated Floodsopedia, Colin Thompson Random House 2012 ISBN: 9781742751047

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

www.clairesaxby.com

Available from good bookstores or online.

The Floods 12: Bewitched by Colin Thompson

The Flood family are back. In this adventure, the family are worried that King Nerlin is going a bit doolally. All sorts of usual remedies have failed, so it’s time for drastic measures. He will have to visit the old crones, high in the hills. Old crones live far from people for many reasons, not all of them to do with their personal hygiene. But they know things, and lead Nerlin even higher in pursuit of his vanishing brain function. As in all the Flood adventures, things end well, with just enough loose ends to fuel further instalments. Footnotes explain, add to, and clarify the text. Black and white illustrations are scattered throughout, illuminating this unique family and their world.

‘I can’t find my socks!’

It was the middle of the night and all through the castle not a creature was stirring, not even a rascal. Nothing, that was, except Nerlin, who was sitting bolt upright in the darkness in a confused panic.

‘I can’t find my socks and I’ve gone blind,’ he cried.

Mordonna, who had been fast asleep beside him, sat up. ‘Sweetheart,’ she said, turning on the light, ‘you haven’t gone blind. It’s the middle of the night.’

The Flood family are back. In this adventure, the family are worried that King Nerlin is going a bit doolally. All sorts of usual remedies have failed, so it’s time for drastic measures. He will have to visit the old crones, high in the hills. Old crones live far from people for many reasons, not all of them to do with their personal hygiene. But they know things, and lead Nerlin even higher in pursuit of his vanishing brain function. As in all the Flood adventures, things end well, with just enough loose ends to fuel further instalments. Footnotes explain, add to, and clarify the text. Black and white illustrations are scattered throughout, illuminating this unique family and their world.

Bewitched is jam-packed with the puns, jokes and popular culture references that fans will be familiar with from previous Floods adventures. They may appear unusual to others, but they are a cohesive family unit, beset by some well-known family challenges. It’s just that their solutions are not quite so common. As with any large multi-generational family the complications are many, and the complexity mind-boggling. As always, the Floods stories are a whole lot of nonsense. Bewitched takes the reader to places they could never have imagined, and generally brings them back to completely different ones. Chuckling, guffawing, and sniggering are mandatory. Recommended for mid-primary readers.

Bewitched: 12 (Floods)

The Floods 12: Bewitched, Colin Thompson Random House 2013 ISBN: 9781742755304

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

www.clairesaxby.com

Available from good bookstores or online.

RSPCA Bumper Book of Pets and other Animals by Alexandra Hirst

There are no prizes for guessing what this book is about – it’s all in the title. ‘Bumper Book of Pets and other Animals’ has chapters on Pets, Farmyard Animals and Wildlife. Two thirds of the book is dedicated to pets, and covers the responsibilities of pet ownership as well as tips on different breeds and their particular requirements and behaviours. From the popular dogs and cats, to fish, reptiles, ferrets and more, there is something for every pet lover. Fun Stuff offers jokes and other activities all designed to increase knowledge of animals and their lives. Photos provide illustration throughout.

If you love animals, this is the book for you!

From pets to farmyard animals and Australian wildlife, this BUMPER book is crammed full of all the cool facts and pictures you need to become an animal expert. There are even jokes and some fun activities to get you thinking!

There are no prizes for guessing what this book is about – it’s all in the title. Bumper Book of Pets and Other Animals has chapters on Pets, Farmyard Animals and Wildlife. Two thirds of the book is dedicated to pets, and covers the responsibilities of pet ownership as well as tips on different breeds and their particular requirements and behaviours. From the popular dogs and cats, to fish, reptiles, ferrets and more, there is something for every pet lover. Fun Stuff offers jokes and other activities all designed to increase knowledge of animals and their lives. Photos provide illustration throughout.

Children and animals – a natural combination. The benefits of pet ownership are well-documented. But which animal? How do you choose? Do you go for the animal you had a child? Or the one that has captivated your child/children? When is the right time? Bumper Book of Pets and Other Animals is a perfect primer. Young children will flick through recognising animals. Young school children will learn about their favourites, and other animals, and discover the needs and wants of potential pets. There’s information about the longevity of different animals, and different breeds of the same animal eg some birds live for seven years, others may live as long as a human. All the information is presented in small bites, perfect for young readers. Recommended for all families considering pets. Ideal for children pre- and primary-aged.

