500 Minutes of Danger, by Jack Heath

As soon as her foot hit the quicksand, Ella knew she was doomed…
Panic gripped her chest. ‘Help!’ she screamed. ‘Someone help me! Please!’
Insects buzzed. Birds chirped. But there were no voices. No help was coming.

A girl trapped in quicksand, with no chance that anyone will hear or. A boy trapped in what seems to be a coffin. And a girl, searching for a lost heirloom, instead finding  killer crocodiles on the rampage.

The ten stories which make  up 500 Minutes of Danger are high-action, fast paced stories each of which sees a young character engaged in a life and death struggle, with plenty of cliffhanger moments and twists and turns. Each story stands alone and can be read in about half an hour. But, as the book progresses,  readers gradually become aware that the stories are linked and that seemingly unconnected events and characters are all overshadowed – literally – by one big menace.

Perfect for reluctant readers.

500 Minutes of Danger, by Jack Heath
Scholastic, 2017
ISBN 9781743816493

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Ruben, by Bruce Whatley

As he did every day, Ruben tied his shoes, pulled his hat firmly down on his head and grabbed his goggles and coat.
It was time to slip into the street and head for Block City.

Alone on the streets of a derelict futuristic city, Ruben livessurrounded by the things he has found, and scavenging what he needs to survive. But it is getting increasingly hard to ednure. When he meets a girl, a fewllow scavenger, the pair offer each other some comfort and exchange their knowledge. bak c in his home, Ruben realsies that he needs more.

Ruben is an eerie, thought provoking glimpse at a dystopian future where machines abound, and children struggle for survival in a world with seemingly few humans. With sparse text and rich, complex greay-scale illustrations, much of the meaning is for the reader to discover or to create, and this is a book which will evoke discussion and require much thought.

Suitable for children and adults, Ruben is a work of art.

Ruben , by Bruce Whatley
Scholastic, 2017
ISBN 9781743810354

Mr Bambuckle’s Remarkables by Tim Harris ill James Hart

Mr Bambuckle’s first day at Blue Valley School was a most remarkable day. the fifteen students of 12B straggled in after the bell to find their new teacher balancing on a unicycle, on top of a desk. He was singing in full voice about ‘glorious days’ and ‘magical ways and, as the students took their seats, he told them it was a rare Mongolian welcome song.

Mr Bambuckle is like no teacher the students of 12B have ever encountered. It’s not just that he can balance on his unicycle on the desk. It’s not just that he seems more exciting than Miss Schlump. He has an answer for their every question, even when he’s saying that it’s too dangerous to meet his Indian spark-maker beetle. Within minutes, he is smiling at their principal, Mr Sternblast, despite the latter’s gruffness. ‘Mr Bambuckle’s Remarkables’ begins with character sketches of all the class, and illustrations are scattered throughout.

Mr Bambuckle is more than a little magical. He knows the students’ names before they tell them and he can immediately see what they need from him as a teacher. But even though he can see it, he structures his classes so the students discover their own strengths and challenges. There are no cross words, no punishments, and every member of the class starts to perform to their abilities. In between these subtle lessons, there are stories, jokes, magic and even bacon. What’s not to love? Mr Bambuckle’s Remarkables’ is a new series for readers who like their stories wrapped in ridiculousness and humour. Recommended for mid- to upper-primary readers. Would also work a treat as a read-aloud.
Mr Bambuckle’s Remarkables by Tim Harris ill James Hart Random House Australia 2017 ISBN: 9780143785859

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

Ickyfoodia: the Ultimate Guide to Disgusting Food by The Listies aka Matt Kelly and Richard Higgins

Ickyfoodia is our alphabetical guide to the disgusting foods, horrible recipes and weird meals that don’t get covered in other food books. We love food – in fact, we eat it every day! Sometimes the food we eat is delicious, but sometimes it’s totally grow.
We looked at lots and lots of food books and found that they are all about edible, healthy and altogether undisgusting foods But what about the other things we eat? The horrible hamburgers? The Terrible toast? The nasty noodles?

The Listies bring you an extravaganza of foods you may never have considered; food you may have eaten but have never seen in a cook book. Until now. ‘Ickyfoodia’ is dedicated to the ‘weirdo meal, the edible invention, things we eat when we aren’t sure we should’. Illustrated by the authors, there are exploding saucepans, glow-in-the-dark carrots, left-over mummifried chicken and all manner of other delicacies to see and make. Beware: there is a linguini bikini and vomatoes and other tummy-turning treats.

