Great Goal! Marvellous Mark! by Katrina Germein ill Janine Dawson

Aussie Rules is awesome.
I always arrive on time.
Out on the boundary Bailey warms up.
He takes a bounce and boots the ball; a banana kick bends to me.

Great Goal! Marvellous Mark!’ begins with the arrival of players at an AFL football game, continues through the game and ends as the game does. Told from the perspective of one of the players, it is also an alphabet book. As the game progresses, so does the alphabet. Every player has a chance to shine, whether it’s taking marks, making a pass, or kicking a goal. The rain may come down, the grass may turn into mud, but nothing can dampen the enthusiasm of these ball players. Illustrations depict a dull and rainy day with umbrella-wielding parents cheering from the sidelines.

Great Goal! Marvellous Mark!’ celebrates junior AFL football, and all the things it should be about – having fun, having a go, learning teamwork and sliding in the mud. The alphabetic sentences read easily and are full of football-ness. The illustrations are full of extra elements for the reader to find, from the mud following the flight of the ball on the ‘f’ page to the child eating under the watchful eye of a magpie on the ‘v’ page. A broad range of cultures and body types are represented, as is the child who lives, eats, breathes and sleeps football. Recommended for early-schoolers.

Great Goal! Marvellous Mark!, Katrina Germein ill Janine Dawson
Ford Street Publishing 2017
ISBN: 9781925272673

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

Spark by Adam Wallace and Andrew Plant

I began as a tiny spark

all alone in the dry grass.

‘Let’s play,’ said the wind.

‘Okay,’ I replied.

The wind whistled and gently picked me up.

I began as a tiny spark

all alone in the dry grass.

‘Let’s play,’ said the wind.

‘Okay,’ I replied.

The wind whistled and gently picked me up.

Spark is the story of a wild fire, told from the perspective of elemental fire. It begins as a spark, and in answer to a question from the wind, the two begin to play. The ‘play’ escalates as the fire and wind race across the land until the fire acknowledges the destruction and wants to end the game. The wind continues until together, they turn on their path and witness the cost of the play. Illustrations are painted and progress from summer sunny through bright flame to black and greys to finish with the tiniest glimmer of colour. Text is hand-drawn by illustrator Andrew Plant. Image frames grow with the intensity of the fire and retreat as it does. Image frames set in smoky pages.

Spark is the story of the consequences of a single careless incident. There’s a sense of menace from the front cover on, hands-over-the-eyes please-don’t-let-this-happen inevitability. What starts small quickly builds out of control, with no time to see the damage. Bit like bullying really. Suggested reading age is pre-school but it will have applications well beyond preschool, particularly in the classroom. Illustrations provide the opportunity to search out beetles, ants and larger animals as fire chases all before it. Recommended for early primary and for inclusion in discussions about both fire and bullying.

Spark, Adam Wallace and Andrew Plant
Ford Street Publishing 2016
ISBN: 9781925272413

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

www.clairesaxby.com

The Legend Series 1: Chasing the Break by Michael Panckridge

Assemblies are pretty much the same everywhere, even first day of the year ones.

I should know. This was my third new school in five years. Big pack of kids.

Teachers standing round the edges. A few mums holding babies.

We were sitting in a hall. Preppies were way down at the front looking nervous and excited, and the big kids – the kids in their final year – up the back here, with me. None of the kids around me looked nervous … was I the only new kid? I took a deep breath and tried to focus on the speaker out the front.

Assemblies are pretty much the same everywhere, even first day of the year ones.

I should know. This was my third new school in five years. Big pack of kids.

Teachers standing round the edges. A few mums holding babies.

We were sitting in a hall. Preppies were way down at the front looking nervous and excited, and the big kids – the kids in their final year – up the back here, with me. None of the kids around me looked nervous … was I the only new kid? I took a deep breath and tried to focus on the speaker out the front.

Mitchell Grady is the new kid at school. At his new school, Sandhurst Primary, there’s a tradition – every year, the two upper year level students can compete in individual sports to become a ‘legend’, and if they chose they can compete in all sports to be ‘Legend of Sport’. Mitchell is good at sport, this just might be his way into this new school. But Travis Fisk is already ‘Legend of Sport’ from last year and he’s intent on repeating his win by whatever methods necessary. Chasing the Break is set at school camp by the sea, and the sport that may or may not be included in the championship is surfing.

