Keepers of the Crystals 2: Eve and the Fiery Phoenix by Jess Black

‘Race you!’ Eve took off down the wide footpath that led to the town centre and main beach, her long black curls bouncing madly as she ran. She could hear her friend Oscar sprinting after her. It didn’t’ take him long to catch up.

‘Face it, Eve,’ Oscar teased, ‘you’ll never beat me!’

Eve scowled as Oscar overtook her. He could be so annoying!

Even though she felt as if her chest might burst, Eve managed to stay on Oscar’s tail.

‘Race you!’ Eve took off down the wide footpath that led to the town centre and main beach, her long black curls bouncing madly as she ran. She could hear her friend Oscar sprinting after her. It didn’t’ take him long to catch up.

‘Face it, Eve,’ Oscar teased, ‘you’ll never beat me!

Eve scowled as Oscar overtook her. He could be so annoying!

Even though she felt as if her chest might burst, Eve managed to stay on Oscar’s tail.

They raced each other the four blocks from Eve’s grandmother’s house to the sleepy main street of Marigold. Oscar reached the low stone wall above the beach ahead of Eve. It’s holidays and Eve and Oscar were planning a swim. But a sudden rain shower sends them (and Eve’s grandmother Silvie) racing for shelter inside an odd shop. While they look around Eve discovers a crystal and she and Oscar are whisked off on a magical adventure. They find themselves in a jungle full of tigers and other creatures. This world is shrouded in darkness and the jungle is dying. If they ever want to return home, they have to solve the mystery of the growing darkness.

Eve and the Fiery Phoenix is a second title in a new series from New Frontier, with a third due for release late in 2015. The two main characters have quite different interests but it is in working together that they achieve success in their adventures. Eve’s story begins in the contemporary world, but they are transported to a more magical place with the help of a crystal. Their quest is important for the world they visit but imperative for them to return to their own world. Eve is a proactive hero and Oscar an able sidekick. Recommended for newly-confident readers ready for a short novel.

Keepers of the Crystals 2:Eve and the Fiery Phoenix , Jess Black
New Frontier Publishing 2015 ISBN: 9781925059441

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

www.clairesaxby.com

Onesie Mumsie by Alice Rex ill Amanda Francey

‘Onesie Mumsie!

Onesie Mumsie!’

‘Whose bedtime is it?’

‘Onesie Mumsie!

Onesie Mumsie!’

‘Whose bedtime is it?

A small girl is resisting bedtime. Although it might be bedtime for little girls, and even for little rabbits, it’s clearly not bedtime for some of her other onesie-inspired friends. Mum, who may or may not be planning a sit down with a mug of hot chocolate, is happy to play along. Illustrations move from the realistic to the imaginary as different onesies inspire imaginative play. Mother and child enjoy their play until it seems the little girl is finally content to stay in bed. Now Mum can also go to bed. Illustrations are watercolour and pencil, set mostly in white space, although there are hints about what ‘adventure’ will follow. Cameo roles are played by the little girl’s favourite soft toys.

Onesie Mumsie! is a celebration of pre-bedtime games, a celebration of the one-on-one time that is so important for parent and child. The child initiates an activity and Mum rolls with it, joining in to vanquish the animals that appear on her bed. Cue cuddles, tickles and more. Young children will love the playfulness, and the illustrations offer an introduction to different habitats and potential discussions about animals and their habitats. (Tired parents might want to schedule reading to the weekend!) Recommended for pre-school children.

 

Onesie Mumsie!, Alice Rex ill Amanda Francey New Frontier Publishing 2015 ISBN: 9781925059243

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

www.clairesaxby.com

The Last ANZAC by Gordon Winch ill Harriet Bailey

On a cold winter’s day James and his dad stepped off a plane in Tasmania.

James was going to meet Alec Campbell, the last living Anzac. The year was 2001.

On a cold winter’s day James and his dad stepped off a plane in Tasmania.

James was going to meet Alec Campbell, the last living Anzac. The year was 2001.

James and his dad travel to meet Alec Campbell, the last living Anzac. James is bubbling with questions about all sorts of aspects of war. He wants to know whether Campbell was injured, whether he was scared, what he and the other soldiers ate. Interspersed with the questions from James, the story of Alec Campbell’s war service is explored. Illustrations swap between the present and 1915, with the latter images shown either full page or surrounded by a border, a bit like an old photo. The last ‘present’ image, with Alec Campbell and James together is also presented as a photo, perhaps suggesting the lasting memory of their meeting.

The Last ANZAC is based on a true story of the meeting between James and Alec Campbell. It’s not easy to share the enormity of a war with young readers. Gordon Winch has put the reader in the story in the form of a character, James, who is about their age. This way James can ask the questions that a young reader might ask. Illustrations also present more information sure to generate more questions and opportunities for discussion either at home or in the classroom. ‘The Last ANZAC’ offers an introduction to WWI for early primary readers, showing them Gallipoli through the eyes of someone who was there. Endpapers include copies of wartime letters, postcards and envelopes.

