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

My Dead Bunny by Sigi Cohen ill James Foley

My dead bunny’s name is Brad;

His odour is extremely bad.

He visits me when I’m in bed,

But Bradley wasn’t always dead …

My dead bunny’s name is Brad;

His odour is extremely bad.

He visits me when I’m in bed,

But Bradley wasn’t always dead …

A boy’s pet rabbit dies in an unfortunate accident and although sad, he buries his pet and thinks that’s the end of Brad the bunny. Not so, Brad returns as a foul-smelling, terror-inducing zombie. His eyes are pink, his fur green, his whiskers crinkled and a worm sprouting from his head. And it seems there is no escaping Bradley. Bradley sends the boy’s sister mad and chases the family from the house. The boy devises a solution, but it may not be the end, it may be the beginning … Illustrations are mostly black and white and a puky-green.

My Dead Bunny is not for little children. If the colours and format don’t cue that, then the terror on the boy’s face should. It’s a small format picture book half-way between gift and classic picture book size. But for children who like a bit of subversion with their reading, My Dead Bunny is spot-on. Full of horror-movie angles and deadpan rhyming text, it will have young and old alike cackling. Hilarious! But don’t give it to your toddler unless you fancy dealing with nightmares. Recommended for zombie-fans of all ages.

My Dead Bunny, Sigi Cohen ill James Foley
  Walker Books Australia 2015
ISBN: 9781922179593

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

The Last Viking Returns, by Norman Jorgensen & James Foley

The two littlest Vikings are getting bigger and stronger and wilder every day. Nothing scares them at all and that worries Knut no end.

Josh loves all things Viking – so much so that he prefers to be called Knut, Prince of the Vikings. Hardly anything scares him, except perhaps his little twin siblings, who get into everything and don’t seem to be scared of anything. When Nan and Pop take the family to Viking World, a theme park, the twins’ adventurous antics will land them in a whole lot of trouble, which only Josh can save them from.

In the meantime, up in Asgard, the Norse Gods have their eye on Knut and the twns. When Thor decides to head down to Viking World, he leaves his friends unprotected. Josh’s actions down below could unwittingly help out his unearthly friends.

The Last Viking Returns is a sequel to the popular The Last Viking,though it stands comfortably on its own. There’s plenty of humour and action, and the twin plot lines mean this will appeal to readers well into the school years. The illustrations, using pencil and digital watercolour, are rich and detailed, and the endpapers include a map of the theme park, and a code in runes.

Great fun!

The Last Viking Returns, by Norman Jorgensen & James Foley
Fremantle Press, 2014
ISBN 9781925161151

Available from good bookstores or online.

In the Lion, by James Foley

In the city there’s a zoo.
In the zoo there’s a lion.
And in the lion there’s…

In the city zoo, a grumpy lion eats everything – or, rather, everyone – in sight. A dentist, a hairdresser, a zookeeper, even his fellow animals. But while the pandemonium and fear grows, a small boy called Richard watches. He knows what to do. Soon, thanks to his bravery and quick thinking, the lion is back in its cage, and its captives have been freed, unharmed.

In the Lion is a delightfully humorous picture book. The text is cumulative, encouraging youngsters to join in and to predict. The illustrations, drawn in graphite and coloured digitally, are full of life and colour. The massive lion manages to be both cute and ferocious at the same time, and the human characters are diverse. The little boy hero is delightful.

This is Foley’s debut as author/illustrator – he previously illustrated The Last Viking (written by Norman Jorgensen) – and will delight.

In the Lion

In the Lion, by James Foley
Fremantle Press, 2012
ISBN 9781921720321

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

The Last Viking, by Norman Jorgensen & James Foley

Young Josh is very brave.
He’s not afraid of anyone or anything – except maybe the dark and the sound of ghosts whistling in the trees at night.
Pirates worry him a bit, of course, and so do boy-eating dinosaurs, and monsters under the bed. He’s also just a little afraid of dragons and vampires.
But other than those few things, Josh is as brave as a lion.
Sort of.

Josh is scared of a lot of things – including going to stay at Nan and Pop’s house by himself. But once there, his Pop gives him a book about the wonderful world of Vikings and, as Josh reads, he decides that he, too will become a Viking. No longer is he timid Josh – now he is bold, brave Knut, Prince of the Vikings. Now he’s ready to face anything.

But when he encounters a bunch of bullies in the local park, Josh/Knut isn’t so sure he has what it takes to be a Viking. Only by digging deep – and perhaps with a little intervention from some Viking Gods – will he find his inner strength.

The Last Viking is a beautiful new picture book offering from the pairing of award winning author Norman Jorgensen and talented debut illustrator James Foley. The story is a lovely blend of gentle wisdom and fun, and the illustrations (a blend of pencil, ink and digital watercolour) are full of detail and layering that reveal more on each reading. The darkness of some of the Viking illustrations is cleverly offset by bright colours and humour in other illustrations, proving a satisfying blend.

A wonderful offering for pre and lower primary aged readers – and their adults.

The Last Viking

The Last Viking, by Norman Jorgensen & James Foley
Fremantle Press, 2011
ISBN 9781921888106

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