The Legend Series has been written (according to a note at the front of the book) particularly with sports-lovers in mind. They are full of sport detail and short enough to read quickly. They are told from the perspective of new kid Mitchell and allow an outsiders look at the culture of the school he’s just joined. Mitchell’s voice is a mature one and there are nods to his beginning interest – purely platonic – in some of the female sports students. Extras include a contents page, a quiz, statistics and more. Re-jacketed and with a new publisher, Chasing the Break will find a new readership, particularly amongst the sporty kids.

The Legend Series 1: Chasing the Break, Michael Panckridge
Ford Street Publishing 2016
ISBN: 9781925272482

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

www.clairesaxby.com

The Legend Series 2: Against the Spin by Michael Panckridge

Mr Bronsen said cricket was a game you had to live and breathe. At first, I didn’t get that. But I was beginning to understand. It meant having a cricket ball in your hands – all the time. It meant reading about the Australian cricket team – past and present. It meant listening to the experts and watching the game whenever you get the chance. And, of course, it meant playing. It also meant lying in bed at night dreaming of walking out to play for your country.

‘Hey, kid, can you bat?’

Mr Bronsen said cricket was a game you had to live and breathe. At first, I didn’t get that. But I was beginning to understand. It meant having a cricket ball in your hands – all the time. It meant reading about the Australian cricket team – past and present. It meant listening to the experts and watching the game whenever you get the chance. And, of course, it meant playing. It also meant lying in bed at night dreaming of walking out to play for your country.

‘Hey, kid, can you bat?’

Mitchell is back in a new title in The Legend Series. This time the sport is cricket and there’s a buzz about the school as the students speculate if Mitchell has a chance of beating Travis Fisk, last year’s winner of the Cricket Legend title. After winning the Surfing Legend title, Mitchell is keen to compete in the cricket competition. Mitchell is still the ‘new kid’ but he’s making friends quickly and there are plenty of others who’d be happy to see bad boy Travis eat crow. Cricket is also new friend, Bubba’s favourite game, although his parents would prefer he never played again. By fair means or foul, this is going to be a hot competition.

The Legend Series is back, reworked, rejacketed and with a new publisher, ready for a new generation of readers. Each is designed to appeal to keen sports people, particularly those who might find sitting down for extended periods challenging. Short chapters, thrills and spills, statistics and scorecards all keep the pages turning. Mitchell tells his story and although the boys’ competition gains most of the airtime, there is a parallel girls’s cricket competition and Mitchell is full of admiration for several of the girls, and perhaps one in particular. Recommended for sports fans and reluctant readers.

The Legend Series 2: Against the Spin, Michael Panckridge
Ford Street Publishing 2016
ISBN: 9781925272499

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

www.clairesaxby.com

Three by Justin D’Ath

The explosion that killed my parents happened halfway through Second Lesson. We all heard the dull thump, even though the Presidential Palace was fully two kilometres from school. Mr Chibei, our new teacher, was writing the traditional word for patriot on the chalkboard. He went still for a moment. The rest of us looked up at the windows. I don’t know what we expected to see – mightbe smoke? Mighbe the looping white trails of rebel mortars? – but all we saw were fat-bellied clouds.

Storm clouds.

We continued with our lesson. Mr Chibei wrote thunder, first in English, then in Zantugi, and we all felt relieved.

The explosion that killed my parents happened halfway through Second Lesson. We all heard the dull thump, even though the Presidential Palace was fully two kilometres from school. Mr Chibei, our new teacher, was writing the traditional word for patriot on the chalkboard. He went still for a moment. The rest of us looked up at the windows. I don’t know what we expected to see – mightbe smoke? Mighbe the looping white trails of rebel mortars? – but all we saw were fat-bellied clouds.

Storm clouds.

We continued with our lesson. Mr Chibei wrote thunder, first in English, then in Zantugi, and we all felt relieved.

