Hot Dog!, by Anh Do

If you’re thinking this book is about the yummy hotdog that you eat, then you’re thinking of the wrong hotdog!

Hotdog is a long skinny dog – a sausage dog – who likes to try hard to get things right. His friend Lizzie is a lizard, who’s good at blending in, and their other friend, Kevin, is a lazy cat whose humans dress him up in all kinds of costumes. When the trip meet in the park for a ply, they are joined by a baby bird who has fallen out of his nest. The trio of friends are determined to get the bird back to his mother – but first they have to deal with obstacles including karate-chopping roosters and even dirty nappies.

Hotdog is a brand new series from comedian and best-selling author Anh Do. With simple, humorous text and cartoon-style illustrations (by Dan McGuiness), and textual embellishments to add interest, including different font sizes and speech bubbles, this first book will delight young readers transitioning to chapter books.

Hotdog, by Anh Do & Dan McGuiness
Scholastic 2016
ISBN 9781760279004

Small Things, by Mel Tregonning

A small boy worries about and struggles with many things: being left out of peer groups, not being good at sport, struggling at school work. Each thing seemingly small in itself, together they erode his self-confidence and he feels himself diminishing, followed by monsters who eat away at his sense of self. At risk of being overwhelmed, he finally gets help from his family, and starts to find renewed self confidence, as well as an awareness that he is not alone in the struggles: other people, too, feel haunted by unseen monsters.

Small Things is an amazing picture book. In graphic novel format, this wordless book says so very much about struggles with mental illness, self worth and anxiety. The black and white illustrations bring the boys’ troubles to life as monsters with tentacles and big teeth which float around him, and leave him broken, though when he gets help he becomes whole again. The monsters don’t completely disappear though, a reminder that healing can be an ongoing process.

This is a book which will speak to children and adults alike, and the story behind the book is one which should also be known, with the author sadly having lost her own battle with depression before the book’s completion.

Small Things, by Mel Tregonning
Allen & Unwin, 2016
ISBN 9781742379791

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

Anders and the Volcano by Gregory Mackay

‘I can’t believe the holidays are almost here, Bernie.’

‘I know. It’s the last day of school already.’

‘I’m so excited!’

‘What do you have planned?’

‘Um …’

‘I can’t believe the holidays are almost here, Bernie.’

‘I know. It’s the last day of school already.’

‘I’m so excited!’

‘What do you have planned?’

‘Um …’

Anders and his friends, Bernie and Eden are looking forward to their holidays, now that school is finished. Anders and his family are going away, as is Eden. But Bernie has no plans as his father has to work. Anders soon sorts that out and Bernie joins his family at the holiday camp. There they spend their time exploring, having fun, making new friends. Eden is happy to join in, but is just as happy to entertain herself with her own projects. Now Anders is not the only one with a beetle, there is even more adventure to be had. Their new friend doesn’t have a beetle, but she does have a cricket, a jumpy one. Cover art shows the friends flying with the aid of their beetles/cricket and the smoking volcano hints at their interaction with this extinct volcano. Characters are drawn lightly as animals of different species.

Told in graphic novel/comic format, Anders and the Volcano is light on text, heavy on image and packaged as a novel. This second adventure with Anders and his friends (Book 1: Anders and the Comet) explores many familiar aspects of summer holidays – going away, exploring, playing, sleepovers. Each of the characters has their own story, and represent a range of family types and backgrounds. The style of the images is uncluttered and gentle and would be accessible to a wide range of readers and reading abilities. Younger competent readers will enjoy the adventures told in the comic style and older readers not ready for full novels will appreciate the different character journeys and the clarity of the text. Recommended for newly competent and mid-primary readers.

Anders and the Volcano, Gregory Mackay
Allen & Unwin 2016
ISBN: 9781760290030

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

www.clairesaxby.com

Rockhopping by Trace Balla

The first time Uncle Egg took me on an adventure, canoeing, it was his idea. This time the adventure was my idea – or maybe it was both of ours …

‘I wonder where all this water comes from.’

‘How about we go and find out sometime, kid?

Well, some time came and some time went, and I was ready to go looking for the source of the river … or at least I thought so.

The first time Uncle Egg took me on an adventure, canoeing, it was his idea. This time the adventure was my idea – or maybe it was both of ours …

‘I wonder where all this water comes from.’

‘How about we go and find out sometime, kid?

Well, some time came and some time went, and I was ready to go looking for the source of the river … or at least I thought so.

