Horse Mad Summer, by Kathy Helidoniotis

A thousand dollars. Wow! I’d never had a thousand dollars in my life. I’d never been near a thousand dollars. I’d never even seen a thousand dollars. And for someone who’d done as much fundraising as I had to save up for a horse of my own, that was saying something.

When Ashleigh hears about the prizes for winning the Waratah Grove Junior Cross-Country Riding Championships, she’s pretty excited. Almost as excited as she is about the approaching summer holidays. She is going to be spending it with her best friend Becky, and her other best friend Jenna, who is coming down from the city to stay for four whole weeks. What could be better than a horse-mad summer with her friends?

Soon, though, Ashleigh’s summer plans hit a rough patch. Jenna and Becky don’t seem to like each other – and Jenna doesn’t even like horse riding. Becky is picked to compete at the Championships and, although Ashleigh is pleased for her, she can’t help feeling disappointed. Will anything go right?

Horse Mad Summer is a horsy story that will appeal to all young horse-lovers but will also be enjoyed by those who aren’t ‘in’ to horses. Much more than a story about horses and riding, it is also full of action, adventure and the challenges of friendship.

This is author Kathy Helidoniotis’s second story featuring Ashleigh and her friends, however although those who read the first will be delighted to read the sequel, those who haven’t will not be lost. It stands alone as an entertaining read.

An excellent offering.

Horse Mad Summer, by Kathy Helidoniotis
Banana Books, 2005

Catnapped, by Chris McTrustry

Matt’s Christmas holidays are boring. All his friends have gone away and there is nothing to do. Until all the cats in the neghbourhood start to disappear.

The adults don’t seem to think there’s anything suspicious happening, but Matt knows different. He is sure there is a mystery that needs solving. Who could be stealing the cats? And what do they want with them?

Matt sets out to solve the case. Along the way he makes two new friends, Hugh and Mary. Together the three learn that solving mysteries can be dangerous business.

Catnapped is a fun, fast-moving mystery for 8 to 12 year olds. With comic illustrations by Louise Prout it is sure to be a hit with young mystery lovers.

Catnapped, by Chris McTrustry
Banana Books, 2004

Matt the Mage – First Spells, by Sally Odgers

Like any good son away from home, Matt writes home to his parents every week without fail. But Matt isn’t really like any other boy away from home. For a start, Matt (his real name is Parramatta Wheatslump) is a mage. Then there’s the fact that Matt isn’t just away from his own – he has somehow ended up in an alternative dimension. His travelling companions – a mermaid and a talking camel – aren’t terribly normal either.

Matt has left his home – Starvation Station, Somewhere in Australia – in the hope of finding another mage who can tutor him.Before he finds his tutor he encounters all sorts of obstacles. Along with his weekly letters home to his Mum and Dad he sends installments of his story, explaining his tale both to his parents and to the reader.

Matt the Mage is a fun fantasy, its use of letters and notes interspersed with third person narrative a touch which will engage young readers. Sally Odgers, one of Australia’s most versatile and gifted children’s authors, always has something different to offer her readers. Matt the Mage will not disappoint.

Matt the Mage: First Spells, by Sally Odgers
Banana Books, 2004

Seriously Alex, by Jill McDougall

Alex isn’t impressed when he’s invited to stay with his cousin Erin for a week. Not only is Erin better at everything than Alex, she also happens to live on a crocodile farm. A whole week surrounded by crocodiles is not Alex’s idea of fun.

Still, when one of the crocodiles is stolen, Alex and Erin are soon on the trail, working together to get it back.

Seriously Snappy is a funny tale that kids ages 7 to 12 will love. What they’ll love even more is that when they’re finished it they can turn the book over for another story – Seriously Creepy – in which Alex and Erin go camping at a campsite visited by a cave monster.

Seriously Alex is a Banana Split title from innovative young publisher Banana Books. Jill McDougall’s humorous stories are well complemented by the illustrations of Deborah Baldassi.

A fun read.

Seriously Alex, by Jill McDougall
Banana Books, 2003

Totally Horse Mad, by Kathy Helidoniotis

There is only one thing Ashleigh Miller wants in her life: a horse of her own. And, one day, she will have one. First she needs a whole lot of money and a place to keep one. So, when Ashleigh’s parents tell her she can get a horse, she thinks all her dreams have come true – until she realises that she has to move to the country.

Saying goodbye to her best friend, Jenna, is hard. Finding a horse is too. And making new friends could be the hardest part of all. Ashleigh has to overcome the constant lack of funds, the anger of some of her fellow students at the riding school, and the trouble she seems to attract like a magnet, before she can really enjoy having a horse of her own.

Totally Horse Mad is a great new title from Kathy Helidoniotis and Banana Books. Kids who like horses and horse stories will love this one.

Totally Horse Mad, by Kathy Helidoniotis
Banana Books, 2003

Scuttle and the Zipzaps, by Ged Maybury

When Zac and Zelma Zipzap are given a pet flootle, they think he’s pretty cute. What they don’t realise is quite how clever Scuttle is.

When Gatch the Glangwoo tries to rip Zac’s security badge off, Scuttle has the solution. And, when it seems Gatch could be up to something more sinister, Scuttle has the answers too. Will the kids realise that Scuttle is more than just a cute pet?

Scuttle and the Zipzaps is a new Banana Split title from Banana Books. With two stories – Beware the Glangwoo and Scuttle Saves Fridgelon 5 – featuring Scuttle and his new ‘owners’, this is a great title for youngsters making the transition to big kids’ books.

The Banana Splits series is proving popular with young readers, librarians, teachers and parents because of its unique format and fun subject matter. Scuttle and the Zipzaps is no exception.

Scuttle and the Zipzaps, by Ged Maybury, illustrated by Louise Prout
Banana Books, 2003

Pea Brain, by Janette Brazel

Bruce Brain wants to be normal. He wants a normal life with normal parents who do normal things. But with a real name like Bojangles and a habit of putting things up your nose, is there any chance for Bruce to be normal?

Bruce’s parents work hard in their shop, Mystic Moon, where fortune telling and crystals are just some of the new age offerings. But Bruce discovers that someone is trying to destroy the Mystic Moon. He doesn’t know why, but thinks he does know who – his teacher, Mrs Greenbaum. What’s worse, he thinks she’s trying to kill him.

Pea Brain is a fun, bizarre book from author Janette Brazel. Full of silliness and mystery, the book nonetheless manages to deal with themes of family and friendship.

Good fun.

Pea Brain, by Janette Brazel
Banana Books, 2002

Wacky Tales, by Dianne Bates

Alex has girl problems. As if it’s not enough having three sisters to contend with, the new girl at school, Simone Temby, has a crush on him. She keeps telling him how cute he is. Bleh!

Alex and his mates do all they can to get girls to stay away, but when a camping trip goes wrong they discover that sometimes girls do have some uses.

Boys Only (No Girls) is a fun story from popular children’s author Dianne Bates. But one of the best parts about this story is that when you’ve finished the story you can turn the book over and read a second story by the same author. Two books for the price of one.

In the second story, The Megabucks Kid, Byron Spender the third enrols in Cragley Public School after his personal tutor resigns. He has to learn how to mix with the common people at a normal school. The other kids hope he’ll buy some cool things for the school – perhaps a swimming pool or a whole stack of new computers.

These two stories come together to form Wacky Tales, a Banana Split title from Banana Books. This fun series, with its novel format, is proving popular with young readers Australia-wide. Wacky Tales will do the same.

Wacky Tales, by Dianne Bates
Banana Books, 2002

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