Adelaide's Secret World, by Elise Hurst

9781743313350.jpgBy day she would look out for the still ones, the quiet ones, those who danced and sighed and dreamed alone.
And at home, her head full of their stories, Adelaide would work into the night, taking a little bit of the world and making it her own.
But there was always something missing.

Adelaide lives alone in a shop that was once bustling and lively. She observes the world around her, and in particular the lonely people who inhabit it. She makes art from what she sees, but her quiet life is missing something. An unexpected encounter with Fox, who she has observed, but who has also been observing her, leads her to put herself outside her comfort zone, transforming not just her own world, but the lives of the other lonely people around her.

Adelaide’s Secret World is a magical, richly wrought picture book. Rabbit Adelaide lives in a world inhabited both by humans and by a wonderful array of animal characters. Readers of all ages will enjoy discovering the fantastical elements – flying fish, a boat sailing through the sky, a bear and a goose sheltering together under a tree, a lion dancing with a human, and much more.

The story is gentle and minimal, so that readers can interpret and ponder during – and long after – reading. The art is simply divine, again with much to ponder.

Suitable for all ages.

Adelaide’s Secret World, by Elise Hurst
Allen & Unwin, 2015
ISBN 9781743313350

Newt's Emerald, by Garth Nix

9781760112653.jpg‘One – two – three – heave!’ cried the admiral, and the table was slid back in place. He gazed down on its polished surface happily, observed there wasn’t a single irreperable scratch, and then his smile faded like a powder disolving in a glass. A red flush spread up his neck and across his face, and he swayed on his feet as he treid to speak.
‘The Emerald! Where is the – ‘
This was all he got out before he pitched headfirst onto the table, his great bulk making it resound like an enormous drum.

It is Lady Truthful Newington’s eighteenth birthday and, at a small family gathering, her father is keen to show off the Newington Emerald which will one day be hers. The night goes well until a sudden storm hits the house and, in the chaos that follows, the emerald disappears. As her father lies ill, Truthful decides she must travel to London and attempt to recover the heirloom.

Soon, Truthful is balancing twin roles – that of herself, and that of her alter-ego, a young Frenchman. Disgused as a man she can take risks and gain entry to places she never could as a young man. But there are many dangers, not the least of which is discovery.Then there is the risk of falling in love. Truthful must stay safe and focussed if she is to find the Emerald and save her father’s life.

Newt’s Emerald is a treat. In the style of a Regency Romance, the fantasy blends mystery, romance and intrigue, with the addition of magic and sorcery for an absorbing, satisfying whole.

Fans of Nix’s work will find this a little different – but still with the quality we’ve come to expect. Lovers of regency romances such as those of Georgette Heyer will also enjoy Newt’s Emerald.

A ripping read.

Newt’s Emerald, by Garth Nix
Allen & Unwin, 2015
ISBN 9781760112653

Lily the Elf: The Wishing Seed & The Elf Flute, by Anna Brandford, illustrated by Lisa Coutts

The Wishing Seed (Lily the Elf)
Lily hugs the seed tightly. Then she whispers into the fluff.
Lovely dandelion seed
(not a pest and not a weed),
grant my wish
with super-speed,
a princess crown
is what I need!

Lily’s dress up crown is broken and tattered. She dreams of having a sparkly, unbroken princess crown. So, when a dandelion wish seed floats by, she knows what to do. She makes the wish and waits impatiently for it to come true. But nothing happens. Her wise dad and granny tell her that sometimes fixing things is better than wishing things, but Lily isn’t convinced – until both adults help her to fix her crown into something very special.

The Elf Flute (Lily the Elf)
First, she holds the flute sideways. Next, she wiggles her fingers over the holes. Then she blows over the big hole at the top.
She waits for lovely music to fill the room. But there is only a whiffling sound.

When Lily is given a brand new elf flute, she decides she will play it at the Grand Elf Concert, rather than recite the poem she has written. But learning to play the flute is harder than she thought. Will she master it in time for the concert?

The Wishing Seed and The Elf Flute are two new titles in the delightful Lily the Elf series. Each self-contained chapter book features Lily and her family – her father and her granny. Lily tackles problems which are a charming blend of elfish and human problems – wanting or wishing for something, mastering a new skill, appreciating individual talents and so on.

Black and white illustrations on most spreads, simple sentence structures and large font make these titles suitable for emergent readers, but accessibility has not compromised the story quality.

A lovely pair.

