The Great Barbie Disaster by Tania Ingram ill Christina Miesen

My family never owned a NICE barbecue bought from a shop like other people.

Dad thought shop barbies were for WIMPS.

Whenever we’d see a barbecue at the hardware shop Dad would shake his head.

‘Real Aussies don’t buy barbies,’ he’d say. ‘Real Aussies make their own.’

My family never owned a NICE barbecue bought from a shop like other people.

Dad thought shop barbies were for WIMPS.

Whenever we’d see a barbecue at the hardware shop Dad would shake his head.

‘Real Aussies don’t buy barbies,’ he’d say. ‘Real Aussies make their own.’

Sarah’s dad’s family have a long tradition of making their own barbecues, from the simple to the world-famous. So it comes as no real surprise when Dad decides he’s going to make them a barbecue. There’s only one problem. Unlike some of the barbecue-makers of the family, Dad’s not known for his building skills. Sarah and Mum try to talk him out of it, but barbecue-making is in his blood and he’s determined. What a disaster! Sarah watches (from a safe distance) as Dad builds and tests his barbecue. Finally, he’s sure he’s got it right. Now it’s time to test it. There are colour illustrations on each opening and a header and footer illustrations (sauce and mustard trails)

The ‘Mates’ series from Omnibus are early chapter books are tall tales and true from Australian back yards. Sarah narrates this story of her father and his recycling and building adventures. She is captivated by his building projects, even the ones that don’t quite work. ‘The Great Barbie Disaster’ is full of fun and sure to have young readers giggling. Recommended for newly-independent readers.

The Great Barbie Disaster, Tania Ingram ill Christina Miesen
Omnibus Books 2016
ISBN: 9781742991245

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

www.clairesaxby.com

Granny’s Place by Allison Paterson ill Shane McGrath

Granny and Pa’s farm was the best place in the world.

A home build long ago from mud bricks Pa made himself.

It was brimming with treasures of olden days.

Granny and Pa’s farm was the best place in the world.

A home build long ago from mud bricks Pa made himself.

It was brimming with treasures of olden days.

A child reflects on her time shared at her grandparents’ farm. Initial slightly scary elements become less scary with time, and there are plenty of adventures to be had with the animals. In all it becomes her favourite place. Until things change and she has to figure out what she really loves most. Illustrations depict a rural then urban landscape and include many elements of days gone by.

‘Granny’s Place’ is a farm, and it is full of new experiences for a small urban child. Luckily there are bigger cousins and siblings to help negotiate some of the more confronting experiences. There are plenty of elements here for grandparents to share with grandchildren and to stimulate discussions about how things can change. Recommended for pre- and early school-age.

Granny’s Place, Allison Paterson Shane McGrath
Big Sky Publishing 2016
ISBN: 9781925275636

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

www.clairesaxby.com

Ginger Queen Play Date Queen: The Only Friend by Kim Kane & Jon Davis

My name is Ginger Green.

I am seven years old.

I am the Play Date Queen.

Today my friend Maya is coming over after school.

My name is Ginger Green.

I am seven years old.

I am the Play Date Queen.

Today my friend Maya is coming over after school.

Ginger Green has invited Maya to come and play after school. Maya is excited too and things start well, despite Ginger’s younger sister’s antics. But things soon start going wrong. Ginger is accustomed to being in control of play dates, but no matter what she tries, this time things seem to be going wrong. For the first time, Ginger feels left out. There are black white and purple illustrations on every opening.

Ginger Green Play Date Queen is a series for newly independent readers transitioning away from fully illustrated text to first chapter books. Ginger and the rest of the ‘cast’ are anthropomorphised foxes, but the stories will be recognisable to young students navigating the everyday challenges of school and home life.  Each episode/instalment presents a realistic dilemma and offers solutions that restore harmony. Recommended for newly independent readers.

Ginger Green Play Date Queen: The Only Friend, Kim Kane Jon Davis
Hardie Grant Egmont 2016
ISBN: 9781760127855

The Fabulous Friend Machine by Nick Bland

Popcorn was, quite simply, the friendliest chicken at FIDDLESTICKS FARM.

