Ollie’s Treasure by Lynn Jenkins & Kirrili Lonergan

Ollie loved treasure hunts.
His grandma knew he loved them, so she sent him a treasure map.
In a letter.

Ollie loves treasure hunts and he’s very excited when his grandma, Gran, sends him a treasure map. Ollie happily speculates on what the treasure might be. Each clue has him moving closer to the ‘happiness always’ treasure that Gran promises. He follows her instructions to the letter, relishing each activity. Finally he reaches the treasure. It is nothing he had imagined. It takes Gran’s final instruction to help him understand and appreciate this treasure. Illustrations are loose black line and goache, mostly set in white space.

Ollie’s Treasure’ has a clear purpose: to model mindfulness in young children. Ollie clearly has a strong relationship with Gran, but he also clearly has very strong ideas about what a treasure is. Gran uses his love of treasure hunts to point out the wonder in the world he inhabits. Although Ollie enjoys the task, it is the potential reward that drives him forward. His disappointment when the treasure is revealed is ameliorated by Gran’s ‘unpacking’ of the real, and lifelong, treasure he can enjoy. Together they share happiness. Illustrations clearly depict Ollie’s emotions. Recommended for pre- and early-schoolers.

Ollie’s Treasure, Lynn Jenkins & Kirrili Lonergan
EK Books 2017
ISBN: 9781925335422

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller
www.clairesaxby.com

My Dog Socks by Robyn Osborne ill Sadami Konchi

Most people think Socks is an ordinary dog,
but when we hike through the forest,
he turns into a … black bear!
Scraping at tree trunks and sniffing the air,
clawing and gnawing, scrabbling and dabbling.

A boy introduces the reader to his dog, explaining that he might look like an ordinary dog, but he is in fact much more than that. He then offers examples of his dog transforming in different situations/environments, rhythmically detailing his actions. Finally, the boy shares the most transformative dog trait of all. Illustrations in pencil and watercolour fill each opening, each scene. Look out for the shadows.

‘My Dog Socks’ is a story of the love between a boy and his dog. His dog is by turns brave, intrepid, greedy and mischievous – mirroring his own behaviour. While different behaviours are attributed to many other animals, they also showcase the many facets of dog (and child?) behaviour. Animal shadows give the young reader the opportunity to guess what animal Socks has become. Recommended for pre- and early-schoolers and perhaps also for families considering a pet of the canine variety.

My Dog Socks, Robyn Osborne ill Sadami Konchi
Ford Street Publishing 2017
ISBN: 9781925272826

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller
www.clairesaxby.com

Keeper of the Crystals 6: Eve and the Hidden Giant by Jess Black

There’s nothing like being out in the bush, thought Eve.
Eve loved hearing the bellbirds chiming and the cicadas humming. Most of all, though, she loved it when everything was silent, and all she could hear was her own breathing as we walked, the crunch of hiking books on the rough ground … and, of course, the flap of a dragon’s wings.

Eve, her friend Oliver, and her dragon Ingvar are on a bushwalk. She’s glad it’s school holidays because sometimes it’s tiring to be a Keeper of the Crystals as well as a normal 10-year-old school girl. Even so, when a mythical creature needs her, calls her, she’s more than happy to help. This time, the trio are whisked (blown) away to an island where giants live. The giant who has called Eve and her friends needs her help to bring stability back to the island where ‘creator’ and ‘rogue’ giants are fighting one another.

Eve and the Hidden Giant is the sixth in this fantastical series from New Frontier Publishing. This instalment features earthquakes and tsunamis, and warring adult giants. It’s up to the younger set, both giant and human (and with the help of a dragon) to smooth over old wounds, and forge a new peace. Trotag, a shy young giant, wants to move beyond long-held animosities and show that with some goodwill, all giants can again live in harmony. The real world bookends the fantasy, making these stories suitable for gentle souls. Recommended for newly independent readers ready for non-illustrated texts.

Keeper of the Crystals 6: Eve and the Hidden Giant, Jess Black
New Frontier Publishing 2017
ISBN: 9781925594003

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller
www.clairesaxby.com

Eddie Frogbert by Sue deGennaro

Eddie Frogbert wasn’t like other frogs.
While all the other frogs would hippity hop around the pond, Eddie preferred to keep his feet firmly on the ground.

Eddie Frogbert keeps himself busy with plenty of different activities, like science and knitting. Everything except leaping in the pond. But, when every-hippity hopping friend he knows enters a diving competition, he wonders whether he might be a bit interested. Quietly, gently, he decides to work up to maybe, possibly, joining in. Perhaps he can join the fun. But he will do it in his own way.

