Erasmus James and the Galactic Zapp Machine, by DC Green

Wahoo! When I pulled that silver lever, it was like being sucked right into God’s cosmic vacuum cleaner. What a brain buzz! I spun through a sea of pulsing rainbow colour, past dimly remembered swirls of memory, right through the raw ingredients of the universe itself (or something else quite big). Just when I realised I could breathe without dying on my first flight with Zapp airlines, the in-flight show suddenly ended.

Erasmus James (Raz for short) can’t resist an adventure, so when his dad invents the Galactic ZAPP Machine, he just has to try it out. Before he has time to think twice, he has zapped across the galaxy to a strange planet. He is befriended by Franklin, a talking horse who takes him to meet the planet’s king. And that’s where Raz’s adventures really being. Soon, he is crossing the land on Franklin’s back, meeting huge talking chickens and getting into trouble with carnivorous horses.

Erasmus James and the Galactic Zapp Machine is an action-packed humorous adventure which will appeal to upper-primary aged readers (10 – 12). There are plenty of laugh out loud moments, intersperse with action and some gentle messages about family, friendship and even self-belief.

Plenty of fun.

Erasmus James and the Galactic Zapp Machine, by DC Green
Ibis Publishing, 2005

Springboard to Learning Through Play

It seems hardly a day goes by without a new learning programme, educational toy, or multimedia product being launched, encouraging parents to spend sometimes exorbitant sums to help their child learn. It is, then, refreshing, to see parents being encouraged to help their children learn through play, with a multitude of no-cost, as well as some low-cost activities.

In Springboard to Learning Through Play, author and educator Kerrie Shanahan provides parents with an insight into how children play and, importantly, how they learn through play. She provides a wealth of suggestions to help extend children’s informal learning in the years before formal education.

There are pages of suggestions, information boxes which clearly explain how they help your child, short-cut tips and more.

Springboard to Learning would be an excellent gift for a first-time mother, but has plenty to offer all mothers, no matter how experienced.

Springboard To Learning Through Play, by Kerrie Shanahan
Ibis Publishing, 2005

Money Smart Kids, by Dianne Bates

Kids, like adults, love money and, like adults, most kids want more money than they have at any given time. One of the problems for children is coming up with ways of getting more money that don’t involve nagging Mum or Dad.

Money Smart Kids will help solve this problem. Packed with hundreds of money-making ideas for kids to try, this handy little volume also gives lots of practical information such as budgeting advice, how to get and keep customers and how to work with a partner or team. There are also case studies of real-life children who have managed to make money for themselves or for charity.

The book’s design is also appealing, with plenty of headings and subheadings for easy reference and with case studies easily identified by their text boxes. A glossary, index of jobs, suggested further reading and lists of useful websites and phone numbers, round out the book nicely, making it both entertaining and useful.

Children aged 8 to 14 will enjoy this book. Parents will appreciate it too, for its honest and helpful advice for young people.

Money Smart Kids, by Dianne Bates
Ibis Publishing, 2005

Springboard to Maths and Science, by Kerrie Shanahan

Did you know that:
– A game of hide and seek can help build maths concepts and vocabulary?
– A train ride can help children learn about numbers and time?
– Cleaning out a cupboard can become a game of sorting: by size, quantity and colour?

Springboard to Maths and Science explains these ideas and much more. Released just in time for the start of the new school year, the book is aimed at parents of children aged four to six who want to help their chidlren develop a strong foundation in maths and science concepts.

This is not a workbook, but a comprehensive guide to the kinds of skills any parent can help their child develop – often through activities which they may already do, and always without special equipment or programmes.

Author Kerrie Shanahan is a primary school teacher and mother of two, and take sthe time to explain what works and why. The book is filled with simple ideas, short-cut tips and extension activities.

Springboard to Maths and Science is the first title in a planned series of six from Ibis Publishing.

Springboard to Maths and Science, by Kerrie Shanahan
Ibis Publishing, 2004

Buzztown Books

New publisher Ibis Publishing is focussing on producing series in its children’s imprint. The latest offering is three new titles in the Buzztown series, written by various authors and illustrated by Russell Tate.

Aron Artist’s Exhibition, by Sally Odgers and Fin Firefighter to the Rescue by Adrienne Frater are both small format full colour offerings whilst Buzztown Activity Book is a colouring book with activities relating to the series.