Clancy and Uncle Egg are off on another adventure. This time, they’re off to seek the source of the Glenelg River. Clancy is ready to go, but discovers that first he has to do some preparation. Fortunately, Uncle Egg knows just what to do, and Clancy is soon in training. Then they plan what has to go in each of their backpacks, before setting off in the train to Gariwerd (Grampians) in Western Victoria. Their hike takes them up and down hills and mountains and includes plenty of adventure, both expected and unplanned. In addition to the narrative, local fauna and flora are identified throughout and in the endpapers, both in local languages and in English. Indigenous and colonial history are both explored. ‘Rockhopping is an 80-page graphic novel, wrapped in a picture book hardcover.

Clancy and Uncle Egg’s first outing, canoeing along the Glenelg River, is detailed in ‘Rivertime’. Rockhopping sees the pair searching for the source of the same river. They know where to look for it, but looking and finding are different things. It’s very clear that the joy is in the journey as much as – if not more than – the destination. Trace Balla fills her pages with adventure and knowledge. Clancy, the viewpoint character is a primary school student, and embodies a wonderful blend of openness, innocence and knowledge. He is happy to learn from his uncle and others they encounter, but he’s also developing a calmness and resilience and some great problem-solving skills. Rockhopping is a rich, accessible delight. Highly recommended for mid-primary plus.

Rockhopping, Trace Balla
Allen & Unwin 2016 ISBN: 9781760112349

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

www.clairesaxby.com

Kidglovz, by Julie Hunt & Dale Newman

9781742378527.jpgThere is a town in the mountains not far from here where people lock their pianos on the night of the full moon. It makes no difference – the keys move up and down and the air is filled with wild music.
Someone once thought they saw a white bird flying between the trees. But the truth of the matter is that it’s not a bird that flies on the night of the full moon but a pair of white gloves. I know this because they used to belong to me.

KidGlovz is a child prodigy. He can play the piano better than anybody – even playing different symphonies with each hand. And he loves to play. Music is his life. But when he’s not playing, he is kept under lock and key by his cruel guardian, Dr Spin, who tells the world the boy is his nephew. KidGlovz is made to practice endlessly, and is almost starved to prevent him growing bigger. When he meets a young thief called Shoestring, it seems escape might be possible. But at what cost?

KidGlovz is a haunting graphic novel. In parts uplifting, but often quite dark, readers will be drawn into both the text and the grey-scale illustrations. Spreads are a mixture of comic-style cells, wordless single or multiple image spreads and spreads which are predominantly illustrations with a mix of narration and speech bubbles., as well as a handful of letters and notes. Use of light and dark, layout of text, and movement within illustrations draws the readers eye through the story.
Suitable for primary aged through to adult, KidGlovz will appeal to those already familiar with the graphic novel format as well as those perhaps new to it.

KidGlovz, by Julie Hunt & Dale Newman
Allen & Unwin, 2015
ISBN 9781742378527

Anders and the Comet by Gregory Mackay

Hello, I’m Anders and this is my mum and dad.

I like reading and having all sorts of adventures.

It’s almost time for the holidays and I can’t wait to get started.

Hello, I’m Anders and this is my mum and dad.

I like reading and having all sorts of adventures.

It’s almost time for the holidays and I can’t wait to get started.

Anders is excited about the impending school holidays. On the last day of school, a new student, Bernie, joins their class and the teacher sets them a holiday assignment. As Anders walks home, he discovers that Bernie lives just around the corner from his house. Cue myriad adventures with Anders, cousin Eden, new friend Bernie and Anders’ new pet Skip. By the end of the holidays, Anders has both everyday and fantastical stories to share with his teacher and class. ‘Anders and the Comet’ is a graphic novel/comic set out in chapters. In final pages, Dr Larsen explains what a comet is and there’s a sneak preview of the next Anders’ adventure.

Anders and the Comet is the first in a new series of graphic novels/comics about Anders and his friends. Anders is enthusiastic, curious and imaginative. He leads his friends in adventures both local and further afield, from home to space and back again. Anders is clearly the leader but his cousin, his friend and even his new pet have their own strengths in each adventure. Anders and the Cometis novel-sized and will appeal to both independent and developing readers. A variety of family dynamics are subtly portrayed. As with picture books, there is plenty of information offered only visually, and plenty of material for discussion either at home or in the classroom. Anders is an engaging character, full of energy, sure to quickly attract fans. Recommended for early- to mid-primary readers.

