Glitch by Michelle Worthington ill Andrew Plant

Glitch was a trembly, twittery, twitchy kind of bug,
who built amazing creations from the treasures he found on the rubbish heap where he lived.
June was much more calm, which made her a brilliant billycart driver and his most trusted friend.

Glitch and his friend June enter the Billycart race every year. The race is held at the tip where they live and their billycarts made from bits they find there. Glitch is great at building billycarts but not so great at being the navigator when June drives in the race. Each year something goes wrong and they – the team with the best billycart – miss out. This year, when they have a crash in the lead up to the race, June hatches a plan. It depends on trembly, twittery, twitchy Glitch doing something he’s never done before. Illustrations include colourful and friendly-looking bugs of all hues. The tip becomes a treasure trove and a racetrack.

‘Glitch’ celebrates the friendship between two bugs. Together they make a great team – or they would, if Glitch could get over his twitchiness and focus on race day. This year, with the best billycart ever, things are looking good until a prematch accident turns everything upside down. Glitch has to overcome his twitches – and they’re bigger than ever – if the pair are to complete a race. Themes include friendship and bravery. Recommended for pre- and early-schoolers.

Glitch, Michelle Worthington ill Andrew Plant
Ford Street, 2017
ISBN: 9781925272710

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

Ships in the Field, by Susanne Gervay & Anna Pignataro

A small girl is secure in the love of her parents and her toy dog, Brownie. Her parents work very hard in Australia, but are scarred by the memories of the war that forced them to flee their homeland. Her mother was a teacher, her father a farmer, but here in Australia, they take the jobs they can find. The girl (who is unnamed) notes that her father works very hard and her mother seldom smiles. Except on Sundays when they take a trip out of the city to where they see the ‘ships in the fields’. Illustrations are soft, loose and whimsical watercolours and pencil, apart from the picnic tablecloth endpapers, bright red and white check.

On the surface, Ships in the Field is a story about a young girl wanting a pet dog. But there is so much more here. The girl is the child of European refugees, who now struggle to establish a new home in Australia. With few words, the reader paints a picture of the challenges faced by families who flee with little but their clothes and who must reinvent themselves to find a place in their new country. Anna Pignataro’s soft illustrations tell their own story of both sadness and hope. This is a beautifully written and illustrated picture book which will provide the basis for conversations about migrants from all over the world. Highly recommended for pre-school and early- to mid-primary readers.

Ships in the Field

Ships in the Field, Susanne Gervay Anna Pignataro
Ford Street Publishing 2011
ISBN: 9781921665233




review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

Hazard River Series, by JE Fison

Jack, his little brother Ben and their family are holidaying at Hazard River. Lachlan has been staying here every summer for years and he knows all there is to know about this holiday place. He’s also a practical joker and doesn’t seem to have a ‘caution’ speed. When Jack finds a shark washed up on the shore, they begin a search for the killer they are sure is nearby…

Shark Frenzy
I made a deal with sharks. I don’t swim near them and they don’t play cricket. It may be a little unfair. I can swim, whereas they haven’t got a hope of hitting a six. The arrangement worked well for many years. I never once saw a shark bowl a bouncer. And no one ever praised a wicket keeper for a safe pair of fins. But the whole deals fell apart when my family spent the summer holidays at Hazard River…

Jack, his little brother Ben and their family are holidaying at Hazard River. Lachlan has been staying here every summer for years and he knows all there is to know about this holiday place. He’s also a practical joker and doesn’t seem to have a ‘caution’ speed. When Jack finds a shark washed up on the shore, they begin a search for the killer they are sure is nearby. Lachlan is keen and Ben will follow where Jack goes. And they are joined by Mimi, who has travelled the world in her yacht and knows a lot about everything. She also has her own Zodiac boat.