The Wishing Seed (ISBN 9781925081060)
The Elf Flute (ISBN 9781925081077)
both by Anna Brandford & Lisa Coutts (ill)
Walker Books, 2015

The Creatures of Dryden Gully, by Aunty Ruth Hegarty & Sandi Harrold

The young Royal was taller than Joey and he had four long legs that all reached to the ground. Joey looked at his own short front paws and sighed.
“I wish I had four long legs that could take me wherever I wanted to go. Maybe the Royal joey could teach me,” he whispered hopefully.

Joey wants to be better at hopping, so that he can go wherever he wants to. So when outsiders – Royals (deer) – come to the valley, Joey envies their long legs, and wonders if he can learn from them. He follows them into the hills, but before he can talk to them, danger arrives, and Joey has to hide. When his mother finds him, she explains to him that he is special just as he is.

The Creatures of Dryden Gully is a picture book story about belonging, difference and being unique. Joey learns that being different does not make him less special. He also learns the reassurance of his mother’s love and understanding.

Aboriginal elder Dr Ruth Hegarty tells the story in clear language, allowing readers to learn from Joey’s experience. The illustrations use colours of the Australian landscape against textured backgrounds and are both gentle and warm.

A touching story.

The Creatures of Dryden Gully, by Aunty Ruth Hegarty, illustrated by Sandi Harrold
Scholastic, 2015
ISBN 9781760151997&

Star of Deltora: Shadows of the Master, by Emily Rodda

And at that moment, Britta threw caution to the winds. She tore her eyes from the model ship and looked up at the old man staring at her so anxiously.
‘I will be at the Traders’ Hall tomorrow,’ she said. ‘How can I resist?’
‘Hooroar!’ Gaptain Gripp bellowed, punching the air. ‘Did you hear that, Bosun? She’ll try for it! An’ you mark my words, Bosun, she’ll do us proud! She’ll show those other traders’ daughters a thing or two!’

For as long as she can remember, Britta has wanted to be a trader like her father. But since his quest to find the Staff of Tier brought disgrace to his name and to his family left behind, that dream has seemed unreachable. Now, though, she has a chance. There is a challenge to select the apprentice to the Trader Rosalyn. and Britta is eligible – as long as the townspeople don’t realise who she is. Determined to be selected, Britta risks everything for the opportunity of a lifetime.

Shadows of the Master is the first in the new Star of Deltora series. Set in the same reality as the Rowan of Rinn and The Three Doors series, this new series promises to be as much loved as its predecessors. Readers will bond with the resourceful Britta and her efforts to follow her dreams in spite of her insecurities. Other characters are also intriguing, and it will be interesting to see how her fellow apprentices – three every different characters – develop across the series.

While young fantasy fans are likely to appreciate the book, it also likely to appeal to those who are perhaps less familiar with the genre, because it is both accessible and well-paced, at a length that is not too daunting.

A gripping introduction to what promises to be an excellent series.

Shadows of the Master, by Emily Rodda
Omnibus Books, 2015
ISBN 9781742990620

Piranhas Don't Eat Bananas, by Aaron Blabey

We don’t eat apples!
We don’t eat beans!
We don’t eat veggies!
We don’t eat greens!
We don’t eat melons!
We don’t eat bananas!
And the reason is simple, mate.
We are

Brian loves bananas, and he’d like his friends to like them, too. The problem is – they are piranhas, and they’d prefer to eat knees, feet and even bums. But Brian persists – offering them all kinds of fruit and vegetable treats. Eventually his friends agree to try a fruit platter if he’ll stop his chatter. They do give it a try but, to Brian’s chagrin, even though they do think the fruit is nice, they still prefer bum.

Piranhas Don’t Eat Bananas is a short, silly book which kids will adore. The text consists of dialogue between Brian and the other piranhas, with narration not needed. Blabey’s ability to show so much animation in the faces of the fish – largely through movement of their eyes – is amazing.

The rhyming text flows well and there will be giggles at the concept and its execution. Very clever.

Piranhas Don’t Eat Bananas, by Aaron Blabey
Scholastic, 2015
ISBN 9781743625781

The Witch's Britches, by P. Crumble & Lucinda Gifford

Don’t lose these britches, look after them well.
They’ll stop being magical if they smell.

It seems we’ve all been conned into believing that magic could come from a wand. Witches’ magic, it seems, actually come from their magical underwear. When young witch Ethel arrives at magic school she receives a package of britches and a note reminding her to keep them clean. She follows this instruction faithfully until a strong wind springs up one washing day and carries her pants away. When the underwear lands in a local park, all sorts of magical chaos ensues, until Ethel can round it all up.