R.S.P.C.A. Bumper Book of Pets and Other Animals

R.S.P.C.A. Bumper Book of Pets and Other Animals by Alexandra Hirst,
Random House 2012
ISBN: 9781742757117

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

www.clairesaxby.com

Available from good bookstores or here.

Drongoes, by Christine Bongers ill Dan McGuiness

Jack has bully trouble. Nothing he has done in the past has succeeded. Rocket Robson seems to have it in for him. Not only is he faster and stronger, he’s just plain tricky. This year Jack, with the help of Eric, is determined to beat him. So he and Eric train and train, encouraged and supported by Jack’s mascot birds, the drongoes. But Rocket Robson beats him in all the athletic events, until there’s only the cross country to go. Colour illustrations appear on every opening, with header and footer illustrations, and differing font sizes to break up text.

It’s the Year Five cross-country tomorrow – the biggest day ever for me and my best mate, Eric.

It was Eric’s big chance to finish a race. And it was my big chance to finally beat Rocket Robinson.

In Year One, Rocket Robson tripped me on purpose in the egg-and-spoon race.

I might have forgotten about it. If it hadn’t been for what he did in Year Two.

‘Hey, Jack, your shoelaces are undone,’ he said. ‘Here, let me help. I’m good with shoelaces.’ He was good, too. Good at tying them together.

Eric was even more upset than I was. ‘We need to shut that Rocket down,’ he muttered. ‘We need to beat him.’ He said ‘we’ but he meant me.

Jack has bully trouble. Nothing he has done in the past has succeeded. Rocket Robson seems to have it in for him. Not only is he faster and stronger, he’s just plain tricky. This year Jack, with the help of Eric, is determined to beat him. So he and Eric train and train, encouraged and supported by Jack’s mascot birds, the drongoes. But Rocket Robson beats him in all the athletic events, until there’s only the cross country to go. Colour illustrations appear on every opening, with header and footer illustrations, and differing font sizes to break up text.

Drongoes is a new offering in the Mates series published by Omnibus. Each is uniquely Australian and offers realistic and tall-tale fiction for newly independent readers. Word styles and colours vary throughout, although the majority of the text is in a uniform font. Text variations and illustrations intersperse and add to the story and provide an accessible story for readers transitioning from fully illustrated books. Drongoes also explores friendship and competitiveness. It presents ways to deal with bullies without intervention from teachers or parents. Recommended for newly-independent readers.

Drongoes

Drongoes, Christine Bongers ill Dan McGuiness
Omnibus Books 2013
ISBN: 9781862919822

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

www.clairesaxby.com

Available from good bookstores or here.

Chasing the Light, by Jesse Blackadder

This was the moment, after her twenty patient years, after her cheerful mothering, after her steadfast support, that he’d remember the adventurous woman he’d married, and the promise he’d made her. She took a deep breath, drawing in air to the bottom of her lungs, and tried to imagine an even deeper cold.
‘I suppose we’ll go on Norvegia?’ she asked.
‘Hjalmar said Norvegia tossed like a tin toy in the storms last year,’ Lars said. ‘I don’t want to take any risks. I’ll go on Thorshavn.’
It took a moment for his use of the singular to sink in. ‘You couldn’t go without me,’ she said.

Ingrid Christensen has always longed to visit Antarctica, but her husband Lars, a Norwegian whaling magnate, is reluctant to take her, until he realises that she could be the first woman to set foot there, a great honour for both of them, and for Norway. Soon Ingrid is finally southward bound, but she is not the only woman on board. Her travelling companion is Mathilde Wegger, a grieving widow who has been forced onto the trip by her scheming in-laws. The third woman is Lillemor Rachlew, a photographer who has cheated to get on-board and is determined to beat both of the others as the first woman to land on the frozen continent.

The three women could be friends, but they are very different, and they are competing for more than the honour of being first to land in Antarctica.They must also face the dangers of their journey, the horrors of seeing whaling enterprises for themselves, and the vagaries of the weather and of fate.

Chasing the Light is a fascinating tale based on the story of the first woman to set foot in Antarctica. Whilst a wonderful insight into the lives and times of the women who first ventured to Antarctica, it is also a marvellous study of human relationships and the lengths people will go to to meet their personal goals, as well as the ways those dreams can be shaped and altered by life experience and changed perspectives. The three women are as different as they are each in their own way determined, and readers will find each alternately endearing and frustrating. The twists and turns of their journey are fascinating and the outcome unexpected.