The series has a very retro feel, with each story telling the tale of one of Buzztown’s residents and their adventures in their chosen career. Previous titles have featured a cleaner, a waiter, a detective and a hairdresser. As well as the new activity book, each book includes suggestions for parents, and there are also activities on the Ibis website.

A fun series.

Fin Firefighter to the Rescue, by Adrienne Frater, illustrated by Russell Tate
Aron Artist’s Exhibition, by Sally Odgers, illustrated by Russell Tate
Buzztown Activity Book, by Kerrie Shanahan
Ibis Publishing, 2004

Boredom Busters 1 and 2, by Merle Bennett

With the Summer holidays just about upon us, many parents will be interested in these two offerings from Ibis Publishing, one of Australia’s newer publishers. Each book offers a hundred pages of puzzles, quizzes and games for children aged eight and over – a great way to fend off cries of “I’m bored” on car trips, or on days at home.

From wordsleuths and crosswords, to math and observation activities, as well as group games and games for the car, there is a good range of different activities in each book, and back of book answers are provided where relevant.

The cover of each book is glossy and slightly sturdier than many magazine-style puzzle books, making these books an attractive gift for Christmas or another occasion.

Boredom Busters 1 and 2, by Merle Bennett
Ibis for Kids, 2004

Happy Birthday Roly and Where Are You, Roly?, by Selena Chan and Michelle Katsouranis

Roly is a chubby purple puppy, which is hardly surprising when you realise that his father is blue and his mother pink. Kids will love his crazy colour and his cute face and they’ll like his adventures, too.

Both of these offerings have very simple storylines and lots of colour, and so are suited for very young children – aged up to four years. Where Are You, Roly? is a lift the flap book with each double page spread showing Roly hidden in various places – in a treehouse, behind the bubbles in the bath, behind books on his desk and so on with a simple but sturdy flap to be lifted or opened to reveal him. The text is patterned, with each page beginning with the question: Where are you, Roly? This is followed by Roly’s description of what he is doing, in simple rhyme, and his question, Can you see me?

Happy Birthday Roly is similarly simple, although slightly larger in format and without the flap feature. It is Roly’s birthday and he is preparing for his birthday party. He is planning to do a magic act for his friends but he has nothing special to wear. Until he opens his parents’ gift.

A feature of both books is the inclusion of notes for parents on the back cover, with simple suggestions for before, during and after reading the book. There are also further tips and activities avaialable at the publisher’s website.This cute pair would be suitable as a birthday gift and their sturdy pages make them likely to withstand the love they will get from toddler owners.

Happy Birthday Roly and Where Are You Roly?, by Selena Chan, illustrated by Michelle Katsouranis
Ibis Publishing, 2004

Nourish and Nuture

Reviewed by Magdalena Ball

A good knowledge of nutrition is essential for everyone, but at no time in life is it more needed than when a new baby comes along. For a pregnant mother, it is important to make every bit of food count for the growing baby inside, and for breastfeeding mothers, ensuring that enough of the right nutrients are taken in is vital for keeping both the child and mother healthy and strong. It is around 5-6 months though when a baby begins taking in solids that the real testing begins. Sophie Blackmore’s new book Nourish is part of a series of books for new parents which are in cute small square sizes with a bright cover and easy to absorb information. The series also includes Nurture, a guide to taking care of a new baby, Name a guide to baby names, and Nest, a guide to preparing for a new baby.

Nurture and Nourish together would make a lovely gift package for a new parent. Nourish includes a simple guide to developmental stages and suggested foods, a guide to when, and how to introduce solids, along with a one page list of which foods to introduce when. The rest of the book is an A (apple) to Z (zucchini) listing of common foods, including information on when is the best time of year to buy, how to store, nutritional information, how to serve to babies and other members of the family, and a recipe or two for each one. The book is geared towards babies and provides lots of simple, useable information on how to make these foods work for the youngest member of your family, but many of the recipes and ideas are suitable for the whole family. The simple and clear format makes this book easy to use, and the recipes are all suitable for a harried and tired parent. Foods like banana pancakes, pesto, celery casserole (got my 4 year old to eat this one happily though he swears he hates celery), or stuffed mushrooms will probably become family favourites long after your infant has graduated to eating whatever everyone else in the family eats.

