Jack and the Aliens, by Damien Broderick

Jack is in a desperate situation. His space pod has crash landed on a strange planet filled with smelly creatures who think he is their god and want to keep him. Jack can only communicate with the aliens through his computer, Chipster, who is inbuilt into Jack’s space suit. As well as acting as his translator, Chipster also sends emergency messages, assesses dangers, and makes sure Jack does his homework.

A fully trained pod pilot and space cadet at twelve years of age, jack dreams of being the Number One Space Cadet for his Year. But his chances don’t look so good right now – the aliens want to keep him to be their personal space god, and Jack can’t convince them that really he’s the same as them The same, only way different. His hopes of being rescued and getting away form this weird planet seem to be rapidly diminishing.

Jack and the Aliens, by Damien Broderick, is a fun Quick Reads title from Word Weavers Press. These titles are aimed at reluctant readers and particularly boys, and Jack and the Aliens certainly meets its mark, with an appeal for children aged 8 to 12, who have made the transition from picture books but are not ready or willing to read longer novels. With plenty of comic illustrations by Ben Redlich, Jack and the Aliens is a great book for the reluctant reader.

Jack and the Aliens, by Damien Broderick, illustrated by Ben Redlich
A Quick Read, from Word Weavers Press, 2002
ISBN 1-877073-00-8
ISBN 1-877073-01 6

A Slimy Secret, by Janette Brazel

When Jake was five a terrible thing happened. His twin brother Blake disappeared. Blake has not been seen since, and Jake still misses him. Now he’s nearly thirteen and still hopes that one day he’ll see his brother again.

When Jake and his family go to stay at the Sanctuary to prepare for his sister’s wedding, the last thing Jake expects is to discover the whereabouts of his brother. He would be overjoyed, except that Blake is, well, to put it mildly, different. Jake learns that his brother is the victim of a strange curse, placed on his grandfather long before the twins’ birth. Now, time is running out to undo the curse and return Blake to his old self, and to the safety of his family.

First, Jake has to find out what happened all those years ago. Then he needs to solve the riddle of how to break the curse. Even then, he has to work hard to actually make the words of the riddle come true. And he has to do all this alone – he cannot enlist the help of his family.

A Slimy Secret by Janette Brazel is a fun combination of humour, mystery, self-discovery and exploration of family relationships. Kids aged nine to twelve will love the mix of humour and intrigue.

A Slimy Secret is a Banana Benders title from Banana Books, the children’s book imprint of innovative new Australian publisher, Otford Press.

A Slimy Secret, by Janette Brazel
Otford Press, 2002.
ISBN 1-877073-01 6

Uncle Alien, by Sue Whiting

When Harry meets his Uncle Morris for the first time he is shocked. More than just shocked – he’s floored, lost for words. Harry, you see, is green, the most ghastly green Harry has ever seen. Even his teeth and his bald green lumpy head are green.

Morris has some explaining to do. The family has never met him before, despite the fact that he was married to Harry’s Aunt Mildred. Now, of course, it is obvious why Mildred kept him hidden – he is an alien. Discovery would mean he would be detained by the AIU (Alien Investigation Unit). He has only revealed himself to the family now because he needs their help. With Mildred dead, Morris can no longer stand to be on Earth. He wants to go home. Tonight.

Only Harry can help Uncle Morris recover the Ziltor Beacon Crystal which will help to get him home. Of course, this is not going to be easy. Only Morris knows what it looks like, and he’s bright green, a skin colour likely to stand out on the streets of Melville. Then there’s a great big dog guarding the place where the crystal is hidden. And, of course, there’s a nosy neighbour to contend with. This neighbour, Wilemina, will do anything to find out what Harry and Uncle Morris are up to.

Uncle Alien is a hilarious children’s novel by Sue Whiting, with comic illustrations by Michael Mucci. Whiting combines humour with adventure in a combination which children aged 10 to 12 will love.