Chasing the Light: A Novel of Antarctica

Chasing the Light: A Novel of Antarctica, by Jesse Blackadder
Fourth Estate, 2013
ISBN 9780732296049

Available from good bookstores or here.

The Mimosa Tree, by Antonella Preto

‘I’m not miserable,” I say but she is already turning away from me, sliding her handbag up her arm until it gets jammed tight around her flesh. Mum looks like she is about to cry about my pathetic life. ‘I’m fine, Mum,’ I say nodding encouragingly towards the door, and then because she looks so mournful I add: ‘I’ll make some new friends, okay? At university.’

It’s 1987 and Mira has left school behind and is ready to start university. There she is sure her life will be different. She can be who she wants to be. To celebrate she’s got an all-black wardrobe and a new haircut. But her interfering aunt has arranged a new friend for her – the perfect, rich Felicia – and it’s hard to get excited about studying teaching when she only enjoys art. Then there’s her certainty that the world is going to end soon, anyway, when Russia and America decide which of them will drop the first bomb. It’s true, her world IS about to change – but that change won’t come from the skies.

The Mimosa Tree is an outstanding début novel from West Australian author Antonella Preto. Set in the Perth of the 1980s, it is a haunting tale about growing up, finding one’s own identity and surviving adversity. Mira is embarrassed of her Italian family, but as her world collapses she finds a new appreciation of them and of her new friends, too.

The character of Mira is intriguing and the use of first person narration effective. Mira should be unlikeable – she is self-centred, morbid and down right rude to pretty much everyone. But she’s also self-deprecating and honest, so the reader can connect, and see that her flaws hide a troubled teen. She has a lot to deal with – especially her mother’s recent battle with cancer and her alcoholic father’s moodiness. Her bossy Aunt Via wants to run her life, but seems to never have a kind word, and she has no friends except for one foisted on her by her Aunt, and whom Mira feels she has nothing in common with.

Mira’s story will appeal to teens, as well as to those who were teens in the 80s.

The Mimosa Tree, by Antonella Preto
Fremantle Press, 2013
ISBN 9781922089199

Available from good booksellers or here.

Guinea Pig Town, by Lorraine Marwood

It was our brother’s idea
to build a town,
a small town
for many guinea pigs
which kept multiplying –
cream ginger and black
wisps of colour and rabbity-mousey
features, all ours.

So begins the title poem of this beautiful collection of animal poems from one of Australia’s leading children’s poets. Stretching over four pages this poem, the longest in the collection, tells the tale of siblings building a ‘town’ for their guinea pigs, but it is more than just a story – it is a celebration of childhood, of pets, and of the magic way in which poetry can bring such events to life.

Other poems are much shorter – just a few lines of perfect poetic observation, as in Storm:
The wind so strong
a dragonfly cartwheels
along the ground

But whatever the length, the quality of the poems is consistent. Each new poem is a delight waiting to be discovered, and, like the subject matter, to be wondered at. From cute and cuddly kittens to scary spiders and thrilling frill-necks, there is an animal on every page for young readers to enjoy, whether they read cover to cover, or dip in and out.

New children’s poetry collections are few and far between in Australia, which is regrettable, but fortunately Marwood, (with the support of publisher Walker Books) continues to produce quality collections of Aussie children to savour.

Guinea Pig Town and Other Animal Poems

Guinea Pig Town and Other Animal Poems, by Lorraine Marwood
Walker Books, 2013
ISBN 9781922077424

Available from good bookstores or online.

Alice-Miranda in Paris by Jacqueline Harvey

Alice-Miranda, some of her classmates and some from their brother-school are part of a choir. They are in Paris at short notice to sing at special events mostly to do with Fashion Week. But of course, wherever Alice-Miranda is, there is intrigue. And Paris is no exception. As their teachers strive to ensure the group is entertained, fed, rehearsed and on time for all their engagements, mysteries seem to multiply.

‘Oh wow, look at that!’ Jacinta exclaimed as she pointed at an impressive building in the distance. The limestone mansion glistened in the summer sunshine.

‘It’s the hotel de ville,’ Millie replied. She had been consulting her guidebook as the group marched along the northern side of the river Seine. ‘But it’s not a hotel. It’s the mayor’s office. Pretty fancy, hey?’

