The Unforgettable What’s His Name, by Paul Jennings

At lunchtime I sat on my own, trying not to be seen. I didn’t talk to anyone. If I climbed a tree the kids would look up and not spot me. If I was hiding among the bins no one could find me. It was almost as if I was a bin and not a boy.
horrible Gertag would say. ‘Where’s What’s His Name?’ And I would blush.

What’s His Name is shy and sad. He wants to belong, but he doesn’t, so he tries to avoid being noticed. Then, one weekend, he discovers that he can really blend in – like a chameleon. First he starts to blend in with his surroundings, then he actually starts to change into other things.

The Unforgettable What’s His Name is a hilarious tale of a boy with an unusual problem, though his worries about fitting in an belonging are universal. His funny escapades, the consequence of being able to change into other things, will delight young readers, and the comic illustrations – included several double page coloured spreads – by Craig Smith add to the fun, and will encourage readers to spot the main character.

Good stuff.

The Unforgettable What’s His Name, by Paul Jennings, illustrated by Craig Smith
Allen & Unwin, 2016
ISBN 9781760290856

Out, by Angela May George & Owen Swan

I’m called an asylum seeker,
but that’s not my name.

A young girl and her mother flee their war torn home, and travel by boat to a new country, where they are safe and can start again. Life is better, but there are still struggles to overcome, including learning English and overcoming memories. But the biggest struggle is waiting to hear what has happened to her father.

Out is a gentle yet powerful story of the asylum seeker experience. Told from the point of view of a child, it reveals their reasons for leaving, what they had to go through to get to the new country, and the struggles once there, as well as the simple joys of feeling free, and being able to explore a new place in safety.

The simple text is accompanied by gentle watercolour and pencil illustrations in muted colours which get lighter and more colourful as the story progresses. A yellow ribbon worn by the girl as she flees a burning school, recurs throughout the story as a link between past and present, and her hopes of being reunited with her father, which occur sin the final spread.

Suitable for very young readers, Out offers a way of understanding and exploring issues which are increasingly prevalent.

Out, by Angela May George & Owen Swan
Scholastic, 2016
ISBN 9781743629000

Meet My Book: The Other Christy, by Oliver Phommavanh

We love visitors here at Aussiereviews, but it’s been a while since we’ve had an author drop by to chat about their latest book – so it’s especially wonderful to welcome Oliver Phommavanh today, here to tell us about his new children’s novel, The Other Christy. Welcome Oliver.

1. Give us the details – title, publisher, illustrator, release date.
My book’s called The Other Christy, published by Penguin Random House and it came out on 13th June.

OtherCHristy2. Why did you write the book?
It’s a story about two girls who share the same name in a class and they don’t like each other. But then they discover they have something more in common than just their name. I love writing about weird or awkward characters and I have this fascination as a teacher and author of seeing unlikely friendships form. I also had this voice of a shy girl with loud ideas in my head for awhile, just waiting to be unleashed.
3. How long from idea to publication?
Almost two years.
4. What was the hardest thing about writing it?
I wasn’t sure about how deep to delve into Christy’s family and her Cambodian background. Christy’s grandpa lived through war with the Khmer Rogue and he carries a lot of emotional scars. It was tricky at first but I found the right balance with sharing some insightful moments with some light-hearted humour.
5. Coolest thing about your book?
Christy’s passion is baking so she creates a lot of sweet treats. I tried to bake with my wife, and made brownies, cupcakes and cookies. Research never tasted so good.
6. Something you learnt through writing the book?
I went to Cambodia last year to visit the war memorial and genocide museum in Phnom Penh. I was absorbed with all of the personal recounts and stories, and was determined to shed a little light on that in my book.
7. What did you do celebrate the release?
My wife and I baked a whole lot of desserts for my book launch. Everybody walked away with a book and some delicious treats

8. And how will you promote the book?
I’ve just finished a whirlwind promotion tour with my publicist across three states and doing a blog tour now. I’ll continue to talk about The Other Christy at various festivals for the rest of the year.

9. What are you working on next?
I’m working on the sequel to Con-nerd, called Super Con-nerd. Hopefully it’ll come out in March 2017.

10. Where we can find out more about you and your book?
You can check out my website, and like my facebook page at Plus you can follow me on Twitter and Instagram @oliverwinfree

Thanks for visiting Oliver. If you want to find out more about The Other Christy, you can visit the other stops on Oliver’s blog tour. And you can see my review of The Other Christy here.





The Creatures of Dryden Gully, by Aunty Ruth Hegarty & Sandi Harrold

The young Royal was taller than Joey and he had four long legs that all reached to the ground. Joey looked at his own short front paws and sighed.
“I wish I had four long legs that could take me wherever I wanted to go. Maybe the Royal joey could teach me,” he whispered hopefully.