She insisted on saying hello to every animal every morning.

Popcorn was, quite simply, the friendliest chicken at FIDDLESTICKS FARM.

She insisted on saying hello to every animal every morning.

Popcorn was friendly and entertained all the farmyard animals, brightening their days with story. Life in the farmyard was richer for her sunny nature and helpfulness. But then she discovers a strange object in the corner of the barn: the Fabulous Friend Machine. Gradually all of Popcorn’s time and energy is sucked into communing with the friends she has found inside the object. She has so many friends that she hardly notices that the friends around her are missing her. Illustrations use a limited but rich palette of reds greens and blacks.

The Fabulous Friend Machine’ is a cautionary tale about the dangers of contemporary communication channels. Virtual ‘friends’ may not always be who they seem. Real friends are sidelined by the Fabulous Friend Machine until it seems that disaster must ensue. Recommended for early primary readers and teachers/family wanting to open conversations about cyber-safety with young users of technology.

The Fabulous Friend Machine, Nick Bland Scholastic 2016 ISBN: 9781760277659

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

www.clairesaxby.com

Countdown to Danger: Shockwave by Jack Heath

30:00

A dark shape wobbles beneath the water, getting closer to the beach. You’re ninety-nine percent sure it’s just seaweed drifting on the currents – but what if it isn’t?

What if it’s one of those big saltwater crocodiles Harrison warned you about?

You look up and down the beach. There are crushed shells, dead jellyfish and a shapeless mountain which might once have been an epic sandcastle – but no people.

No one to ask for advice. Nobody who will call for help if something happens to you. You didn’t even tell anyone you were going surfing, which now seems like a mistake.

30:00

A dark shape wobbles beneath the water, getting closer to the beach. You’re ninety-nine percent sure it’s just seaweed drifting on the currents – but what if it isn’t?

What if it’s one of those big saltwater crocodiles Harrison warned you about?

You look up and down the beach. There are crushed shells, dead jellyfish and a shapeless mountain which might once have been an epic sandcastle – but no people.

No one to ask for advice. Nobody who will call for help if something happens to you. You didn’t even tell anyone you were going surfing, which now seems like a mistake.

The clock is ticking. In the 30 minutes from the time you notice the shape in the water life as you know is over. You are on your own. Your decisions will be life and death ones, and not just for you. Get it wrong and at the very least, you die. Get it right, you may save lives, save livelihoods, be a hero. But this is no game. This is deadly serious. There are multiple possible endings – which will you choose?

Jack Heath is known for action-packed stories and this series of Choose Your Own Ending stories is no exception. Who know there were so many ways to die? Or live? Full of extreme options, every horrible ending man-made and ‘natural’ element seems to have you in the crosshairs. The stories are told in second person and present tense and the pace is fierce. Recommended for mid-primary readers looking for some choice in how the story ends. Will also appeal to older fans of wild adventures.

Countdown to Danger: Shockwave, Jack Heath
Scholastic 2016
ISBN: 9781760159634

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

www.clairesaxby.com

Born to Sing by Sally Morgan ill Craig Smith

I’m a singer!

I make up songs in the shower, while I’m doing my homework, when I’m bored, and even in my sleep!

Dad says I was born to sing. ‘One day you’ll be a famous rock star, Maddie!’

Who cares about fame? I just want to sing, sing, sing!

I’m a singer!

I make up songs in the shower, while I’m doing my homework, when I’m bored, and even in my sleep!

Dad says I was born to sing. ‘One day you’ll be a famous rock star, Maddie!’

Who cares about fame? I just want to sing, sing, sing!

Maddie loves to sing. No matter what she’s doing, singing is part of her day. She also loves whales and when she, her mother and her grandmother set off north to do some whale watching  she spontaneously composes and performs a new song about whales. It’s a long car trip and there’s plenty of time to sing together. Everything is perfect until the car stops and can’t be started again.  Maddie worries that they will miss out on seeing the whales. Black and white illustrations appear on every opening and each page has a border that could variously be interpreted as pattern, path or more.

