Brobot, by James Foley

That is my brother, Joe.
I never asked for a brother, but if I had …
I would have asked for a better one.

Sally Tinker is not impressed with her baby brother, Joe. He is messy, smelly and is always breaking things. So Sally, the world’s foremost inventor under the age of 12 (she has a trophy to prove it), has invented a Brobot. Much better than a brother, this robot can clean up messes, fix broken machines and is never sticky or smelly. But what happens when things go wrong?

Brobot is a hilarious graphic novel for younger readers. The illustrations, in grey scale, are filled with humorous detail. Sally speaks directly to readers, and the brobot also speaks, with an LCD type font, and boxes showing his internal ‘computations’. Readers will like Sally, but will probably feel more empathy for Joe in the early pages. As the novel progresses, they will see the relationship develop through the humorous turn of events as the Brobot becomes out of cotnrol.

Lots of laughs to be had.

Brobot, by James Foley
Fremantle Press, 2016
ISBN 9781925163919

The Smuggler's Curse, by Norman Jorgensen

The Smuggler's Curse - Norman Jorgensen‘You, boy, commands the Captain, seeing me listening. ‘You can handle an oar tonight. We’ll get you toughened up even if we have to kill you doing so, eh men?’
The men laugh, happy at the thought of me getting killed, I suspect. I nod slowly, embarrassed and unsure. Is this how the new ship’s boy is to meet his fate? Ambushed on a deserted Malayan beach by a regiment of government troops or skinned alive and sold for a satchel?

Red is quite happy with his life in Broome, where his mother runs a hotel. Red spends his days reading, or avoiding errands. So he isn’t impressed when his ma sells him to be ship’s boy to an infamous smuggler. Suddenly, instead of avoiding chores, he’s avoiding pirates, headhunters and drowning, as travels the world with the infamous Black Bowen.

The Smuggler’s Curse is a rollicking tale of shipboard life. Set in the 19th century in Western Australia and Southern Asia, there is action aplenty, and Jorgensen doesn’t hold back. While there’s humour, there are also scenes of fear and violence as befits the setting, and which young adventure lovers will relish.

Adult readers will recognise the nod to novels such as Treasure Island.

A gripping read.

The Smuggler’s Curse, by Norman Jorgensen
Fremantle Press, 2016
ISBN 9781925164190

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Beyond Carousel, by Brendan Ritchie

The house isn’t powered like Carousel. Pretty much nowhere is. But it has a line of solar panels on the roof and two summers worth of power stored in the batteries. Enough for showers, air conditioning, pool filters – anything we want. Except for lights. Never any lights.
At night we shuffle the long hallways with tiny reading lights tucked into our belts and pockets, our voices hushed and careful against the manic drone of insects outside.

Nox, Taylor and Lizzy have escaped the confines of Carousel, where they were trapped for months.Now they are holed up in an empty house in the hills, resting while they figure out what to do next. most of the population of Perth has vanished in the same event which saw them trapped inside the Carousel shopping centre. Now that they are out they are trying to piece together what has happened and what they should do next.

But while they have found a temporary haven, they are far from safe. There are other people roaming the mostly abandoned city, and packs of wild dogs stalk them. There are also problems with food and water supply and, of course, the fear that they are stuck this way forever. Then they discoevr that time is running out to get everything sorted out.

Beyond Carousel is an action-packed sequel to Carousel, and would is bets read after the first, though could possibly be read on its own.The premise and the way it plays out create lots of intrigue and plenty of action.

Good stuff.

Beyond Carousel, by Brendan Ritchie
Fremantle Press, 2016
ISBN 9781925164039

Pandamonia, by Chris Owen & Chris Nixon

Come through. Look around. relax and explore.
Inside you will find there are creatures galore.
You’ll have a magnificent time at the zoo…
just don’t wake the panda whatever you do.

It’s a lovely day for visiting the zoo, but when the panda gets woken, it can set off all kinds of uproar, from jumpy hippos creating a hullabaloo, to shimmying emus, and even cha-chaing chinchillas.the resultant uproar can cause shenanigans that carry on far into the night. So, readers are beseeched, whatever they do they must not wake the panda.

Pandamonia is a lively, humour-filled picture book with rhyme that roms through the pages. Youngsters will love the silliness of the text and will have fun playing with the vocabulary, with glorious words like fandango, cavorting, shimmy and more. The illustrations, on colourful backgrounds, bring the animals to life with simple geometric shapes filled with life and humour.

Likely to be requested again and agian, Pandamonia will withstand repeated rereadings.

Pandamonia, by Chris Owen & Chris Nixon
Fremantle Press, 2016
ISBN 9781925163339

Riddle Gully Secrets by Jen Banyard

She darted along the shadowy trail, adrenalin sparking through her limbs. Her eyes scanned for the snatches of white shirt flickering through the trees of the forest ahead; her nostrils twitched for shifting scents; her ears strained for every snap, every cry, every rustle, every …

‘Let’s go back now!’

