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

Review Tommy Bell Bushranger Boy 2: The Horse Thief by Jane Smith

There was a new kid at school. His name was Francis and after only one day he was already the most popular kid in Tommy Bell’s class.

The boys liked Francis because he was good t sports. The girls liked him because he was good-looking, and eve the teachers liked him because he was polite and clever. Tommy liked him because Francis loved horses.

There was a new kid at school. His name was Francis and after only one day he was already the most popular kid in Tommy Bell’s class.

The boys liked Francis because he was good at sports. The girls liked him because he was good-looking, and even the teachers liked him because he was polite and clever. Tommy liked him because Francis loved horses.

There’s a new kid at school and he’s very popular. Tommy likes him too because Francis also likes horses. Tommy has his own horse, Combo, near his house on the edge of town. Tommy is pleased to be invited to be part of Francis’s friendship group. But membership requires him to break a school rule, and there are consequences. Although he avoids trouble, Tommy is uneasy.  When Tommy is on holidays with his family, he is again transported back in time. He meets a charming bushranger, Francis Christie who seems to be able to talk himself out of most trouble. Tommy is initially drawn into by his silver tongue, but struggles to maintain his trust of the bushranger. Chapter headings are full page and titled as well as numbered. Illustrations are scattered throughout.

Tommy Bell Bushranger Boy’ is a new series from Big Sky Publishing. Each adventure brings history to life for young Tommy, by transporting him from life in a rural town to meet up with a bushranger. Tommy has to decide whether or not he is comfortable with the sometimes questionable behaviours and excuses he encounters. Each of the encounters also serve to help him work through dilemmas he his experiencing in his own life. Chapters are short and titles help to hint at what’s to come. Recommended for independent readers in low-mid primary.

Tommy Bell Bushranger Boy: The Horse Thief, Jane Smith
Big Sky Publishing  2016
ISBN: 9781925520064

Tommy Bell Bushranger Boy 1: Shoot-out at the Rock by Jane Smith

Right from the start of the school day, things went wrong for Tommy Bell.

It began when Mrs O’Grady handed back their history tests and Tommy got a big fat two out of ten. She frowned at him and said, ‘Tommy, see me at lunch time.’

That was bad news. Mrs O’Grady was nice but she was strict. Tommy was dreading lunchtime.

‘But history’s boring,’ Tommy tried to explain later, when Mrs O’Grady kept him back. …

… ‘It’s only boring if you’re not using your imagination,’ said Mrs O’Grady.

Right from the start of the school day, things went wrong for Tommy Bell.

It began when Mrs O’Grady handed back their history tests and Tommy got a big fat two out of ten. She frowned at him and said, ‘Tommy, see me at lunch time.’

That was bad news. Mrs O’Grady was nice but she was strict. Tommy was dreading lunchtime.

‘But history’s boring,’ Tommy tried to explain later, when Mrs O’Grady kept him back. …

… ‘It’s only boring if you’re not using your imagination,’ said Mrs O’Grady.

Tommy is struggling to connect with history. It seems to be all facts and figures and that’s boring. His teacher suggests that he needs to connect more by using his imagination. As a consequence of his poor history test results, she gives him a book to read during lunch break. This is not how he planned to spend his lunch break and he’s a bit cross. He’s missing out on donuts! When his plan to get the last donut goes badly wrong, Tommy finds himself in more trouble than he imagined. And to make things even worse, he’s headed off to spend school holidays with his grandfather. Tommy is struggling to make sense of history, because it feels too boring. It also feels like he is being punished unjustly. But his trip to his grandfather’s farm  is wilder than he expects when he is transported back to gold rush times. Now he is living history and it’s anything but boring. There are occasional full-page illustrations scattered throughout. Titled chapter pages hint at the action to come.

Tommy Bell Bushranger Boy is a new series of early chapter books for independent readers. Part of each book is set in a contemporary country town, and part takes Tommy back to early times when bushrangers roamed the countryside. In this first instalment, Tommy is transported back in time and meets Captain Thunderbolt.  He experiences what it is to live the life of a bushranger. It’s certainly exciting but not necessarily anything like he might have imagined. There are moral and ethical challenges he must confront in the context of this historical world that link to his own life. Recommended for independent readers in lower-mid primary school.
Tommy Bell Bushranger Boy 1: Shoot-out at the Rock, Jane Smith
Big Sky Publishing 2016
ISBN: 9781925275940

The Heart of the Forest, by Barry Jonsberg

Personally, I blame Granddad.
Mum and Dad walked a hundred metres ahead. I trailed behind them. Aaron trailed behind me. Words floated back, like leaves spinning in the air.
‘…staying a month?’ yelled Mum.
Her hands fluttered. Not a good sign.
‘…can’t stand it …moans all the time …mutters constantly.’
Dad’s hands entered the battle.
‘…is my father, after all…not his fault…old…’
I lagged further behind.