Maddie and her family have split up to holiday, boys going to Tasmania, the girls going to see whales. Maddie tells her own story and that includes the challenges of having brothers, and worries about their aging car and caravan. Maddie shares her (extensive) knowledge about whales on their journey, her mother and grandmother shaping their holiday around her interests. Text is large and illustrations appear on almost every page, making ‘Born to Sing’ ideal for newly independent readers.

Born to Sing, Sally Morgan ill Craig Smith
Omnibus Books 2016
ISBN: 9781742991511

400 Minutes of Danger by Jack Heath

The lump of ice slipped from beneath Nika’s fingers, and suddenly she was falling.

The climbing rope wouldn’t save her. The nearest anchor point was too far below. She would fall until the rope went taut, and then she would slam sideways into the wall of ice. Even if she survived the impact, she wouldn’t be able to clamber back down with broken arms and legs

She flung out a desperate hand –

And caught a narrow crack in the glacier.

The lump of ice slipped from beneath Nika’s fingers, and suddenly she was falling.

The climbing rope wouldn’t save her. The nearest anchor point was too far below. She would fall until the rope went taut, and then she would slam sideways into the wall of ice. Even if she survived the impact, she wouldn’t be able to clamber back down with broken arms and legs

She flung out a desperate hand –

And caught a narrow crack in the glacier.

‘400 Minutes of Danger’ is a collection of ten short stories, each taking approximately 40 minutes to read. There are countdown markers along the side of each page, so it’s clear just how much – how little – time there is before disaster strikes. In some stories, eg ‘Mosquito’, the main character is on a mission, but in others, eg ‘Kill All Humans’, the hero is unexpectedly called to counter danger, either alone or with the assistance of another character. All stories, whether set in contemporary or fantastic worlds, are full of action.

Adults don’t fare well in these stories. The protagonists are all teenagers – a range of ages – and they are much smarter, faster, better people. Baddies are truly bad, and technology is not always helpful. These short stories will be great for readers who like their action fierce and pacey. The time markers on the page help the reader keep track of the remaining time and help monitor the tension. There’s a good balance between male and female protagonists, working alone and working together. Recommended for mid- to upper-primary readers, and secondary readers looking for a quick and accessible read. Young writers might also look at the time markers to see how pacing is used to progress the plot.

400 Minutes of Danger, Jack Heath
Scholastic 2016
ISBN: 9781760158798

Review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

www.clairesaxby.com

Frieda: A New Australian by Marianne Musgrove

31 December 1913, Silvester (New Year’s Eve)

Heidleberg, Germany

‘Don’t fall,’ whispered Oma, standing at the bottom of the ladder. She glanced over her shoulder then back up at Frieda. ‘Make haste, Liebschen, my dear. If your mother catches us, there’ll be trouble.’ …

Moments later, a very dusty girl emerged from the attic, an old blue box with gold trim tucked under her arm.

31 December 1913, Silvester (New Year’s Eve)

Heidleberg, Germany

‘Don’t fall,’ whispered Oma, standing at the bottom of the ladder. She glanced over her shoulder then back up at Frieda. ‘Make haste, Liebschen, my dear. If your mother catches us, there’ll be trouble.’ …

Moments later, a very dusty girl emerged from the attic, an old blue box with gold trim tucked under her arm.

Frieda and her parents leave Germany in 1913 for Adelaide, Australia. Her father is keen for adventure, her mother will hopefully be more well. Frieda is in two minds, sad to be leaving her grandmother behind, nervous and excited about the unknowns of moving to a new country. But the world is changing and their initial welcome turns to suspicion. Frieda doesn’t understand all the nuances, but she’s aware of the growing tension. Germans are not as welcome as once they might have been. Her mother’s illness both restricts Frieda and allows her an unexpected freedom as she navigates this new and constantly changing world.

Frieda’is part of a Scholastic series about new Australians. Previous titles have explored early Irish migration, and more recent Maltese arrivals. Each focuses on a different culture/reason for coming to Australia. Frieda’s story offers insights behind the decisions made by a German family just before the advent of WWI. It’s also a portrait of a young girl heading into adolescence and trying to walk the path between childhood and adolescence in an uncertain time. Recommended for upper-primary readers and anyone interested in history told from the perspective of young people.