The voice was like a frypan clanging on the head of Pollo di Nozi, Youth Reporter for the Coast newspaper. She leapt around to face its owner. She turned around to face its owner.

‘You can’t be serious, Will!’ Pollo hissed. ‘We’re chasing the first case we’ve had in weeks and you want to go back?’

‘The first case you’ve had in weeks,’ said Will.

She darted along the shadowy trail, adrenalin sparking through her limbs. Her eyes scanned for the snatches of white shirt flickering through the trees of the forest ahead; her nostrils twitched for shifting scents; her ears strained for every snap, every cry, every rustle, every …

‘Let’s go back now!’

The voice was like a frypan clanging on the head of Pollo di Nozi, Youth Reporter for the Coast newspaper. She leapt around to face its owner. She turned around to face its owner.

‘You can’t be serious, Will!’ Pollo hissed. ‘We’re chasing the first case we’ve had in weeks and you want to go back?’

‘The first case you’ve had in weeks,’ said Will.

Things have been mighty quiet in Riddle Gully. While this might be good news for the town, it’s not good news for intrepid reporter, Pollo and her slightly less enthusiastic, and often hungry sidekick, Will. But this trail, which leads them deep into the bush is sure to lead to super-scoops and further advance Pollo’s blooming career. And it does lead them to a mystery – with more leads than even Pollo could have imagined. Why don’t the campers want to be found? Who else is interested in the secrets of the hills? Pollo is desperate to find all the answers. All she has to do is convince Will to help her, untangle all the stories and fame will surely be hers.

Riddle Gully Secrets is the third mystery in this series set in a small town, Riddle Gully. While everyone else goes about their business, intrepid reporter (junior) Pollo sees intrigue and mystery everywhere. Her offsider, Will, is supportive but sometimes overwhelmed by Pollo’s enthusiasms. And there are many. ‘Riddle Gully Secrets’ explores secrets, greed, history, family and belonging, wrapped up in a mystery full of fun and wide-ranging adventure. Recommended for mid-primary readers and lovers of mystery.

Riddle Gully Secrets, Jen Banyard
Fremantle Press 2016 ISBN: 9781925163957

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

www.clairesaxby.com

Lily in the Mirror by Paula Hayes

I have started this journal in the hope that something interesting and supernatural will happen to me but I fear this is unlikely. I am not an orphan and I do not live in a cupboard under the staircase. We do have a staircase cupboard – it is full of gumboots and old newspapers but I don’t live in it and I have parents, two of them. Alive. And they both love me. A lot. This is good but annoying, as it is usually unloved orphans that have all the magical luck. Mum actually gave me a cushion with ‘You are so loved!’ written on it. I was like, what is this … I wanted the one with the black leafless tree lithograph on it. It looks dark and mysterious. To be dark and mysterious is one of my lifelong goals. If passing inhabitants of an alternate magical world see the ‘You are so loved!’ cushion on my bed, they will keep walking.

I have started this journal in the hope that something interesting and supernatural will happen to me but I fear this is unlikely. I am not an orphan and I do not live in a cupboard under the staircase. We do have a staircase cupboard – it is full of gumboots and old newspapers but I don’t live in it and I have parents, two of them. Alive. And they both love me. A lot. This is good but annoying, as it is usually unloved orphans that have all the magical luck. Mum actually gave me a cushion with ‘You are so loved!’ written on it. I was like, what is this … I wanted the one with the black leafless tree lithograph on it. It looks dark and mysterious. To be dark and mysterious is one of my lifelong goals. If passing inhabitants of an alternate magical world see the ‘You are so loved!’ cushion on my bed, they will keep walking.

Lily is a precocious and confident eleven-year-old and this is her journal. Lily lives at home as part of a loving family (including an annoying brother and an older sister). She loves all things supernatural and would love to discover some magic in her life, but so far, her life is unfortunately very normal. She loves her grandfather and his cooking and sad that her grandmother is too unwell to live at home. Her chance meeting of another Lily – who she calls Other Lily – changes everything. A magic mirror, a long-held secret and a new friend are going to take up all her time and imagination, for many skills are needed if Lily is to solve this intriguing mystery.

Lily in the Mirroris gothic horror for mid-primary readers. Filtered through Lily’s diary, potentially scary elements are tempered by her often humourous reactions and retellings. Young readers will be caught up in the magical elements of this historic family mystery. Dressed in pink, the cover is designed to appeal to girls, particularly competent younger readers wanting a longer story pitched at their emotional level. There are many themes around the changing nature of family. Recommended for younger middle primary readers.