Joey wants to be better at hopping, so that he can go wherever he wants to. So when outsiders – Royals (deer) – come to the valley, Joey envies their long legs, and wonders if he can learn from them. He follows them into the hills, but before he can talk to them, danger arrives, and Joey has to hide. When his mother finds him, she explains to him that he is special just as he is.

The Creatures of Dryden Gully is a picture book story about belonging, difference and being unique. Joey learns that being different does not make him less special. He also learns the reassurance of his mother’s love and understanding.

Aboriginal elder Dr Ruth Hegarty tells the story in clear language, allowing readers to learn from Joey’s experience. The illustrations use colours of the Australian landscape against textured backgrounds and are both gentle and warm.

A touching story.

The Creatures of Dryden Gully, by Aunty Ruth Hegarty, illustrated by Sandi Harrold
Scholastic, 2015
ISBN 9781760151997&

Flying High, by Sally Morgan & Ezekiel Kwaymullina, illustrated by Craig Smith

Flying HighIf a set of wings suddenly grew out of my back, I’d be over the moon! I haven’t told any of my friends about my dream of flying. They’d just laugh at me. Every kid knows there are good laughs and bad laughs. I’m sick of the bad laughs.

Larni struggles at school. Words and letters don’t keep still on the page, and the other kids laugh at her – even her friends. So she can’t wait for the school holidays, when she is going on a plane to visit her Gran up north.
Gran is delighted to see Larni, but sad when Larni says she isn’t good at anything. Gran assures her that she will find the thing she is good at. Sure enough, when Gran sits down to her sculpture proejct, Larni finds that she has a special talent for making things.

Flying High is a short chapter book about self-confidence, and family ties, especially between grandparents and grandchildren.

This is the latest of several books by Morgan and Kwaymullina, a mother-son team, and illustrated by Craig Smith. Each story is a stand alone tale, but all feature indigenous chidlren and their families doing things which all children will relate to – family outings, holdiays, spending time with extended family and so on. As such, these books are not only a wonderful opportunity to engage indigenous children, but also for children of all backgrounds, who are offered so many books with anglo-saxon characters, or where non-anglo characters confront issues of difference. The issues here – learning difficulties, self-belief and family closensess – are universal.

With lots of illustrative support and accessible text Flying High is suitable for junior primary or for older readers who require extra support.

Flying High, by Sally Mprgan & Ezekiel Kwaymullina, illustrated by Craig Smith
Omnibus Books, 2015
ISBN 978174299070

Available from good bookstores and online.

Thelma the Unicorn, by Aaron Blabey

Thelma the UnicornThelma felt a little sad,
In fact, she felt forlorn.
You see, she wished with all her heart
to be a unicorn.

Thelma the horse wants to be a unicorn, and with the help of a carefully placed carrot and an accident involving pink paint and glitter, her wish comes true. Soon she is famous, and travelling the world to the cheers of her adoring fans. But Thelma discovers that fame has its pitfalls, and finds he self wanting to be back home with her best friend Otis.

Thelma the Unicorn is a humorous, endearing story in rhyme about self acceptance, popularity and the pitfalls of the celebrity lifestyle. Thelma seems silly, but she learns from her mistakes, and Otis is a loyal friend. The acrylic illustrations are a wonderful complement to the text, with a diverse cast of characters all with big eyes and lots of toothy smiles. Thelma’s pink sparkly coat is contrasted with dark colours as well as use of white space.

The rhyming text rolls along with no scansion problem,s making it perfect for reading aloud, and for the repeated readings which it will no doubt demand from young readers.

Thelma the Unicorn, by Aaron Blabey
Scholastic, 2015
ISBN 9781743625804

Available from good bookstores and online.

Calpepper's Place, by Trudie Trewin & Donna Gynell

One day, Calpepper stopped plodding,
and kicked the hot desert sand.
“This is not the place for me,” he snorted.
“I’m going to find a far away exciting place.”

Calpepper the camel is fed up with trudging behind the plodding camel train. He is sure there are much more exciting places he’d rather be. So one day he leaves the desert behind, and catches a bus, in search of an exciting place. But every place he visits is not quite camely enough: the ski slopes are slippery and cold, the city is too jostly and the waves at the beach are just a bit too high. Finally, Calpepper realises that only home is camely enough for him.

Calpepper’s Place is a gorgeous picture book about camels, home and belonging. Young readers will delight in the humour of Calpepper’s adventures, with text which plays with sound and is patterned in a way encouraging children to predict, and illustrations which perfectly capture the movement and humour of the tale.

The sort of book which will will be happily read over and over by parents and carers, and enjoyed by young readers every time.


Calpepper’s Place, by Trudie Trewin & Donna Gynell
Windy Hollow, 2014
ISBN 9781922081322

Available from good bookstores and online.