Snake Surprise Until we found the message…

Jack is sick of playing Monopoly, but it seems that is the only thing to do when the rain just won’t stop. When he looks out the window and sees a houseboat floating down the river on a collision-course for his friend, Mimi’s yacht home, he and his friends can stay inside no longer. They ‘catch’ the houseboat and look for clues to tell them how the boat came to be washed along by the floodwaters. If only the snake could talk. That’s the very large snake that’s coiled up on the bed in the houseboat, the one with the bat in its mouth.

Hazard River is a new series of short novels for mid- to upper primary readers. They are about 10000 words, laser-fast and very exciting. No theme park or council holiday program could deliver half the adventure that being in the bush between the river and the sea does. The friends need all their luck and skill to resolve the mysteries they find in and around Hazard River. And when it comes to it, they all have skills to contribute to the adventures. Recommended for mid- to upper-primary readers, particularly those who find it difficult to sit still for very long!

Hazard River: Shark Frenzy! J. E. Fison
Ford St Publishing 2010
ISBN: 9781921665110

Hazard River: Snake Surprise! J. E. Fison
Ford St Publishing 2010
ISBN: 9781921665127

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

Bobo, My Superdog, by Michael Salmon

‘Dog of the Day’ said the notice in the front window of the pet shop.
Underneath sat a little white dog surrounded by other pets. From the moment I saw Bobo I knew that he was special. I had to have him!

Most of the time, Bobo is a fluffy, slightly spoilt dog who lives with the narrator and his parents. But Bobo and his owner have a big secret – because Bobo is just pretending to be a normal dog. Really he is a dog with super powers – Super-Bo. Wearing a mask and a cape made from an old stripy beach towel, Super-Bo saves people, animals – even the whole city.

Bobo, My Superdog is a brand new picture storybook from renowned Aussie author/illustrator Michael Salmo. The story is fun, but it is the familiar illustrative style of Salmon that makes the book so very appealing. The pictures are bright, detailed and humorous, offering textual support and lots of interest.

Aimed at children aged 5 to 9, and suitable for reading aloud, or for readers making the transition toward chapter books.

Bobo, My Superdog

Bobo, My Superdog, by Michael Salmon
Ford Street, 2011
ISBN 9781921665394

This book is available in good bookstores, or online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

Riley and the Grumpy Wombat, by Tania McCartney

Riley was making mud pies when he first saw the hole.
Curious, he poked his head inside and this is what he saw…
Riley didn’t know what it was. But he knew that it was grumpy.

Riley is a small boy with an amazing array of gizmos and gadgets. So when he discovers a grumpy wombat in Nanny’s back yard and it flees, he’s able to follow it in his little red plane. Using a combination of black and white photos of inner city Melbourne and computer images, Riley and his friends search the city for the grumpy wombat. He zooms high and low, in the city and the gardens. He even digs burrows along St Kilda Beach. But there’s no sign of the wombat. When he does eventually find her, the wombat is no longer grumpy, but happy and ready for a snooze.

Tania McCartney began this series while she and her young family were living overseas. The books link images of iconic landmarks in Beijing, Hong Kong and Sydney with Riley and his adventures. The use of a similarly iconic animal in each story helps small children relate to the familiar and unfamiliar in their worlds. This new title is published by Melbourne-based Ford Street Publishing. Recommended for pre-school and early primary children and children living in/or visiting a new country or city (or visiting interstate/international family or friends).

Riley and the Grumpy Wombat

Riley and the Grumpy Wombat, Tania McCartney Kieron Pratt
Ford Street Publishing
ISBN: 9781921665486

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

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

Blood Money, by J. E. Fison

I have always wanted to be rich. Richer than the Queen? No, not that rich – just to have loads of money, that’s all I ask. To have the cash for every new gadget invented, to buy the coolest new phone. That would be enough. I’m not saying I’m greedy. I’m just a bit needy. But when you’re on holidays at Hazard River you have to be careful what you wish for. It might just come true…

10-year-old Jack Wilde is keen to make some money and selling coconuts is not doing it fast enough. So when his brother Ben finds a bag of money, Jack is very interested. He thinks they can share. Then Lachlan and Mimi get in on the act and it seems everyone has a plan for the cash. But the owner of the cash, and the other contents of the bag, is keen to retrieve it. Actually he’s more than keen: he’s determined, desperate and he’s not going to let four nosy kids get in his way. Finding so much cash should be a recipe for fun, excitement and a big shopping spree. But Jack discovers while there’s plenty of excitement, it’s not the excitement he was planning. Cover art is by Mark McBride. There’s a map inside to show where all the action takes place.