Nurture follows a similar format and covers all of the basics for managing a new baby. There are chapters on getting a new baby home from the hospital, obtaining help, dealing with crying, first aid, feeding, changing nappies, bathing, swaddling, baby massage, dealing with sleeping issues, establishing routines, dealing with parental health, getting organised, returning to work, and managing the extended family. The book is geared towards life in Australia, and there are specific lists of hotline and contact numbers for Australians, government assistance, and other country based information. The light tone, and simple, quick to read format will be suitable for parents who have little time to read and can also be used as a reference guide to problem solving and dealing with issues as they arise. This is really only a book which will be of use to first time parents though. The information doesn’t extend beyond the first 3-4 months or so, and it is all fairly basic. However, this is just want a first timer needs. It can be augmented later by one of the more thorough reference/health books like Penelope Leach’s Baby & Child (the book I still turn to when my children have behavioural or health concerns that trouble me), or a specific guide targeted to your children’s age. In the meantime, Nurture is a lovely little book perfectly suited to an Australian parent who needs to learn the basics fast.

Both of the books are very neatly presented, with sidebars, helpful hints and suggestions, and lots of little cartoons to make reading easy, even for the bleary new parents. The bright square portable design and well structured chapters make these a very appealing gift set. For more information visit:

Nourish: Food for Your Baby
By Sophie Blackmore
Ibis Publishing
Paperback, IBSN1920923314, Sept 2004, rrp$18.00

Nurture: Caring for Your New Baby
By Debra and Kim Choate
Ibis Publishing
Paperback, ISBN 1920923306, Sept 2004, rrp$18.00


This review first appeared at It appears here with permission.

Ruby Roo books by Lucy Nichols

Reviewed by Magdalena Ball

Ruby Roo is a cute little kangaroo with a large head, a long pointy tail, and an orange and green spotted shirt. She is about the same age as a toddler and they will relate to her adventurousness. They will also learn along with Ruby as she discovers the world and her place in it. In Ruby Roo Jumps Too High, Ruby is proud of her great jumping skills, and ignoring her parents’ warnings to be careful, she jumps up over the rose bush, the fence, the house, the bridge, the school, the tower, and then she jumps so high she reaches the moon. Once on the moon she is too scared to come down, but in the end, a little help from some pointy roo tails saves the day. Ruby learns a good lesson about taking care which children will also learn. Children won’t mind suspending their judgement about the logistics of a kangaroo jumping up to the moon, and will love the sliding back part. The progression from small jumps to larger jumps will help children learn early maths and provide an opportunity for further expansion of the story.

Ruby Roo’s Teddy is a very simple lift the flap book with the familiar topic of trying to find a missing teddy. If you have any lift the flap books already (Spot, Miffy, or Caillou for example) they will probably have a similar theme, but young children do love to lift those flaps, and the familiarity of the story will appeal to children and make the book instantly accessible.

Both books are illustrated in rich deep colours, with simple, naïve pictures that children will like. On the back of each book are tips for extending the reading experience. For more information visit

Ruby Roo Jumps Too High
ISBN 1920923029, rrp $15.95
Ruby Roo’s Teddy
ISBN 1920923098, rrp $12.95
By Lucy Nichols
Illustrated by Christina Miesen
Ibis for Kids, paperback, 2004

This review first appeared at It appears here with permission.

Life Skills For kids, by Kim Davis

Being a child isn’t always fun and games. Kids have lots of things to deal with – difficulties with school work, bullying, family problems, social problems and more. And not every child shows what s/he is feeling inside so that the adults around them can help them. Life Skills For Kids is designed to offer kids this help, by showing them ways to understand and control their feelings.

Author Kim Davis, a teacher, therapist and counsellor has put together a program that helps children develop an awareness of the connection between their feelings and what is happening in their life. Using fictional stories and reflective activities, Life Skills for Kids is an interactive book which can be worked through by the child on his/her own or, ideally with parental support.

Life Skills for Kids contains four stories, each with follow up activities, followed by sections explaining relaxation techniques such as massage, meditation, dance, and understanding dreams.

Life Skills For Kids offers a great resource for kids, parents, teachers and counsellors.

Life Skills for Kids, by Kim Davis
Ibis Publishing, 2004