 

Anders and the Comet, Gregory Mackay

Allen & Unwin 2015 ISBN: 9781760111151

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

www.clairesaxby.com

Unforgotten, by Tohby Riddle

Nobody knows where they come from.
But they come.
Impossible birds of the big sky
and the long night …

Unseen, angles come to Earth to watch over, to warm and to mend. But the harshness of the world, and the vastness of the work required proves too much for one of these silent comforters, and it falls to Earth where , sorely in need of comfort itself, he is at risk of not being able to move any more. His plight is seen and acted upon by an unlikely group of rescuers including a clown, children,  even a patched donkey.

Unforgotten is not a story – it’s an experience. And a lyrical, beautiful experience at that. The text is a poem, a line or two to some pages, and no text on others,whisping its way in white font across black backgrounds. The illustrations are an intriguing montage of photographs and drawings, so that the viewer can explore in detail or simply absorb the whole. An initial reading leaves the reader thinking; rereading provides depth and enhances the wonder of the work.

Suitable for readers of all ages.

Unforgotten

Unforgotten, by Tohby Riddle
Allen & Unwin, 2012
ISBN 9781742379722

Available from good bookstores and online.

Broken, by Elizabeth Pulford

My head is full of bubbles. Strange, floating words, bits of conversations, bits of people. Some I know. Some I don’t. Hundreds of contoured dots. I can’t see straight. Can’t think straight. I seem to be nowhere. I seem to be everywhere. If only the wretched thumping in my head would stop.

Zara lies broken, trapped in a coma after a terrible accident. She can’ts peak, buts he can hear – and her subconscious is taking her places she doesn’t wish to go. As she struggles to make sense of what’s happening to her now, she also deals with memories of a traumatic event in her childhood, and searches through a comic-book landscape for her brother, who was in the accident with her. She must make sense of it it all if she is to survive.

Told using a variety of forms – first person present tense, past tense, narration of dream-sequences as she adventures through a mixed up world based on her bother’s favourite comic strip, as well as graphic novel elements as some scenes are brought to life in comic book cells. Zara also has ‘conversations’ with her hospital room visitors, though they can’t hear her responses. This is a lot of different forms, but it works, and teen readers will enjoy the variety and the novelty it represents. The comic world is a novelty, but it is also the tool for Zara to confront her past and her borther’s fate and, as the novel progresses, the two become increasingly intertwined.

SUitable for teen readers, Broken is an intriguing read.

Broken

Broken, by Elizabeth Pulford
Walker Books, 2012
ISBN 9781921529887

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

Captain Congo and the Klondike Gold, by Ruth Starke ill Greg Holfield

Captain Congo and his loyal offsider, Pug are back! This time, they’re off to the remote reaches of the Canadian Klondike gold fields, to sort out what’s scaring the miners away. But first they have to get there.

Captain Congo and his loyal offsider, Pug are back! This time, they’re off to the remote reaches of the Canadian Klondike gold fields, to sort out what’s scaring the miners away. But first they have to get there. It’s wilder than the wild west and the locals are very suspicious of strangers. They’re also quite superstitious. There’re rumours about monsters and ghosts. There is danger and adventure for the duo as the landscape and treachery challenge their progress. But never fear, when Captain Congo and Pug are near, the goodies will win the day! (even if poor old Pug, in the best tradition of offsiders, is tossed, pummelled, terrified and trussed before the day is won). Endpapers show a map of the location of their adventures.

 
Captain Congo and the Klondike Gold is a third outing for Ruth Starke and Greg Holfield in this graphic novel series. The main characters are animals: Captain Congo a large (lowland?) gorilla, and Pug a small penguin. They move freely and unremarked in each adventure, a lovely relationship that has Captain Congo uttering Sherlock Holmes-like observations, and Pug always playing catch-up. The adventures are wonderfully wild and liberally sprinkled with humour. This series will attract a similar readership to Asterix and Tin Tin, and will be retained in the bookshelves long after other books have been outgrown. Reluctant readers will love the graphic novel format. Recommended for upper-primary, early-secondary and reluctant readers. And ahem grown-up fans of the graphic novel format.

Captain Congo and the Klondike Gold

Captain Congo and the Klondike Gold, Ruth Starke & Greg Holfield
Working Title Press 2011
ISBN: 9781921504273

 

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

www.clairesaxby.com

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