Twins are supposed to have a special bond, but Keely has some reservations about that theory. But she’s not really thinking about that when the family travel to the Blue Mountains to take a walk. She’s thinking about surprising Mum and Dad and making them smile for once. There haven’t been that many smiles lately. But her plan is turned upside down when she becomes lost off the path. Now she can’t see or hear her parents. Aaron is there, but as the older (by two minutes) twin, Keely is not listening to what he says. She’s sure she knows best.

The Mates series from Omnibus are short punchy, illustrated stories, un-ashamedly Aussie-Australian. They often involve the unique environment that is part of the lives of most Australians (even if it’s only on holidays for city-dwellers). Like all good stories, there’s often a twist in the tail, and The Heart of the Forest sure has one of those! It differs from many of the other titles in this series in that it has less humour, but don’t be put off by that. It’s a lost-in-the-bush story with its own special magic. Granddad, who gets the blame

for the whole sorry mess, is nowhere to be seen/heard. The Heart of the Forest has short chapters, illustrations on each page and words highlighted (some challenging, others confidence-building). Recommended for newly independent readers.

The Heart of the Forest , Barry Jonsberg Omnibus Books 2010
ISBN: 9781862918139

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author
www.clairesaxby.com.

This book can be purchased in good bookstores or online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

Chook Shed Snake, by Phil Cummings

A curious brown snake was slithering happily through the tall, crackle-dry grass by the creek.
Its tongue was flicking, it’s glassy eyes staring.
Hisssssss.

Dad is in trouble about the state of the chook yard, and he HAS to do something about it. But he doesn’t know that a big brown snake has come to check out the chook yard, too. When the kids spot the snake, Dad has to be brave to fix the problem.

Chook Shed Snake is an easy to read offering set in rural Australia and dealing with a situation many rural children will relate to – and which rural and city children alike will enjoy. Using action and humour, the story is both exciting and funny, a combination which will entice beginning readers.

Part of Omnibus’ new Mates series, Chook Shed Snake is illustrated in colour, with short chapters in a format likely to appeal to readers of all abilities.

Chook Shed Snake (Mates)

Chook Shed Snake (Mates), by Phil Cummings, ill by Greg Holfeld
Omnibus, 2009

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

Harry and Luke, by Glynn Parry

One night, Harry’s bed grows feet and takes him out for a walk in the city. He meets a boy called Luke, riding on an elephant. Together the pair have wild and wierd adventures.

Harry likes being friends with Luke, but maybe Luke needs more than a friend – perhaps what he needs is a family, especially now that his Auntie Kate has flown off to live in the outback.

Can Harry and his family make evryone’s dreams come true?

Harry and Luke is a fun novel for 7 to 9 year old children. Part of the new Hotshots series from Hodder, this simple fantasy is suitable for kids making the transition into novel format books.

Glynn Parry is better known for his young adult novels, including Scooterboy and Monster Man. He lives in Western Australia with his wife and three children.

Harry and Luke, by Glynn Parry
Hodder Headline Australia, 2002

Gypsy Magic, by Moya Simons

School holidays are meant to be fun, but Becky isn’t that thrilled with the outlook for hers. Her Mum and Dad have gone to New Zealand and she’s been left with her babysitter, Mrs Amati, who has a chrystal ball and says she’s a gypsy. All of Becky’s friends are out of town and the only kids left to play with are a strange girl called Zara and a painful boy called Josh.

But when there’s a bank robbery in town, the three chidlren are on their way to solving it, with a touch of gypsy magic. Mrs Amati’s crystal ball could be the key to turning Becky’s holiday around.

Moya Simons lives in New South Wales and has written lots of great books for chidlren, including Whoppers and Dead Average. Gypsy Magic will appeal to readers aged nine to twelve.

Gypsy Magic, by Moya Simons
Omnibus Books (a Scholastic imprint), 2002

Tashi and the Haunted House, by Anna Fienberg and Barbara Fienberg

There’s a light in the window of the haunted house, and Tashi is going in.

Tashi is back and has two new adventures to share in Tashi and the Haunted House. In the first story Tashi finds Ning Jing hiding in the haunted house, scared of her nasty cousin Bu Li. Tashi comes up with a spooky plan to scare him right out of the forest. In the second, Tashi is confronted by two mysterious creatures in the village square. Tashi knows the demons are back and they want to beat him. Can he outwit them, and save the village school?

Tashi is an appealing character from a magical far away land, the creation of Anna Fienberg and her mother Barbara. This is the ninth book in the Tashi series, and is sure to convince those who are not yet Tashi fans to read the whole set.

Brought to life in the illustrations of Kim Gamble, Tashi shares his adventures with his friend Jack and the whole family.

Anna Fienberg is the author of many popular and award-winning books for children, including Joseph, shortlisted for the 2002 Children’s Book Council Awards, and Horrendo’s Curse. Her mother, Barbara Fienberg, is the chief plot-deviser for the Tashi books.

Kim Gamble is an award-winning artist. He has illustrated many of Fienberg’s books as well as those of other authors, including Margaret Wild.

Tashi and the Haunted House is sure to delight youngsters aged 6 to 10.

Tashi and the Haunted House, by Anna Fienberg and Barbara Fienberg, illustrated by Kim Gamble
Allen & Unwin, 2002

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.

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