The Velveteen Rabbit by Marjery Williams Bianco ill Helene Magisson

There was once a velveteen rabbit, and in the beginning he was really splendid. He was fat and bunchy, as a rabbit should be; his coat was spotted brown and white, he had real thread whiskers, and his ears were lined with pink sateen. On Christmas morning, when he sat wedged in the top of the Boy’s stocking, with a sprig of holly between his paws, the effect was charming.

There was once a velveteen rabbit, and in the beginning he was really splendid. He was fat and bunchy, as a rabbit should be; his coat was spotted brown and white, he had real thread whiskers, and his ears were lined with pink sateen. On Christmas morning, when he sat wedged in the top of the Boy’s stocking, with a sprig of holly between his paws, the effect was charming.

The rabbit in The Velveteen Rabbitis a Christmas gift to a young boy. Although the Boy has many toys, he comes to love the Rabbit and for a long time they are close companions. Another toy in the nursery, the Skin Horse, tells the Rabbit that if a child really loves you, for a long time, then you become Real. The Rabbit longs to become Real, but there are many twists and turns along the path he wants to travel. Illustrations are in gentle blues and greens, lyrical and lovely. Endpapers offer two views of an empty toy room a

The Velveteen Rabbitwas first published in 1922 and has been a favourite of many young and old. This beautiful edition of the story about the magic of love is sure to win a new generation of fans. Readers will enjoy their visit to a different time, and empathise with the longings of a loved companion. Observant readers may also find extra details in the endpapers. Recommended for pre- and early schoolers.


The Velveteen Rabbit, Marjery Williams Bianco ill Helene Magisson New Frontier Publishing 2015 ISBN: 9781925059304

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

Bleakboy and Hunter Stand Out in the Rain, by Steven Herrick

My name is Jesse James Jones. Call me Jesse. Don’t call me triple j. I’m not a radio station, I’m an eleven-year-old boy.
Trevor looks down on me with understanding eyes. It’s pretty tough going through life with a name that people make fun of. ‘ven though I walk through the valley of the shadow -‘
‘Mum! Jesse’s talking to himself again!’ yells my sister Beth, from the next room.
‘Jesse.’ Mum’s voice is reproachful, as though I’ve been caught doing something sinful.

Fitting in to a new school is rarely easy, and when there’s a school bully with you firmly in his sights, it’s definitely going to be difficult. Lucky for Jesse there’s also a girl called Kate who has curly black hair and a beautiful smile. While Jesse’s helping her to save the whales, he’s also trying to save starving orphans in Africa, and his family from financial ruin.

Bleakboy and Hunter Stand out in the Rain is a funny story about standing up for beliefs, friendship and fitting in. Told from the first point viewpoint of Jesse, interspersed with a third person look at Hunter’s perspective, the reader is thus able to see the complexities of the boys’ interaction as well as what is happening in each boy’s life. This adds a depth which a single viewpoint would lack.

Young readers will enjoy the silliness of scenes including Jesse’s interaction with a poster of Jesus (who he calls Trevor to appease his atheist parents) and Hunter’s ability to find sponsorship for the Save the Whales cause , whilst appreciating the poignancy of the tougher moments of the story.

Herrick is a powerful storyteller. Bleakboy and Hunter Stand out in the Rain will not disappoint.


Bleakboy and Hunter Stand out in the Rain, by Steven Herrick
UQP, 2014
ISBN 9780702250163

You can read an interview with Steven Herrick here.

This book is available from good bookstores or online.

Pretty Girl, by J. C. Burke

The other girls are looking up and laughing, the tension dissolving around them. But it’s not for Sarah. Where Sarah and Tallulah have found themselves in their first year of college is worse than Sarah could ever have been imagined.

AT school Sarah, Tallulah, Jess and Tallulah were inseparable, so when they were all offered places at the same university college, it seemed certain their friendship would continue to flourish. But none of them could have foreseen the way their first year at university would pan out. Sarah’s having relationship trouble with her long-term boyfriend Wil, Paige and Jess hare both keeping secrets about their new crushes, and Tallulah is partying way too hard. Then Sarah finds Paige face down in the university swimming pool, and although she saves her, the months that follow are confusing. Was it a terrible accident, or did someone hurt Paige? Sarah saw something that night, but hasn’t told anyone, for reasons of her own. Then Jess has a fatal accident, and the remaining girls struggle to remain connected.

Pretty Girl is an intriguing blend of thriller and coming of age tale. Told from the dual perspectives of friends Sarah and Paige, readers are able to piece together much of the mystery of what has happened, but at the same time can only guess at how it will end. Alongside the mystery, we see the two girls, and (to a lesser extent) their friends, struggle to find their place in the world. Their friendships, their relationships and their sense of identity are all questioned as they navigate a tumultuous year.

An absorbing read for teens and young adults.


Pretty Girl, J.C. Burke

Pretty Girl, by J. C. Burke
Random House, 2013
ISBN 9781741663136

Available from good bookstores and online.