Illustrations use a limited palette of blues and greens (and tiny red accents) set in blue-grey pages. Backgrounds are stripped back and include collage and drawn textures. The embossed front page with Eddie atop the diving board tower shows his apprehension and his bravery. Look out for the snail.
Eddie Frogbert is a quietly determined frog. While he enjoys his normal activity, he also wants to overcome his apprehensions about leaping and join his friends in the pond. So rather than let his fear overwhelm him, he chooses quiet moments to test himself. When his ultimate goal is beyond his reach, he stages his training to build up to it.

Told with gentle humour, Eddie’s story is one of persistence and determination, and will resonate with many young people (and not so young?) For a story-within-a-story follow the journey of the snail which begins in the front endpapers and continues throughout. Recommended for pre- and early schoolers.

Eddie Frogbert, Sue deGennaro
Scholastic Press 2017
ISBN: 9781760276782

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller
www.clairesaxby.com

Can You Find Me? by Gordon Winch & Patrick Shirvington

I am a platypus.
I live in the muddy water and on the grassy bank.
I look like the muddy water and the grassy bank.
That is why I am hard to see.
Can you find me?

Can You Find Me?’ features a collection of Australian animals (large and small) living, hiding, in their particular environment. Each double page spread draws their home, and suggests why they might be hard to find. The final line on each spread then asks ‘Can you find me?’ Endpapers show ‘specimens’ from a range of Australian native plants set in white paper. Illustrations are watercolour and realistic in style.

Camouflage is a great tool for survival, particularly if an animal is not the fastest, biggest or top of their food chain. Each of these Australian animals from the echidna on the cover to the leaf moth and stick insect has adapted to be able to hide in plain sight. The invitation is explicit in the title and young readers will enjoy finding each animal. Text spells out why they are hard to see: ‘I live in the … I look like the …’ and then asks the reader to search the image. An introduction to camouflage and Australian creatures large and small. Recommended for pre-schoolers.

Can You Find Me, Gordon Winch & Patrick Shirvington
New Frontier Publishing 2017
ISBN: 9781925059793

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller
www.clairesaxby.com

Amazing Australians in their Flying Machines by Prue & Kerry Mason ill Tom Jellett

If only it took a week to travel between Australian and England instead of three months. If only the ship voyage wasn’t so dangerous. If we didn’t live at the end of the world in this outpost – this Colony of Australia. It’s not I who says this but my fellow Sydneysiders who wish for one last sight of England before they die. As their doctor, I can diagnose illnesses perform surgery and prescribe medication but what can I do for those who are homesick?
There’s just one thing: I can invent a flying ship. And I’ve done it!
Or at least, I’ve drawn the pictures. All that’s left to do is build it and watch it fly.

The dream of flying has motivated many thinkers and inventors across many years. In the Age of Machines, eyes turned to the sky for a way to travel through the air. There were many naysayers who considered flight a ridiculous and foolish notion, but the dreamers persisted, trying and failing, trying again. Little by little, they overcame the barriers to flight. Meet some of the Australian pioneers and the thinking that contributed to the advent of aviation. ‘Did you know?’ boxes offer some of the science of flying. Illustrations, photos and fact boxes intersperse the biographical text.

Successful flight was not an overnight achievement, nor the achievement of a single individual. Around the world, across many years, many thinkers and doers were moving closer and closer, learning from the successes and failures of others. ‘Amazing Australians in their Flying Machines’ showcases Australians who contributed along the way. Readers will discover the history, the people, the science and the politics of flying, told from a particularly Australian viewpoint. Recommended for budding pilots, engineers, historians and mid-primary readers.

Amazing Australians in their Flying Machines, Prue and Kerry Mason ill Tom Jellett
Walker Books Australia 2017
ISBN: 9781922244635

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller
www.clairesaxby.com

Little Witch 1: Secrets and Spells by Aleesah Darlison

Courtney squeezed her eyes together, peering through the rain beating against the car window.
‘What a dog box,’ she moaned, staring at the cottage with its rusted tin roof and paint-peeling walls.
‘No, I take that back. That house is so ugly not even a dog would live there.
Dad twisted around to glare at Courtney. ‘I know this isn’t our idea of fun, Court.’
‘You’re right about that,’ Courtney said. This place is more like my idea of torture.’

Courtney Little and her parents have come to stay in Mixton Bay following the death of the grandmother she’s never met. Her father and her grandmother haven’t spoken in years, and Courtney isn’t thrilled that she’s being dragged to this small town to fix up and sell her grandmother’s house. But now she’s here, she’s curious. What happened here? Why did her father leave? Why is he so grumpy? What was her grandmother like? She discovers that although she never met her grandmother, her grandmother knew about her and has left a book for her. She meets Justice, surfer and potential friend. Life in Mixton Bay may be more interesting than first seemed possible.

Secrets and Spells’ is the first instalment in a magical new series from Aleesah Darlison and Big Sky Publishing. Courtney’s life until now has been a gypsy trail of moving from place to place as her architect father and decorator mother buy, renovate and sell houses. This house may be different, as there is history and mystery here, but Courtney is not convinced. Courtney’s friend-making reluctance and inexperience initially manifest as grumpiness but are overcome by the friendliness of Justice and others. Themes include family, forgiveness, magic and communication. Look out for more magic to come. Recommended for independent readers and lovers of magic.