Son of President Balewo, and heir-apparent to the presidency, Sunday Balewo is at school, wondering why Holly (who he has recently kissed for the first time) is not at school today, when a bomb explodes in the Presidential P, killing both his parents. There has been a coup d’etat and General Mbuti has seized control of the country. Now it seems a bomb-carrying baboon is searching for him. Lucky for Sunday, he’s a talented athlete known as ‘Magic Feet’, because his life is about to accelerate out of control. He’s truly on the run. He must keep one step ahead of the bomb-carrying baboon as well as trying to work out who to trust in in the aftermath of the coup. People he has known all his life are suddenly strangers, and strangers become friends.

Three begins with a bomb, then speeds up to missile pace. The relatively naïve and sheltered 16 year-old Sunday takes a little while to realise that his life will ever be the same. He has no time to mourn his parents, or to consider what he will now do, because he has to make split-second decisions to stay alive. This is an abrupt coming of age, where the main character Sunday has not only to navigate the world beyond his palace upbringing, but he also has to establish his own trust parameters. It is no longer relevant to accept the parameters set by his father. Amid the explosive (sorry) action, Sunday faces very real moral dilemmas and a re-assessment of what he wants from his own life. Recommended for upper-primary, early-secondary readers who love thrillers.

Three, Justin D’Ath
Ford Street Publishing 2016
ISBN: 9781925272277

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

www.clairesaxby.com

Time Catcher by Cheree Peters

The same thing happens every time. Everything seems normal. the air is quiet and the trees are still. then the loud crash and I lose myself in the chaos. Bodies everywhere, unconscious or dead, I cannot tell. People screaming and running in every direction; me, trying to figure out what has happened.

This is my dream-nightmare.

The same faces appear, but they are blurred, almost like shadows of what they once were. I can make out the outlines of small houses; one of them is on fire. I swivel my head in slow motion, looking at the chaos in the open space to my right.

The boy with the piercing blue eyes appears. Though he is blurred and distorted like the others, I can always recognise those eyes – so clear and bright, like stars in the night sky. Like mine.

The same thing happens every time. Everything seems normal. the air is quiet and the trees are still. then the loud crash and I lose myself in the chaos. Bodies everywhere, unconscious or dead, I cannot tell. People screaming and running in every direction; me, trying to figure out what has happened.

This is my dream-nightmare.

The same faces appear, but they are blurred, almost like shadows of what they once were. I can make out the outlines of small houses; one of them is on fire. I swivel my head in slow motion, looking at the chaos in the open space to my right.

The boy with the piercing blue eyes appears. Though he is blurred and distorted like the others, I can always recognise those eyes – so clear and bright, like stars in the night sky. Like mine.

Althea is a mid-teen princess, in a post-apocalyptic world, adored and adoring daughter of the King Duncan of Cardiff. She lives in wealth and privilege, even if sometimes royal duties become a bit of a chore. Life would be just about perfect except the fact that she has only one friend and a ‘swain’ she’s having second thoughts about. And then there’s the seizures that are an all-too-regular feature of her day. Not that she’s left to suffer – her father, physician, maid and sentinel are on hand to keep her as comfortable and safe as possible. All this changes when there is an abduction attempt during a parade. Althea’s world begins to unravel, until she has no idea who – if anyone – she can trust.

Time Catcher is the first in a trilogy from new author, Cheree Peters. She has created a world altered by climate change and a virus which has wiped out many and created ‘manipulators’, an outcast and persecuted population on the fringes of Althea’s pampered world. Utopian world even. But perceived Utopias are often not as they seem. Althea has to shrug off the protection and luxury around her to discover who she truly is, and to also discover her place in this world. Althea story is told in first person so the reader discovers with her, and sometimes ahead of her. Themes include truth and justice, power, equity and more. This is to be a trilogy, so the ending is also a beginning. Recommended for upper primary, lower secondary readers.

Time Catcher, Cheree Peters
Ford Street Publishing 2016
ISBN: 9781925272215

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

www.clairesaxby.com

The Vanilla Slice Kid by Adam Wallace and Jack Wodhams ill Tom Gittus

Before Archie Cunningham was born, his mum developed an overwhelming craving for cakes and other cake-like delights. Vanilla slices, cupcakes, lemon tarts, cookies, ice-cream cakes, chocolate mud cake with triple chocolate icing – no cake was safe when Mrs Cunningham was around.

… She did care about her husband, who worked very hard to make money to buy cakes (partly for her, partly because he liked cakes too). They had been married quite a long time, and having a baby was quite a shock to them, and not an altogether pleasant one.