‘I’ll say. Paris is so beautiful,’ said Jacinta, as the children passed yet another magnificent row of townhouses. ‘It’s no wonder they call it the City of Love.’

Alice-Miranda, some of her classmates and some from their brother-school are part of a choir. They are in Paris at short notice to sing at special events mostly to do with Fashion Week. But of course, wherever Alice-Miranda is, there is intrigue. And Paris is no exception. As their teachers strive to ensure the group is entertained, fed, rehearsed and on time for all their engagements, mysteries seem to multiply. If trying to manage a group of inquisitive children is challenging in any classroom, the challenges are multiplied when that group is in a foreign city, and that group contains Alice-Miranda and her friends.

Alice-Miranda is an expensively-dressed Pollyanna mixed with Sherlock Holmes! She sees the best in everyone, despite being exposed to all manner of behaviours by people with few excuses. Wealth offers no immunity from behaving well. She sees rudeness as the behaviour of unhappy people and she likes people to be happy. She sails through situations that would daunt far taller people. She is forthright and helpful, inquisitive and resourceful, the perfect young heroine. And who wouldn’t like the opportunity to visit Paris, to sing at shows and to visit magical places? There are dramas and red herrings, outbursts and surprising clues. Alice-Miranda invites all to participate in the mystery of life and to look beyond the obvious to find what people really want and need. Recommended for confident readers in middle-primary.

Alice-Miranda in Paris

Alice-Miranda in Paris by Jacqueline Harvey Random House 2013 ISBN: 9781742752884

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

www.clairesaxby.com

Robert Irwin Dinosaur Hunter 1: The Discovery, 2: Ambush at Cisco Swamp, 3. Armoured Defence and 4: The Dinosaur Feather.

Robert Irwin, son of Steve and Terry, brother of Bindi, now has his own series. But where Bindi’s books are about her adventures at the family’s Australia Zoo, Robert is obsessed with slightly older animals. Prehistoric in fact. Robert is a huge fan of dinosaurs. In the first title, Robert finds himself crossing from the present to the mid-cretaceous period where he encounters real dinosaurs.

The assassin focused in on his target.

It was going to be easy. The target was concentrating so hard, there was no way he’d notice the stealthy footfalls of the assassin as he came at the target from behind. It was going to be the easiest job the assassin had had in ages. So easy, he wondered if he should delay it until the target could at least put up a bit of a fight.

Nah, he’d destroy him now anyway.

Then he could go dirt bike riding.

Robert Irwin, son of Steve and Terry, brother of Bindi, now has his own series. But where Bindi’s books are about her adventures at the family’s Australia Zoo, Robert is obsessed with slightly older animals. Prehistoric in fact. Robert is a huge fan of dinosaurs. In the first title, Robert finds himself crossing from the present to the mid-cretaceous period where he encounters real dinosaurs. Fortunately, his natural (genetic?) ability to ‘read’ animals is combined with the knowledge he’s garnered allow him to understand a little about what’s going on. And there’s a lot going on. Along the way, he learns more about dinosaurs than most people will ever know. In subsequent titles, he visits other periods, meets other dinosaurs in their natural habitat.

Many young children, boys particularly, develop an intense fascination with dinosaurs. Robert, star of these novels, is no different. Well, except that he gets to live his fantasy by visiting these amazing creatures in their habitat. More and more is becoming known about dinosaurs and children are adept at searching out knowledge when they are passionate about it. Young readers will understand Robert’s thirst for knowledge and empathise with his frustration that not everyone shares his passion. How can they not? But even if Robert wasn’t known because of his famous family, young readers would flock to this series written for the dino-phile. Recommended for newly-confident readers moving from illustrated texts towards novels.

The Discovery (Robert Irwin, Dinosaur Hunter)

Robert Irwin Dinosaur Hunter 1: The Discovery Random House 2013 ISBN: 9781864718454

Robert Irwin Dinosaur Hunter 2: Ambush at Cisco Swamp Random House 2013 ISBN: 9781864718461

Robert Irwin Dinosaur Hunter 3: Armoured Defence Random House 2013 ISBN: 9781742750910

Robert Irwin Dinosaur Hunter 4: The Dinosaur Feather Random House 2013 ISBN: 9781742750927

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

www.clairesaxby.com