Lily in the Mirror, Paula Hayes
Fremantle Press 2016
ISBN: 9781925163872

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

www.clairesaxby.com

Saving Jazz, by Kate McCaffrey

My name is Jasmine Lovely, Jazz usually (unless I’m in trouble), and I’m a rapist. In fact, I’m guilty of more than just rape but, as my lawyer says, in the interests of judicial fairness, we can’t be prejudicial. It’s hard enough to admit rape. As a girl, people look at you exceptionally hard. People look at you blankly. Not that it’s something I admit to often, like I just did to you.

Jazz has a pretty good life: she’s pretty, popular and smart. She lives in the small town of Greenhead, a seemingly idyllic settlement north of Perth. Like the other teenagers, she likes to party, to drink and to use social media. But when those three things all spin out of control one fateful night, the consequences are terrible – for Jazz, for her best friends Annie and Jack, and for the whole community of Greenhead.

Saving Jazz is a gritty, chilling story of cyber bullying and the use of social media, following the story of what can happen when these two get out of control. With the viewpoint character, Jazz, telling her story through a blog, we are given the insight of someone who has been both bystander and perpetrator, with the book being told after the major event, looking back, but then progressing to beyond the time when the blog is started, with 43 ‘posts’ spanning several years.

McCaffrey is known for broaching difficult topics, and Saving Jazz is no exception. AT the same time, though, the story has plenty of warm moments, offering hope both for the characters and for the reader.

An outstanding young adult read.

Saving Jazz, by Kate McCaffrey
Fremantle Press, 2016
ISBN 9781925163582

I Love Me, by Sally Morgan & Ambelin Kwaymullina

I Love MeI love me!
I love my eyes.
I love my nose.
I love the way my curly hair grows.

From mother-daughter dup Sally Morgan (author) and Ambelin Kwaymullina (illustrator), I Love Me is a lively celebration of being yourself – and loving yourself. From physical features, inside and out, to emotions and personality, text and illustrations show indigenous children loving being who they are.

The book aims to build self-esteem in indigenous and non-indigenous children and the bright illustrations and bouncy, prose, which uses rhyme, rhythm and repetition will engage youngsters and encourage them to join in the reading.

I Love Me, by Sally Morgan & Ambelin Kwaymullina
Fremantle Press, 2016
ISBN 9781925163490

Eagle, Crow and Emu: Bird Stories by Gladys Milroy and Jill Milroy

High in the treetops a baby eagle shrieked and called for its parents to return. Little Eagle was growing quickly. He was always hungry, so both parents had to leave the nest to find food for him. They loved Little Eagle and couldn’t wait to soar with him into the sky and show him the amazing world they lived in.

eagle, crow and emuHigh in the treetops a baby eagle shrieked and called for its parents to return. Little Eagle was growing quickly. He was always hungry, so both parents had to leave the nest to find food for him. They loved Little Eagle and couldn’t wait to soar with him into the sky and show him the amazing world they lived in.

Eagle, Crow and Emu – Bird Stories is a collection of three bird stories told in an Indigenous storytelling style. In the first, ‘Eagle and Bullfrog’, Little Eagle struggles to learn how to fly, but is helped by his land-dwelling friends. ‘The Great Cold’ tells the story of Magpie who wants to join all the other animals in the Cavern where they will be safe from the Great Cold. First she must find a way to keep her egg warm and safe. In ‘Emu and the Water Tree’, Emu learns the consequences of selfishness and the rewards of sacrifice. Each story includes black and white illustrations and is told in short chapters.

Two of these stories (‘The Great Cold’ and ‘Emu and the Water Tree’) have previously appeared as stand-alone stories, but with ‘Eagle and Bullfrog’ offer a collection of stories ideal for young readers. They offer young Indigenous readers the opportunity to read stories told in the same style as they would have been if shared orally. They also offer non-Indigenous readers an entry point to traditional Australian stories. Buried in each of engaging story is information about the fauna and landscape of Australia as well as stories about how to live. Perfect for newly independent readers and beyond.

Eagle, Crow and Emu – Bird Stories, Gladys Milroy and Jill Milroy
Fremantle Press 2016
ISBN: 9781925163711

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

www.clairesaxby.com

We All Sleep by Ezekiel Kwaymullina ill Sally Morgan

Against pink skies kookaburra calls

Over swaying reeds frog leaps

Against pink skies kookaburra calls

Over swaying reeds frog leaps

Beginning at sunrise and ending with starlight, a child observes their world. The light changes, the animals appear at their ideal time of day, plants wave in the breeze. On each page is a small companion blue bird and a hint of which animal will feature next. Artwork is colourful, simple and complex, full of pattern and life.

We All Sleep is a particularly Australian lullaby, featuring iconic animals and birds, doing their thing in an Australian landscape, watched by an Australian child. It offers an opportunity to introduce our native fauna and flora, while the rhythm of the language is informative and soothing. An ideal gift to send overseas, and to keep close at home. Recommended for pre- and early schoolers. And art students.

We All Sleep, Ezekiel Kwaymullina ill Sally Morgan
Fremantle Press 2015
ISBN: 9781925162684

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

www.clairesaxby.com