This is the sixth instalment in the Hazard River series from J. E. Fison. The stories are set in a Queensland beach and riverside town. The children have a freedom that is reminiscent of earlier generations and sadly not so available to children today. Jack, his brother and their friends find there is plenty of adventure to be had during these holidays. Adults are very much on the periphery of the action, unless they are the baddies integral to the plot. The story proceeds at break neck pace, with more twists and turns than any bush track. Recommended for mid-primary readers.

Blood Money!

Blood Money, J. E Fison
Ford St Publishing 2011
ISBN: 9781921665462

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

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

Toad's Revenge, by J. E. Fison

There’s a good reason I call my neighbour, Lachlan Master, the Master of Disaster. All of his plans end in disaster. Always. So when a celebrity moved to Hazard River and Lachlan decided we should meet him, I should have known our expedition could only end one way …
‘I heard Just Orsum is working on his most dangerous and daring mission ever,’ I say to Lachlan as we climb over a fence and into the backyard of Australia’s most famous adventurer, ‘Maybe he’s planning a trip to Mars.’

Jack and his friend, Lachlan are always on the lookout for adventure and excitement. And they are sure the arrival of Just Orsum is going to make life interesting. And it does. Just not quite in the way they’d imagined. Together with Jack’s brother Ben and their friend Mimi, Jack and Lachlan find themselves facing the biggest toads they’ve ever seen in an environment they hardly recognise. It takes all their combined skills and some help from some locals to find their way home.

Toads Revenge is the fifth story from J. E. Fison, set in a seaside/riverside holiday area of southern Queensland. Jack and his friends manage to get themselves into, and out of, plenty of trouble. The stories are told from Jack’s point of view but each of the four main characters contributes to both the trouble and the solutions they must find. There’s hardly time for the characters – or the reader – to catch their breath before another complication has them again on the run. Think updated and Australian-set Blyton adventures. Perfect for safe adventuring and hopefully too wild for copying! Recommended for mid-primary readers.

Toads Revenge!

Toads Revenge, J. E. Fison
Ford Street Publishing 2011
ISBN: 9781921665455

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

Changing Yesterday, by Sean McMullen

A prince was coming to Albury. He would not be there long; in fact, he would just be passing through, but he was heir to the British throne. One day he would become the most powerful king in the entire world. Nobody so important had ever visited Albury, so everyone wanted the town to look its best.

The last day of May 1901 was like the end of any other school week for Daniel Lang. He was in his second-last year at an expensive private school, and life was going very well for him. For the first time in his life he had acquired a sweetheart in the form of Muriel Baker, a beautiful classmate of his sister’s. For Daniel, this was even better than getting a medal. Muriel knew that Daniel was a hero, and for Daniel her opinion was the only one that mattered.

Changing Yesterday is set in 1901, but main character Liore has come to Melbourne and Victoria from a century in the future, determined to change history. Her co-conspirators are variously motivated but necessary to help her achieve her goal. But it seems that each time they alter the events that lead the 100 Year War, chance and Lionhearts conspire to find another way to ensure the war happens. So begins a race across Australia and beyond to Europe – a cat and mouse chase that has the protagonists jumping on and off ships, changing gender, arming and disarming fellow travellers and various weapons and just generally causing chaos. None of these diversions are listed in any of the ocean liner brochures! There’s a boy, a girl, a thief, some plotters and some work-for-whoever-pays extras. There’s adventure, fighting, flights, love, hate, pick-pocketing and lock-picking. And there’s plenty more besides.

