Don't Wake the Troll, by Ben Kitchin & Ben Redlich

They hadn’t gone down far into the dripping gloom when
kerlunk, kerlunk, kerlunk…
“Everybody stop!” whispered Gobo.
“Our shields! Our shields are bumping and kerlunking into our armour!
We must take them off and leave them. We don’t want to wake the troll!”

Deep inside the mountain, a giant troll sleeps with a pile of stolen treasure. The dwarves want their treasure back, but they have to be careful not to wake the troll. This isn’t easy when you’re carrying kerlunking shields and tinging swords, wearing creaky armour and your way is lit by sputtering torches. Will they get the treasure back without waking the troll?

Don’t Wake the Troll is a humorous picture book adventure, perfect for reading aloud to preschool aged children, who will love the sounds, the humour of the plot and the amazing illustrations. The latter manage to have plenty of colour even though the majority of the story takes place in an underground tunnel, and the dwarves and troll are delightfully comic in their expressions.

Lots of fun.


Don’t Wake the Troll, by Ben Kitchin & Ben Redlich
Koala Books, 2013
ISBN 9781742760605

Available from good bookstores or online.

Octavius O'Malley and the Mystery of the Criminal Cats

I should have known it wasn’t the mice.
You would think that, after all this time, I would have worked out that mice aren’t responsible for every bad thing that happens in the world. After all, I am the smartest rat detective in all of Rodent City.
But if I have learnt one thing in all of my many adventures, it is that everyone makes mistakes. Yes, I mean everyone. Even me – Octavius O’Malley. And this mistake would prove to be the biggest one I ever made. It would cost me almost everything.

Octavius O’Malley returns in his third adventure. The detective rat makes one little mistake and he’s out of a job. No longer Chief of Police, he still has a mystery to solve. He sets up his shingle, co-opts an assistant and Octavius ‘Ocko’ O’Malley is in business. Something is not right. Cobblestones are disappearing from the streets, strange smells are wafting about, there’s talk of a new cult, and the maker of Ocko’s favourite doughnuts has gone missing. It’s something to do with cats, and Ocko sets out to get to the bottom of the whole ratty, catty, smelly, cobblestone-y business. Ben Redlich’s wonderfully wild drawings add to the fun.

Ocko tells his own story, in first person with multiple asides. He reassures the reader that he’s in charge, in control and is generally the best and brightest detective in town. The reader knows better and can groan and eyeroll with Ocko’s over-worked and under-acknowledged sidekicks, Spencer and Patrick the Magnificent. These two are mice and only grudgingly accepted as assistants. Ocko is entertainingly flawed, with an infinite capacity for self-congratulation and an endless hunger for triple fudge chocolate-coated strawberry surprise doughnuts. Octavius O’Malley and the Mystery of the Criminal Cats is full of fun and humour and sure to be a hit with 9-12 year olds.

Octavius O’Malley and the Mystery of the Criminal Cats, Alan Sunderland ill Ben Redlich
Harper Collins 2008
ISBN: 9780207200502

Whacko the Chook, by Mark Svendsen & Ben Redlich

Whacko the Chook is feeling sad, and decides she needs a friend – so she sets out to find one. But the other chooks are busy with their own lives, and don’t seem to need Whacko. Each rejection makes her sadder and sadder, until finally she gives in to the urge to go and hide in a nice dark place. But in the nesting box she discovers that her urge for a friend is also a deeper urge to lay an egg. With her new egg, Rodney, Whacko realises she has a friend all of her own.

Whacko the Chook is a humorous picture book story with a gentle message. Kids will love the different chicken characters – as well as Whacko, a plain white chicken with a scraggly red head, there is Henny-wise, a helmet wearing hunter, Chooky Looky, a crazy spotted hen who is convinced the sky is falling, and Pretty-Little Pennyfeather, a vain, conceited hen. Adult readers will enjoy creating voices for the four characters, with plenty of dialogue with which to have fun. The illustrations, too, will delight, with the browns and greys of the chook pen brightened with the reds of the hens’ heads and other splashes of colour. The hens’ facial expressions are hilarious.

This a fun offering which will appeal to the obvious preschool audience, but also to older children.

Whacko the Chook

Whacko the Chook, by Mark Svendsen and Ben Redlich
Lothian, 2007

This book can be purchased online at Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

Pet Palace, by Adrienne Frater

We didn’t have to wait too long before we discovered how Radish earned her money. Number 88 was looking pretty posh by now. The new pink paint glowed like candyfloss. The new palm trees spread out like lime-green sun umbrellas. And on Saturday, Radish hung a purple sign above the gate. It said – Pet Palace.

When a mysterious lady buys the house across the road and starts doing it up, Angie and Jeremy are intrigued. But when the owner puts up a sign saying “Pet Palace’, and all kinds of pampered pets start to arrive, they are desperate to see inside the house.

Jeremy has a great idea – he dresses up as an animal welfare officer and visits the Pet Palace. But what the children see there is shocking. The animals are not being well cared for at all. Fortunately, Jeremy has another great idea to save the animals.

Pet Palace is a humorous chapter book for 6 to 10 year old readers, with elements of mystery and adventure. The text is easily accessible for readers new to the chapter book format and the cartoon-style illustrations, by Ben Redlich, are a fun complement.

Pet Palace is part of Lothian’s Start Ups series.

Pet Palace, by Adrienne Frater, illustrated by Ben Redlich
Lothian, 2006

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