The Vanilla Slice KidBefore Archie Cunningham was born, his mum developed an overwhelming craving for cakes and other cake-like delights. Vanilla slices, cupcakes, lemon tarts, cookies, ice-cream cakes, chocolate mud cake with triple chocolate icing – no cake was safe when Mrs Cunningham was around.

She did care about her husband, who worked very hard to make money to buy cakes (partly for her, partly because he liked cakes too). They had been married quite a long time, and having a baby was quite a shock to them, and not an altogether pleasant one.

Archie Cunningham is born with a magical ability. It’s an ability his dreadful parents immediately plan to benefit from. They have little interest in him, only the things he can do. They don’t send him to school, not from any sense of protection or love for their child, but because they don’t want to share his gift. Archie grows up isolated, lonely and shy. But secrets like this are hard to keep and before he knows it, everyone wants to know Archie. Life is definitely more exciting now, and Archie will need all his skills to survive. Black and white illustrations appear on most openings and chapter headings are ‘written’ in piped icing.

The Vanilla Slice Kid is totally absurd – colourful and wild. Archie’s search for a ‘normal’ life – you know, with friends, stability and mentors – is hampered by a succession of avaricious adults who want to manipulate him for their own ends. Archie must work out who he can trust, what he can do, so he can take control of his own life. And he does, with hilarious if often gross results. ‘The Vanilla Slice Kid’ will appeal to a wide age range from lower primary up. Confident readers will rip through it. Younger readers will be begging for just one more chapter.

The Vanilla Slice Kid, Adam Wallace and Jack Wodhams ill Tom Gittus

Ford Street Publishing 2015 ISBN: 9781925272024

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

www.clairesaxby.com

Voicing the Dead by Gary Crew

You ask, ‘Can the dead speak?’

I answer, ‘Is this blood that runs in my veins, or ink?’

You ask, ‘Are you real or a character in a book?’

I answer, ‘I am real enough. I call myself Jack Ireland. I am sixteen years old. A century ago I sailed the South Seas. I lived then, I live now.’

You ask, ‘So is this history?’

I answer, ‘If it bores you, shut the book – but you will not silence my voice. After all I have suffered, it is impossible to destroy me. So I ask you to red me. I ask you to hear me. See me. Touch me. Others have, and tasted my blood …’

You ask, ‘Yet you are still alive?’

I answer, ‘Ask no more. Read …’

You ask, ‘Can the dead speak?’  Voicing the Dead

I answer, ‘Is this blood that runs in my veins, or ink?’

You ask, ‘Are you real or a character in a book?’

I answer, ‘I am real enough. I call myself Jack Ireland. I am sixteen years old. A century ago I sailed the South Seas. I lived then, I live now.’

You ask, ‘So is this history?’

I answer, ‘If it bores you, shut the book – but you will not silence my voice. After all I have suffered, it is impossible to destroy me. So I ask you to red me. I ask you to hear me. See me. Touch me. Others have, and tasted my blood …’

You ask, ‘Yet you are still alive?’

I answer, ‘Ask no more. Read …’

Jack Ireland was best boy to the captain of ‘Charles Eaton’ a sailing ship in the 1830s. He thinks well of himself, perhaps a little too well. Even before the ship has pulled anchor, he has to revise his thinking and become a little more humble. But his life aboard ship is easier than many of the the crew and some of the passengers. The ‘Charles Eaton’ travels to Australia and delivers its load before heading north into the Torres Strait. There they are shipwrecked and Jack’s real adventure begins. Their boats are wrecked and passengers and some crew set out on a raft. Jack begins to show his mettle as the remaining crew seek food and build a second raft. They discover tropical paradise islands and encounter indigenous islanders. These are traders. Jack doesn’t need to understand their language to realise that he and others are tradeable.

Fourteen-year-old Jack Ireland is determined to tell his own tale. Others have told it, he says, but not as truly as he can himself. He finds himself with ‘ink in his veins’ and able to travel through and reference all the books he’s read. And having been the Captain’s best boy, he’s read his way through the Captain’s vast library. More than this, he’s read through many other books throughout time, both before and after his shipwreck. He quotes from books written about the ‘Charles Eaton’ and about himself. He acknowledges where they get it right, but mostly he feels that he is not well-represented, or not well enough. He seeks to set the tale straight. ‘Voicing the Dead’ is based on a real shipwreck, Jack Ireland was one of the survivors, but this story is fiction, a revisiting of the journey leading to the shipwreck and the time afterwards. The reader looking for adventure will find rewards here, as will the historian and literature buff. This is a complex and rich novel, full of intrigue and sensory detail. Recommended for mature secondary-aged readers.