‘Ickyfoodia’ is an alphabet of awfulness, a tabling of terribleness, a mish-mash of monstrosities. There are recipes, cartoons, photos, lists, puns, and many many word plays. You may not want an invitation to any dinner proposed by the Listies, but you might want to share the recipes out loud. If you like your puns, and are a fan of gross, then this is the book for you. Recommended for mid-primary readers.

Ickyfoodia: the Ultimate Guide to Disgusting Food, the Listies (Matt Kelly and Richard Higgins)
Penguin 2017
ISBN: 9780143784388

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

Have Sword, Will Travel by Garth Nix and Sean Williams

Odo and Eleanor did not set out to find their destiny. At best, they were hoping for eels.
‘I’ve never seen the river so low before,’ said Odo as he climbed down the banks and began to trudge through the thick, reddish mud. He’d walked along and waded in the same stretch of the Silverrun for what felt like every single day of his life. Like his days, the river was always much the same. But now, there was a lot more mud and a lot less river.

While searching for eels, Odo unearths a sword in the mud beside the river. He can’t believe that he is the sword’s ‘true master’. Neither can Eleanor. It’s HER dream to be a knight, not Odo’s. But the sword is adamant – Odo is now Sir Odo, and before long, the trio are off on a quest. This makes the sword, called Biter, and Eleanor very happy. Odo’s still not convinced, but gives in to the entreaties of the other two. And a big quest it is too, destined to take them to many places and into many dangerous adventures.

Have Sword, Will Travel’ is Book 1 in a new series from Garth Nix and Sean Williams. It follows the adventures of two young friends who learn a lot about themselves as they travel far from their homes. Biter, the sword, has a very traditional notion of what it means to be a knight, and is keen to impose these notions on every situation they encounter. But, although Odo and Eleanor are young, they are very good at working together and solving problems. There are additional mysteries throughout that will surely surface in subsequent titles. Ideal for introducing young, competent readers to fantasy, ‘Have Sword, Will Travel’ is also jam-packed with humour. Recommended for mid- to upper-primary readers.

Have Sword, Will Travel, Garth Nix & Sean Williams
Allen & Unwin 2017 ISBN: 9781742374024

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

48 Hours: The Vanishing by Gabrielle Lord

‘Thank you, Chief,’Jazmine murmured to herself as she walked along a tree-lined street on her way to school. She tucked a stray lock of thick blonde hair behind her ear.
‘Earth to Jazmine, hello?’
‘Huh?’ Jazmine snapped out of her daydream and turned to find her friend Mackenzie glaring at her through narrowed dark eyes.
‘Aside from that mumbling, you haven’t said a word since we started walking to Anika’s!’ Mackenzie fumed, flinging her loose, long black hair over her shoulder in a huff. ‘Jazz, it’s bad enough with Anika going on about that old journal she found, and now you won’t even talk to me because you’re busy solving crimes in your head. Plus you nearly walked into that tree!’

Jazz’s best friend has disappeared, kidnapped. Phoenix has been suspended from school. Jazz and Phoenix are most definitely NOT friends. Even though Jazz loves to solve crimes and mysteries, and Phoenix knows heaps about forensics. But if they are going to find Anika in the next 48 hours – and they both know this is crucial – then they are going to have to find a way to work together. So begins an uneasy alliance as they race the clock to find Jazz’s friend.

‘48 Hours’ is the first in a new series from Gabrielle Lord, with two further titles currently underway. Jazz and Phoenix are the crime-solving duo with complementary skills, though at first they struggle to work cohesively. As well as chasing clues, they must evade parents who are 1. worried about them, 2. cross with them for hacking 3. distressed because their daughter is missing. This is a fast-paced action thriller for crime aficionados in mid- to upper-primary years.
48 Hours: The Vanishing, Gabrielle Lord Scholastic Australia 2017 ISBN:9781743629758

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

Kizmet and the Case of the Pirate Treasure by Frank Woodley

From the outside the IMPACT headquarters looked like any boring office building.
But inside was a hive of activity. Detectives rushed from room to room, carrying documents. A scientist peered into a glass cabinet full of large hairy spiders, while in the back ground her colleague tested the strength of a cable made from synthetic spider silk. All this was going on around us as we sat in the meeting area of the Central Command Hub.
When I say ‘we’ I mean me and Kismet, and her dad, Spencer Papancillo. We work together solving mysteries.