Changing Yesterday is a riot. It’s high camp adventure and penny-dreadful pulp romance. It’s egads-melodrama with high tech weapons. Lead character Daniel is a mere schoolboy when he participates in history-altering espionage, his ideas noble and pure. His friend, Barry (the bag) has his eye on a different prize although he convinces himself of similarly pure ideals. Liore, a girl who masquerades mostly as a boy, has a mission. The action of others is often off stage (as it were) and it is the consequences that affect Daniel, Liore and a detective-in-waiting. The stakes are high – the fate of the world is dependent on their success. Most of the characters grow and mature across the novel – but not all. A few remain resolutely bad, or just plain incorrigible. There are of course, steam engines. Plenty of them. Changing Yesterday is the sequel to Before the Storm and the way forward has been flagged. It also reads well as a stand-alone novel. Recommended for early secondary readers and beyond.

Changing Yesterday

Changing Yesterday, Sean McMullen
Ford St Publishing 2011
ISBN: 9781921665370

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

This book can be purchased in good bookstores or online from Fishpond.

Solace & Grief, by Foz Meadows

They’ve broken into my house and my dreams on the same night. Which ought to sound crazy. Except for the fact that I can bend metal. Except for the fact that if I sit still and concentrate on a quiet day, I can hear conversations from two streets over. Except for the fact that my teeth are wickedly sharp.
Except that I’m a vampire.

When Solace Morgan turns 17, she realises that the reason she has always been different than the others in her group home as that she is a vampire. With that realisation, she also realises that it is time to move on. When she finds others with similar strange gifts, Solace feels content – but that feeling is not long-lived, as the mysterious Professor Lukin takes an interest in Solace and her friends, and begins a disarming chain of events.

Solace and Grief is a brilliant new supernatural fantasy from a debut novelist. With an amazing blend of contemporary urban setting, supernatural and mysterious elements, with a good dash of humour and hope, this is an engrossing read for teen readers, who will eagerly await the sequel.

Great stuff.

Solace and Grief

Solace and Grief, by Foz Meadows
Ford Street 2010

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

Mole Hunt, by Paul Collins

omeone was going to die. And it wasn’t going to be Maximus Black.

The terrain lost its shadows as darkness came down like a fire blanket. None of the moons had risen yet and the toxic evening wind of the acid ocean had not yet begun to bite. But the stillness did not fool Special Agent Maximus Black, who seemed too young to be suspicious when things were going exceedingly well. But he knew that it was not how much you experience but how you experience it.
Maximus came from a long line of madmen, murderers and megalomaniacs, but the Regis Imperium Mentatis – the galactic law enforcement agency known as RIM – seemed not to car about his ancestry.

Maximus Black is a man with a mission. He’s determined to impress RIM management with his skills and abilities. If he can do that, it opens up all sorts of opportunities that RIM may not have intended or even be aware of. Anneke Longshadow is another brilliant young RIM agent and she’s discovered a mole within the organisation. And so the whirlwind begins. A chase, a cat-and-mouse game across many worlds and all the spaces in between. There are more enhancements and gadgets than ever graced any James Bond film. There are gadgets to gather intelligence, weapons more diabolical than seems possible, gadgets to promote healing, programs that create the illusion of a disguise and if they’re not adequate, then there are ‘renovators’. The plot? To take over the world, of course!

Mole Hunt is a science fiction novel for young adults that hurtles through space at dizzying speed. Protagonist, Maximus Black, is singleminded in pursuing his self-set mission, whatever the consequences. His motivation is subtly hinted at, but readers will need to wait for further instalments in this three-part series to fully understand what drives him. Anneke Longshadow’s motivations are clearer as she sets out to pursue Black. The two are stars in the RIM organisation, and more alike than either could imagine. While the worlds spin around them, all their ingenuity and skill are tested in their pursuit of each other. No romance at all, this is a battle of high stakes, that both are determined and confident of winning. Recommended for mid-secondary and beyond.

Mole Hunt: The Maximus Black Files

Mole Hunt , Paul Collins
Ford St Books 2011
ISBN: 9781921665264

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

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