The Wonder Dog, by Pamela Freeman

When Luke’s parents ask him what he wants for his birthday, he asks for a puppy. He really wants a puppy to take for walks, to play with and to love. His friend Celia has a puppy and he wants one too. Luke’s parents aren’t so sure. They tell him that puppies are messy, expensive, dangerous and prone to digging up garden beds.

After this Luke knows he won’t get a puppy for his birthday so when he opens his present on his birthday, he is delighted to find a dog inside. Until he discovers it’s a Wonderdog – a robot.

Ruff looks and sounds like a real dog. Luke can take him for walks and throw sticks for him to fetch. He even barks like a real dog. But he’s a robot – he can’t be loyal to Luke and he can’t love.

Luke’s parents don’t understand the problem, but Celia does. She can see the difference between her dog, Digger and Luke’s Wonderdog. What will it take to convince Luke’s parents that a Wonderdog is just not the same as a real live one?

The Wonder Dog, by Pamela Freeman, is a funny tale of friendship, loyalty and love, part of the Orange level Tadpoles series from Koala Books. Well paced and with plenty of excellent illustrations by David Stanley, it will appeal to young readers just making the transition from picture books to chapter books.

Two of Ms Freeman’s earlier books, Victor’s Quest and Pole to Pole made the Children’s Book Council shortlist in their categories.

The Wonder Dog, by Pamela Freeman, illustrated by David Stanley
Koala Books, 2002.

Flytrap, by Meme McDonald and Boori Monty Pryor

Nancy is worried. Her Mum doesn’t seem interested, but Nancy has a real problem. She’s told her teacher she has a Venus fly trap at home, and her teacher wants her to bring it in to school to show the class – tomorrow. The problem is, Nancy doesn’t really have a venus fly trap. She just wanted to have one, wanted to be the special one in the class.

Now, Nancy is working out what she is going to tell Miss Susan. Maybe she can tell her it ate too many flies and got sick. Maybe she can tell her that the cat next door knocked it out of the window. Or maybe she could tell her the truth.

As Nancy worries about what she is going to do, she pesters her mother and her step-father One-Two-Three Gee. As she listens to their stories she begins to form an idea. Maybe she can tell the truth and feel special.

Flytrap, by Meme McDonald and Boori Monty Pryor is a playful and inspiring book about telling all sorts of stories – made-up stories, animal stories, family stories and Aboriginal stories. The different stories are interwoven to create a brand new story for little Nancy.

This is the fifth book McDonald and Pryor have written together. Previous books include Maybe Tomorrow and My Girragunndji, winner of the 1999 Children’s Book Council Award for Younger Readers.

Flytrap uses a wonderful combination of black and white photographs – taken by McDonald and posed by students at Clifton Hill Primary school – along with drawings by Harry Todd and paintings by Lillian Fourmile.

Flytrap
is an outstanding read for children aged 6 and up, and is suitable both for home reading and classroom sharing.

Flytrap, by Meme McDonald and Boori Monty Pryor
Allen & Unwin, 2002

Cooper Riley, by Maureen Edwards

Cooper thinks it’s great when he and his mum move back to Kelasta, the town where his Dad grew up. Here he can play in the bush and make loads of new friends, especially with Danny. But now things are going wrong. Firstly, Danny has gone away with his parents, leaving Cooper with no one to talk to about his other problems – namely his lack of a computer, his Mum’s lack of a job, and the fact that every Friday he has to visit a witch.

The kids in his class have been assigned to visit various old people in the town, to offer help or companionship. Cooper has been matched with Winnie Smith, better known as Winnie the Witch. None of the other kids will go anywhere near her house. But Cooper has to, despite his attempts to get out of it. Winnie keeps her dead husband’s leg in her back room, and a ghost – or is it another victim – can be heard screaming in there. Then she’s out digging up hemlock in the dark, and filling sacks with who knows what. Cooper is sure he is going to be another of Winnie’s victims.

Cooper Riley, by Maureen Edwards, is a Quick Reads title from new Queensland publisher, Word Weavers Press. Quick Reads are aimed at reluctant readers, especially boys, and Cooper Riley meets its mark. Kids will love the hilarious story, the manageable length, and the excellent illustrations of the well-known Terry Denton. A great fun book for eight to twelve year olds.

Cooper Riley, by Maureen Edwards
Word Weavers Press, 2002.

Intergalactic Heroes, by James Moloney

Joe Spencer is crazy about Space Movies, and spends his days playing space games, especially when his friends Damien and Lizzie come to play. They have a space ship built out of carboard boxes and painted with silver spray paint, and unreal space costumes and together they fight to save the universe from imaginary space creatures. Of course, they never expect to meet any real aliens.

When they find a set of old walkie talkies they try to fix them up to use in their games. But when they jiggle the wires to try to get the walkie talkies working, something strange happens. Suddenly, they can hear voices talking to them. Voices belonging to aliens. Is this some clever trick being played on them or are there really aliens out there needing to be saved and wanting to destroy Earth? Together they must work to save their new alien friends and to save the Earth.

Intergalactic Heroes
, by James Moloney, with illustrations by Craig Smith, is a Quick Reads title from Word Weaver Press. Quick Reads are aimed at young reluctant readers, and especially at boys. Intergalatic Heroes meets this brief with face paced action, plenty of humour and enough illustrations to comfort the young reader making the transition from picture books to longer works. Intergalactic Heroes is a fun read for kids aged eight to ten.

Intergalactic Heroes, by James Moloney, illustrated by Craig Smith
A Quick Read from Word Weavers Press, 2002
ISBN 1-877073-01 6

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