Uncle Alien is Banana Benders book, from Banana Books, the children’s book imprint of new Australian publisher, Otford Press.

Uncle Alien, by Sue Whiting, illustrated by Michael Mucci
Otford Press , 2002
ISBN 1-877073-00-8

Adeline Adventures, by Jill Turner

Adeline Cuneo has problems. First, there’s the mess in her bedroom which seems to be getting worse. Then there’s her science project – it has to be good to impress her teacher, Miss Harris. And then there’s her next door neighbour – Jack Walsh. He tries hard to make Adeline’s life a misery, including trying to steal her science project, to save him doing one of his own.

Things can only get worse – and they do, when Adeline’s project disappears. Could Jack have stolen it, or has it just been lost in her messy room? Other things are missing too – Adeline’s socks, her good pencils, even the choc chip muffin she was going to eat. Adeline’s mother is no help. She says they must be in her bedroom. But Adeline wonders whether there might be some other explanation – especially given the way her new carnivorous plant is growing.

Growing Dangerous is a fun introduction to the character of Adeline Cuneo, a red-head whose adventures are sure to delight children aged 7 to 10. And, one of the great things about the book is that when kids have finished the story, they can flip the book over and read the second Adeline adventure.

In A Hairy Scary Day, Adeline has a brand new problem to contend with – green hair. In an attempt to control her wild, frizzy hair, she has used a solution she finds in the bathroom. Only thing is, it’s turned her hair green. She can’t possibly have her photograph taken looking like that.

Children will love seeing how Adeline solves her dilemma, in this fun story by Jill Turner. The hilarious illustrations by Shane Nipper are a perfect complement.

These two stories are a Banana Split book from Banana Books, the children’s book imprint of Otford Press. Each Banana Split has two self-contained stories by the same author in a back-to-back format. Kids will love the novelty of the format, whilst adults will love the value for money.

Growing Dangerous and A Hairy Scary Day, by Jill Turner, illustrated by Shane Nipper.

Otford Press, 2002
ISBN 1-877073-00-8

Sir Lanceklot, by Arfa King

Sir Lanceklot, the apple-loving ruler of the kingdom of Booblefitz, is enjoying a peaceful session of apple munching when he is summoned. There is a damsel in deep distress and Lanceklot must save her.

Riding his beloved horse Be-elzebuuble, Lanceklot hastens to Flossie Castle where a huge fire-breathing dragon is holding captive Princess Flossie and the other residents of the castle. Only Lanceklot can save them.

Lanceklot must contend with rose bushes, a horse which seems to misplace its head, and, of course, a fearsome dragon before he can rescue the beautiful Flossie. Thankfully he has valour – and good luck – on his side.

Children aged 7 to 10 will love the hilarious adventures of the bumbling knight in Sir Lanceklot and the Apple Missiles, by the aptly named Arfa King, with outstanding illustrations by Dion Hamill. They will also love the fact that, once the story is over, they can turn the book over and find another Lanceklot adventure.

In this second story Sir Lanceklot and the Great Raspberry Adventure, Lanceklot is horrified to learn that the kingdom is facing an apple shortage. The evil Lord Gruff has taken all of the apples. The people of Booblefitz are relying on Sir Lanceklot to help them once again.

Of course, Lanceklot never does things the easy way – first he forgets his horse, then he gets covered in raspberry juice. When he finally gets to Lord Gruff’s orchards, he is surrounded by bulls, who think he smells rather yummy. Will Lanceklot lick the bulls before the bulls are through with licking him?

The two Lanceklot stories are part of the wonderful new children’s line, Banana Splits, from Otford Press’s children’s book imprint, Banana Books. Each Banana Split includes two stories back to back, with either the same characters or similar subject matter. Budget conscious parents and librarians will love the value for money, and young readers will love both the novelty of the format and the fun stories.