Little Witch 1: Secrets and Spells, Aleesah Darlison
Big Sky Publishing 2017
ISBN: 9781925520101

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller
www.clairesaxby.com

Little Lunch Triple the Trouble by Danny Katz ill Mitch Vane

The Body Bus
A truck was parked in the playground.
It was parked behind a portable classroom.
On the side of the truck was a sign. The sign said “Body Bus”.

The Little Lunch crew: Melanie, Rory, Tamara, Battie, Debra-Jo and Atticus are back with three adventures in the classroom and the playground. The Body Bus has the six classmates trying to work out why the Body Bus is in the school yard. In The Band, it rains and Mrs Gonsha races out to rescue a school jumper. She leaves Rory in charge of the class while she dries off, and the classroom transforms then transforms again. In the final story, Kiss Chasey Oval, sees a revival of the game half the class seem to love, and the other half would rather avoid. There are illustrations on every opening.

School is a place for learning, but the learning doesn’t all happen in the classroom, or in scheduled lessons. The six characters in this series have individual strengths and challenges, worries and confidences. Together they represent a broad range of personalities likely to appear in any classroom. Young readers will recognise themselves, their friends and their dilemmas. Originally released as individual stories, Triple the Trouble presents three complete adventures in the same book. Funny and real, the stories in the Little Lunch series will appeal to newly independent readers keen to see themselves reflected in their reading.

Little Lunch, Triple the Trouble, by Danny Katz ill Mitch Vane Black Dog Books 2017 ISBN: 9781925381825

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller
www.clairesaxby.com

Attack of the Giant Robot Zombie Mermaid by Matt Cosgrove

Once upon a slime-covered planet …
… in the deep blue depths of outer space there lived a zombie mermaid.
The youngest and grossest of six annoying sisters, the zombie mermaid lived in the grand outer space palace of her father, the Meerkat. (She was adopted) He was a mean and flatulent ruler of the intergalactic kingdom, and a fast-food fiend!
The walls of the palace were made of french fries and the roof of hot dogs! It was a greasy sight to behold, and it’s making me hungry.

The zombie mermaid is waiting her turn to visit the fun park above their planet where humans went for holidays. Each of her sisters has visited and returned with tales of the wonderful time they’d had. Now, as soon as she turns fifteen years old, it will be her turn. Finally, she reaches her fifteenth birthday and sets out for the fun park, hungry for brains. She has a wonderful time then towards the end of the day spies the perfect brains. But before she can eat this tasty treat, the park closes and she retreats. When she returns home, instead of sharing stories with her sisters, she pines away in her room. Brains, all she wants is brains. Each spread is full of guts, gore, and gratuitous asides.

Attack of the Giant Robot Zombie Mermaid’ is the result of letting Matt Cosgrove near a fairy tale. Text is altered and added to, images are distorted and ‘revised’. It’s truly disgusting. And dreadful. And gory. And more. Readers will lap up the horribleness and laugh at the barely recognisable tale that sits underneath this multi-gory story. Indeed, readers may well be tempted to plunge elbow-deep into a fairytale, dismember and rebuild it in their own style, words and images. You have been warned. Recommended for independent readers.

Attack of the Giant Robot Zombie Mermaid, Matt Cosgrove
Scholastic 2017 ISBN: 9781743811702

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller
www.clairesaxby.com

A Dog’s Tale by Barry Jonsberg ill Tom Jellett

‘No,’ said Mum.
‘What do you mean?’ I asked.
‘I mean, no. Definitely not, it’s not happening, forget it, Buckley’s, not a snowflake’s chance in hell.’
Her mouth was a slit and her eyes were hard. ‘Now do you understand, Michael?’ She only calls me Michael when she’s angry.
‘Not entirely,’ I said.

Michael wants a dog. Really, really wants a dog. Unfortunately, neither his mum nor his dad share his enthusiasm. They articulate many reasons, and although he has an answer to every objection, the answer is still no. While he tries to change their minds, he sets about showing his parents just how responsible he is. There are colour illustrations on every opening.

A Dog’s Tale’ is a new title in the popular and engaging Mates series from Omnibus Books for young readers. Each tells a particularly Australian-flavoured story, full of humour. Michael is not the first child to want a dog, but his determination to prove his responsibility is unparalleled. No effort is too much, if it might change the decision about a dog. Love the illustrations from Tom Jellett, particularly the dog Michael takes for a walk. Recommended for newly-independent readers.

A Dog’s Tale, Barry Jonsberg, Tom Jellett
Omnibus Books 2017
ISBN: 9781742991399

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller
www.clairesaxby.com