Frieda: A New Australian, Marianne Musgrove

Omnibus Books 2016 ISBN: 9781742991146

Review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

www.clairesaxby.com

Tracy Lacy Is Completely Coo-coo Bananas! by Tania Lacy ill Danielle McDonald

Once upon a time …

Once upon a time …

Once there was a girl. She seemed like a normal girl living in a normal house …

It was a dark and stormy night …

Once upon a time …

 Once there was a girl. She seemed like a normal girl living in a normal house …

 It was a dark and stormy night …

Oh cheesey-cheeses! I’m going to cut straight to the chase. It’s late and I’m still up …

It’s almost the last day of primary school, and Tracy couldn’t be happier. It’s time to put her disasters of primary school behind her and head into high school with a clean slate. She has plans to make sure it happens. She’s determined to be a whole different person, and she’s going to make sure her best friends Ponky and Ag are as prepared as she is. What starts as a bit of a story, becomes a diary in which Tracy documents the last days of school and the summer holidays leading up to this new chapter in her life. Throughout, there are brief conversations with her brother, who is clearly not listening to her instruction to stay out of her diary! Each opening includes doodles, sketches, patterns and a variety of text sizes and fonts, as does the cover.

Decorated on the cover and throughout with doodle-extras, it’s clear that Tracy Lacy is no shy violet. She’s brash, outspoken, confident … and misunderstood. Her friends Ponky and Ag accept her for who she is, even when she is most trying to reinvent herself, and them. But not everyone else does. Her teacher, the school principal, the cool kids seem often to misinterpret her words and actions (at least, that’s how she sees it). Tracy’s story is full of humour and her observations of others help the reader to see beyond the words and understand what she doesn’t quite get. At heart, a story about coming to terms with who you are. Recommended for mid-primary + readers.

Tracy Lacy is Completely Coo-coo Bananas!, Tania Lacy ill Danielle McDonald

Scholastic 2016 ISBN: 9781760279820

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

www.clairesaxby.com

Sage Cookson’s Ring of Truth by Sally Murphy

‘Lucy! Your mum’s here,’ my mum calls up the stairs.

‘Already?’ Lucy pulls a face. ‘I was hoping she’d be late.’

I glance at the clock and smile. ‘She is!’

We’d been having so much fun together that we didn’t notice how late it was. We’d been talking, and listening to music and surfing the net, and laughing and doing all the things we don’t get to do together when I’m away.

‘Lucy! Your mum’s here,’ my mum calls up the stairs.

‘Already?’ Lucy pulls a face. ‘I was hoping she’d be late.’

I glance at the clock and smile. ‘She is!’

We’d been having so much fun together that we didn’t notice how late it was. We’d been talking, and listening to music and surfing the net, and laughing and doing all the things we don’t get to do together when I’m away.

Sage Cookson travels a lot. Her parents are television cooks and she goes where they go. She loves the adventure and the travel but sometimes misses her friend Lucy. In this second Sage Cookson adventure, Sage travels with her parents to Harmon Island, an island off the coast of Tasmania. There, they will film an episode about the bakery and their amazing pies. But Bettina, one of the bakery’s owners loses a ring and thinks Sage has something to do with it. Sage has to work quickly to solve the mystery before others also begin to believe she is responsible.

‘Ring of Truth’ is the second instalment in this new series from New Frontier for independent readers. Sage is a normal, sometimes messy, child who would rather be solving mysteries than doing her homework. She enjoys her travels with her family and their tv crew, but also misses time with her friends, especially Lucy. In each book, there is a mystery to be solved, and Sage is the girl for the job. She is observant, quick-thinking, caring. And there is food. Good food. Great fun: interesting settings and some sleuthing. Recommended for independent readers.

Sage Cookson’s Ring of Truth, Sally Murphy New Frontier Publishing 2016 ISBN: 9781925059748

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

www.clairesaxby.com