Sir Lanceklot and the Apple Missiles; Sir Lanceklot and the Great Raspberry Adventure, by Arfa King, illustrated by Dion Hamill
Banana Books, Otford Press, 2002

Blik, by Sandy McCutcheon

David can’t go to school. Not when he’s just been beaten up by the school bullies, and certainly not when he’s wearing a silly shirt with dolphins AND a nasty stain. No, school is out of the question.

Instead, David decides to hide in the forest until it’s safe to go home. The forest is dark and scary, but David feels safer there than he would at school, and soon falls asleep. When he wakes it is late afternoon, and he sprints for home.

At home, David is alarmed to discover that his T-shirt has turned bright green and is covered in fur. Something has happened to it in the forest. He will be in big trouble when his Dad sees it.

Later that night, when David is trying to figure out what to do about the shirt, he is amazed to discover it is no longer stained. He is even more amazed when he finds out why. The stain, he discovers, was really a smodge called Blik, who used the shirt to hitch a ride out of the forest.

David has never seen a smodge before, but Blik tells him this is because smodges are so good at hiding. He has come out of hiding because he is lonely, and needs help to find where the other smodges are living. As David helps Blik search for his friends, he also learns the value of friendship. Perhaps Blik can help him solve his problems too?

Blik, by Sandy McCutcheon is one of the Quick Reads series from new Queensland publisher, Word Weavers Press. Specially aimed at boys, the series will appeal to readers aged eight to twelve, who have made the transition from picture books to short chapter books. Children will love the ugly but delightful Blik, and relate to the dilemmas faced by David. The story is well complemented by the drawings of illustrator Nicole Murray.

A great short read.

Blik, by Sandy McCutcheon
Word Weavers Press, 2002

The Watching Lake, by Elaine Forrestal

Bryn and his family have just moved in to a house near the lake. It is an interesting place to live. There are horses on the property next door, and Bryn especially likes a big grey one, Tiffany, the ghost-horse.

Bryn’s big brother Chad likes it here too. He makes friends with Carey, the girl next door, and the other kids from the neighbourhood, and is soon involved in building a cubby house and playing games which don’t include Bryn

When he’s near the lake Bryn feels like he’s being watched. He feels something, something different, but he can’t quite grasp what it is. Carey says that Welsh Morgan is always watching. Welsh Morgan owns the market garden next door. The children see him working in the garden, and Bryn meets him early one morning, but Bryn isn’t sure that it’s Welsh Morgan who makes him feel this way.

Carey tells Bryn and Chad that Morgan’s wife died mysteriously many years ago, and that Morgan says she was taken by the Min Min – strange but beautiful lights which beckon people to their deaths. Of course, the children know that the Min Min can’t be real.

The Watching Lake, by Elaine Forrestal is a poignant, touching story about childhood and about growing up. First released by Puffin Australia in 1991, it has now been re-released by Fremantle Arts Centre Press, a recognition that this timeless story will continue to appeal to readers.

Forrestal has a knack of deftly exploring the minds and emotions of her young characters, whilst still painting believable and rounded adult characters. Welsh Morgan, the mysterious hermit, is a character who will not only appeal to children but teach them a subtle awareness that ‘different’ is not always bad.

The Watching Lake is an outstanding novel.

The Watching Lake, by Elaine Forrestal
Fremantle Arts Centre Press, 2002

Captain Purrfect, by Jackie French

Harlie is in bed when the shadow man appears from nowhere. He is very frightened – the shadow man is going to get him – until, in a flash of fur and claws, Captain Purrfect appears and sends the shadow on his way. Harlie is pretty surprised to learn that his grandfather’s cat, Moggs is really Captain Purrfect, superhero.

Harlie learns that all Captain Purrfect would like in return for keeping the house free of shadow men, rust fingers and other monsters, is to be fed decent food. He does not like cat food at all.

Captain Purrfect helps Harley keep the monsters and bullies at bay. Can Harlie help Captain Purrfect defeat the nasty gurgle who lives in the house’s drains, and get a decent feed?