Voicing the Dead, Gary Crew
Ford Street Publishing 2015 ISBN: 9781925272055

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

www.clairesaxby.com

Belinda the Ninja Ballerina by Candida Baker ill Mitch Vane

Belinda didn’t want to go to ballet school.

‘You’ll enjoy it,’ her mother said.

‘I won’t,’ Belinda said. ‘I want to be a ninja.’

Belinda didn’t want to go to ballet school. Belinda, the Ninja Ballerina

‘You’ll enjoy it,’ her mother said.

‘I won’t,’ Belinda said. ‘I want to be a ninja.’

Belinda is very clear. She wants to be a ninja. She says it before her mother signs her up to do ballet classes with her very balletic cousin Millie. She tells her teacher, Miss Kate, when they are warming up on the barre and showing what they can do. She continues to tell her mother and her teacher, but neither seem to really believe her, even when planning and practice begin for their end-of-term concert. So she says it again, loudly. Miss Kate listens this time and finds the perfect role for Belinda. Her new role keeps her involved in the concert but caters for her particular interests and skills. Illustrations are ink and water colour set in white space.

Belinda’s mother is convinced Belinda will enjoy ballet classes with her cousin despite her stated preference to be a ninja. Miss Kate does her best to teach Belinda about ballet, but while it’s perfect for her cousin Millie, ballet is not the activity for Belinda. Belinda, the Ninja Ballerina is a gently humourous story about a determined young girl who will not fit into the mould expected of her. It’s also a story about the need for, and ability of teachers, to accommodate the different needs/skills of their charges. Belinda’s persistence and self-belief will reassure children who find they don’t necessarily fit mainstream programs/activities. Recommended for pre- and early-schoolers.

Belinda, the Ninja Ballerina, Candida Baker ill Mitch Vane Ford Street Publishing 2015 ISBN: 9781925272048

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

www.clairesaxby.com

The Warlock’s Child Bk 1: The Burning Sea by Paul Collins & Sean McMullen

Even an invasion fleet of five hundred ships is not very impressive from three miles above, and the watcher was not impressed. This was because he was bigger and more powerful than any of the warships below.

Drvaud circled lazily on vast wings, reaching out with senses that even the most learned of human wizards could never understand. Something familiar was down there, its presence faint but distinct. It was as tiny as a spark, yet a spark could set an entire city ablaze.

Even an invasion fleet of five hundred ships is not very impressive from three miles above, and the watcher was not impressed. This was because he was bigger and more powerful than any of the warships below.

Drvaud circled lazily on vast wings, reaching out with senses that even the most learned of human wizards could never understand. Something familiar was down there, its presence faint but distinct. It was as tiny as a spark, yet a spark could set an entire city ablaze.

The Burning Sea opens with a dragon’s eye view of a warring world. But there is something confusing about the fleet below, something dragon-like. For Dantar, on one of the ships of the fleet below, life as a cabin boy is hard work. Even though he is son of a battle warlock, no one gets a free ride aboard ship. His sister, Velza, aboard another ship in the fleet has gained a foothold in the male dominated forces, but she knows just how tenuous leadership is. And into battle they go.

The Burning Sea is a collaboration between two well-known fantasy authors, Paul Collins and Sean McMullen. It is Book One of a six-book series, all slated for 2015 release. Cover art from accomplished dragon-conjurer Mark McBride ensures that young fantasy readers will be immediately engaged. Dantar is an underdog who for reasons slowly evolving is marked as important. There are three viewpoint characters: Dantar, his sister Velza; and Dragons. They take turns in allowing the reader into their world view. Although they have different experiences, this world is full of magic, deception, betrayal – all elements of a grand tale. Recommended for mid-primary readers.

 

The Warlock’s Child Bk 1: The Burning Sea , Paul Collins & Sean McMullen
Ford Street Publishing 2015 ISBN: 9781925000924