The Witch’s Britches is a humourous rhyming picture book about magic, witches and, of course, underwear. Youngsters will enjoy the silliness of both the premise and the chaos caused by the flying undwear. The bright digital illustrations have lots of detail to be enjoyed, and work well with the story.

Good fun.

The Witch’s Britches, by P.  Crumble & Lucinda Gifford
Scholastic, 2015
ISBN 9781760151539

Two Birds on a Wire by Coral Vass ill Heidi Cooper Smith

Little Bird Blue

Was out for the day

She perched on a wire

And decided to stay

‘What a fine place

To settle,’ said Blue

Ruffling her feathers

Enjoying the view

Two Birds on a WireLittle Bird Blue

Was out for the day

She perched on a wire

And decided to stay

‘What a fine place

To settle,’ said Blue

Ruffling her feathers

Enjoying the view

Little Bird Blue finds a fine wire to settle on and decides it’s a good place to stop. Little Bird Black also thinks the wire is the perfect spot to rest. But Little Bird Blue wants the whole view and Little Bird Black is blocking her view. So begins a battle, first of words then more as each asserts their greater claim to sole occupation of the wire. It’s not until the escalation of tensions has exhausted them both that they decide to compromise and share the perch. Illustrations are watercolour and pencil and depict an idyllic country scene, which is disturbed by the duelling birds!

Two Birds on a Wire is a rhyming story about compromise and sharing. Any parent will be familiar with the escalation that can happen with siblings or friends when they feel they ‘own’ something, be it place or thing. The rhyming text keep the tone light, and young readers will be on the side of reasonableness as they watch the two birds compete. Final pages show the pair becoming friends and sharing the wire, more than big enough for them both. Recommended for pre- and early-schoolers.

Two Birds on a Wire, Coral Vass ill Heidi Cooper Smith
Koala Books Scholastic 2015
ISBN: 9781742761619

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

Shadowcat by Julia Louise ill Anne Ryan

Edith worried she might be turning into a garden gnome.

Every day she sat alone, as still as a statue.

Sometimes she sat for so long that the grass grew

past her nose to tickle her eyelashes.

ShadowcatEdith worried she might be turning into a garden gnome.

Every day she sat alone, as still as a statue.

Sometimes she sat for so long that the grass grew

past her nose to tickle her eyelashes.

Edith is feeling blue. Since the arrival of her new baby brother, it seems that everything she does is wrong. She is sure no one will miss her if she turns into a garden gnome. Then she meets Shadowcat. Shadowcat can tell that Edith has stopped dreaming. Shadowcat reminds Edith how to find joy in simple things. While Shadowcat is there, Edith regains her joyfulness and dreaming. When Shadowcat is gone, Edith must learn to rely on herself to remember how to dance. Illustrations are painted in stain-glass window colours, warm and rich.

Edith feels left out now her family has grown to include a little brother. She is depressed, gradually closing down until she feels almost unable to do anything. The gnome-state is where she’s headed without intervention. Lucky for her, Shadowcat arrives. Childhood depression is increasing and Julia Louise’s Shadowcat offers an accessible text to explore this clinical and crippling sadness with young readers. Anne Ryan’s artwork is stunning, colourful and empathetic. Ideal for parents and teachers wanting to introduce and support feelings. Recommended for pre- and early-schoolers.

Shadowcat, Julia Louise ill Anne Ryan
Five Mile Press 2015
ISBN: 9781760067090

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

The Crocodolly, by Martin McKenna

Adelaide wasn’t allowed to have pets. Not anymore.
Esepcially not one like Ozzy.
So Adelaide came up with a cunning plan.
She would disguise Ozzy
as her very own

Adelaide is a very inventive young lady, so when she finds a baby crocodile in her carton of eggs, she decides that she can keep him, if she disguises him as a doll. It isn’t a problem while Ozzy is small, but Ozzy keeps groing and growing, and soon he is causing havoc all over town. When she can’t keep him any longer, Adelaide finds a place where his havoc could come in useful crushing junk at a recycling plant.

The Crocodolly is a funny picture book featuring a clever, caring main character, an unlikely pet and plenty of silliness, for a satisying combination which will please young readers. Olly is pretty endearing – for a crocodile – and the illustrations have lots of detail and comic elements including speech bubbles.

A laugh out loud, feel-good book.

The Crocodolly, by Martin McKenna
Omnibus Books, 2015
ISBN 9781742990712