Captain Purrfect is a delightful offering from well known Australian author, Jackie French. The text is well-complemented by cartoon-style drawings from illustrator Gus Gordon. Kids will love this humorous tale and may not realise they are also learning a subtle message about dealing with bullies.

Captain Purrfect is an orange level Tadpole from Koala Books. Tadpoles are graded reading for emergent readers, matching readers with books using a colour coded reading barometer. Children emerge from reading picture books and progress across the Tadpole range of bridging book to reading independently. Orange level books are in the middle of the Tadpole spectrum, aimed at confident readers.

Captain Purrfect, by Jackie French, illustrated by Gus Gordon
Koala Books, 2002

The Thunder Egg Thief, by Sue Cason

Nick’s Mum needs a break, so Dad suggests a weekend in the country. With the caravan behind, Nick, his parents and his sister Emily, head off for a quiet weekend at Mount Perilous, which Nick thinks looks just like a sleeping dinosaur. When they stop for petrol at a nearby service station, the attendant – Sal – tells Nick to watch out for the perilosaurus. Apparently it’s their nesting season.

When the family go fossicking, Emily finds a beautiful fossil. Nick is jealous – he tries desperately to find one too. What he finds, however, is a thunder egg. His Dad tells him that this will be beautiful cut in two so that the coloured stripes inside the rock will be visible. Nick thinks the rock looks just like a dinosaur egg. But what would happen if the dinosaur wanted her egg back? He hears wailing and strange cries echoing through the bush and knows there’s only one thing to do.

The Thunder Egg Thief, by Sue Cason is an adventure tale which will appeal to kids with an interest in dinosaurs or fantasy. Well complemented with illustrations by Lloyd Foye, the story will be accessible to children taking their first steps from picture books towards novels.

The Thunder Egg Thief is one of six new Orange level Tadpole books from Koala Books, and is suitable for home collections, libraries and class room use. Tadpoles books provide graded reading opportunities for emergent readers, allowing teachers and parents to match children and books according to their reading level.

The Thunder Egg Thief, by Sue Cason, illustrated by Lloyd Foye
Koala Books, 2002.

Sticky Bill, by Hazel Edwards and Christine Anketell

When Sticky Bill comes to live on the Children’s Farm he finds himself caught up in a crisis. The Health and Safety inspector has said that the farm needs urgent repairs. If these aren’t carried out, the farm will close. All the repairs will cost thousands of dollars, which the farm just doesn’t have.

Sticky Bill quickly makes friends on the farm. There’s Pig, Parrot, Sheep , Goat, Cow and, of course Cate, who looks after them all. He doesn’t want to see the farm close, when he’s just got there. Neither, of course, do the other animals. The farm is their home.

So, when they have the chance of appearing in a television commercial, it seems a good chance to make the money necessary to save the farm. However, when you try to make a commercial starring a proud cow, a clumsy (though well-meaning) duck and a zany sheep and goat, things probably won’t go according to plan.

Kids aged 6 to 9 will love this hilarious story, and adore the gorgeous characters. They may even be sad when it’s finished, which isn’t a bad thing, because, when it is finished, they can simply turn the book over for a second story featuring another adventure from the Children’s Farm.

In Cyberfarm, there are plans to turn the farm into a Cyberfarm with virtual games and cyber helmets. The real animals are worried that they’ll be replaced with robots and lose their jobs. Cate is worried too.

StickyBill has a plan. He will direct the animals in a special show, to prove to the farm’s visitors that real animals are much more interesting than virtual ones.

These two delightful stories, written by Hazel Edwards and Christine Anketell, and illustrated by Mini Goss, are part of the innovative Banana Splits series from Banana Books, the children’s book imprint of Otford Press. Each book includes two stories back to back, from the same author. Kids will love the novelty of this format, and parents and librarians will like the inherent value for money that this concept offers – two books for the price of one.

StickyBill: TV Duckstar and Cyberfarm, by Hazel Edwards and Christine Anketell, illustrated by Mini Goss
Otford Press, 2002.
ISBN 1 876928 91 3