Kismet and the Case of the Pirate Treasure’ is Kismet’s third adventure. All are told from the perspective of Gretchen, her Currawong. The mystery-solving trio of Kismet, her hapless dad and Gretchen are early to a meeting and catching up with friends at IMPACT when the roof explodes and their friend is kidnapped. Kismet finds a clue, Chief Wodjet gets a phone call and the trio are off on a world-wide hunt for Gita, and a solution to a 300-year-old mystery. High drama ensues. Each chapter, and many openings include black and white illustrations.

Kizmet and the Case of the Pirate Treasure’ is high camp drama, no surprise really when the viewpoint character is a currawong. Fortunately, the decisions are mostly made by Kizmet, who is much calmer and more clear-headed than her pet or her father. There are plenty of chuckles to be had as disasters and mis-steps beset the ‘goodies’ along the pathway to solving their mystery. Suited to independent readers who enjoy a mystery and still like  an illustration or two to break up the text.

Kizmet and the Case of the Pirate Treasure, Frank Woodley, Puffin Books 2017 ISBN: 9780143783282

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

It’s OK to Feel the Way You Do, by Josh Langley

Everyone has feelings.
Your feelings are an important part of who you are.
Just like the beating of your heart.

Everyone one – child or adult – has feelings: happy, sad, angry, lonely. And, as this little offering points out, not only is it okay to have these feelings, but they are actually what makes you ‘you’.

In simple, authentic text, accompanied by cartoon-style line drawing illustrations, Langley explores both the sensations which different feelings evoke and ways of addressing those feelings. For example, for anger, he suggests running around like a chicken and “flapping those arms to shake off those angry feelings”, or simply taking the time for some deep breaths.

Entertaining and important, this little book will appeal to children and those who care for them.

It’s OK to Feel the Way You Do, written & illustrated by Josh Langley
Big Sky Publishing, 2017
ISBN 9781925520965

Game Day Books 1 and 2, by Patty Mills with Jared Thomas

‘Patty, have you ever thought about playing basketball?’ Coach Clarke asked.
I shrugged my shoulders.
‘I’d like you to try out,’ he said.
‘Would I get to play on the ball for the whole game?’ I asked him.
Coach Clarke laughed. ‘Everyone plays on the ball in basketball.’

Patty loves sport, but he’s never played basketball before. Still, he’s good at every other sport he plays, and his uncle Danny is a great basketballer, so he expects to be a great basketballer straight away. He soon discovers there more to the game than just shooting hoops.

Patty Hits the Court and Patty and the Shadows are the first two books in the new Game Day series written by Australian basketball sensation Patty Mills, together with author Jared Thomas.

Perfect for sports mad readers, the books tell high interest stories, as well as showing children from Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islanders engaged in every day life, including school, sport and family life, as well as partaking in cultural events such as Mabo Day. This blend is really important for all Australian children.

Patty is a likable main character, who doesn’t always get everything right. He has to learn, for example, to share the ball, and to overcome bullying and difficulties with school work, topics which make him relatable for young readers.

Game Day: Patty Hits the Court and Patty and the Shadows, both by Patty Mills with JAred Thomas
Allen & Unwin, 2017

The Pink Snowman, by Alan Horsfield

He twisted his head from side to side enjoying the wintry scene. He looked up to admire the falling snow, but then he made a ghastly gasp.
I couldn’t see anything even when I squinted. Nothing.
i turned. Our snowman had turned a very bright pink!

Stuck inside on a snowy day in the Blue Mountains, Krystal is bored. When her father end her out on a fool’s errand, Krystal decides to build a snowman. her friend Jasper helps but, when the snowman comes to life, he has a very odd problem: he has turned pink. Krystal and Jasper must figure out what is causing the problem, and how to fix it.

The Pink Snowman is a short chapter book posing a humorous, unexpected problem. Complemented with black and white line drawings with pink highlights, this is an entertaining read.

The Pink Snowman, by Alan Horsfield
Big Sky Publishing, 2017
ISBN 9781925520439