 

The Last ANZAC, Gordon Winch ill Harriet Bailey New Frontier Publishing 2015 ISBN: 9781925059298

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

www.clairesaxby.com

The Velveteen Rabbit by Marjery Williams Bianco ill Helene Magisson

There was once a velveteen rabbit, and in the beginning he was really splendid. He was fat and bunchy, as a rabbit should be; his coat was spotted brown and white, he had real thread whiskers, and his ears were lined with pink sateen. On Christmas morning, when he sat wedged in the top of the Boy’s stocking, with a sprig of holly between his paws, the effect was charming.

There was once a velveteen rabbit, and in the beginning he was really splendid. He was fat and bunchy, as a rabbit should be; his coat was spotted brown and white, he had real thread whiskers, and his ears were lined with pink sateen. On Christmas morning, when he sat wedged in the top of the Boy’s stocking, with a sprig of holly between his paws, the effect was charming.

The rabbit in The Velveteen Rabbitis a Christmas gift to a young boy. Although the Boy has many toys, he comes to love the Rabbit and for a long time they are close companions. Another toy in the nursery, the Skin Horse, tells the Rabbit that if a child really loves you, for a long time, then you become Real. The Rabbit longs to become Real, but there are many twists and turns along the path he wants to travel. Illustrations are in gentle blues and greens, lyrical and lovely. Endpapers offer two views of an empty toy room a

The Velveteen Rabbitwas first published in 1922 and has been a favourite of many young and old. This beautiful edition of the story about the magic of love is sure to win a new generation of fans. Readers will enjoy their visit to a different time, and empathise with the longings of a loved companion. Observant readers may also find extra details in the endpapers. Recommended for pre- and early schoolers.

 

The Velveteen Rabbit, Marjery Williams Bianco ill Helene Magisson New Frontier Publishing 2015 ISBN: 9781925059304

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

www.clairesaxby.com

What’s In My Lunchbox? by Peter Carnavas ill Kat Chadwick

Today in my lunchbox

I happened to find …

Today in my lunchbox

I happened to find …

A young boy opens his lunchbox to find an apple. He doesn’t like apples, but that’s just the beginning. Over the next days he finds increasingly unlikely things in his lunchbox, each of which he likes even less than the previous offering. His apprehension in opening the lunchbox grows. Font size is large and the text simple. Illustration backgrounds are in pastel colours with the main character, the lunchbox and the ‘contents’ of the lunchbox in more intense colours. Endpapers feature a range of lunchbox possibilities, only some of which are included in the story.

What’s in My Lunchbox is a timely story for new school children and younger children experiencing lunchbox offerings for the first time. The rhythm and repetition of the text will soon have young children ‘reading’ along. Illustrations provide offer extras for young readers to identify. Young readers will also be able to empathise with the growing apprehension illustrated. Plenty of opportunities to generate discussion about lunchbox choices. Love the grinning lunchbox! Recommended for pre- and early-schoolers.

 

What’s in My LunchboxPeter Carnavas ill Kat Chadwick New Frontier Publishing 2015 ISBN: 9781925059038

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

www.clairesaxby.com

If … A Mind-Bending New Way of Looking at Big Ideas and Numbers by David J. Smith ill Steve Adams

How big is Earth or the Solar System or the Milky Way galaxy?

How old is our planet and when did the first animals and people appear on it?

Some things are so huge or so old that it’s hard to wrap your mind around them. But what if we took these big, hard-to-imagine objects and events and compared them to things we can see, feel and touch?

How big is Earth or the Solar System or the Milky Way galaxy?

How old is our planet and when did the first animals and people appear on it?

Some things are so huge or so old that it’s hard to wrap your mind around them. But what if we took these big, hard-to-imagine objects and events and compared them to things we can see, feel and touch?

If …’ introduces some of the mind-boggling concepts of our world and suggests ways of understanding them. Our planets are shown as a series of balls from Mercury (ping pong ball) to Jupiter (fit ball). Our galaxy becomes a plate and our solar system a speck of dust too small to see. History becomes a calendar and continents animals with the ocean (and a blue whale) occupying ¾ of the earth’s surface. The painterly illustrations are full page and include children and adults helping to present and understand the information on offer. Text boxes provide extra information. Humans are shown large and small, the different scales helping to clarify the text information. There is also plenty of other information embedded in the illustrations. There is a contents page and final pages offer notes for parents and teachers as well as information sources.

If’ is a picture book for children who like their information straight up. It will also help parents and teachers answer some of those curly questions in an age-accessible way. Information-hungry children will find plenty to engage and entertain as well as ideas and suggestions to stimulate further exploration and investigation. It’s easy to see ‘If’ being used through primary years both at school and at home, particularly for those who struggle with longer fictional texts. Recommended for primary-aged readers.

If Cover

If …, David J. Smith Steve Adams New Frontier Publishing 2015 ISBN: 9781925059267

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

www.clairesaxby.com

Jake in Space: Volcanoes of Venus Candice Lemon-Scott

Jake dropped his old backpack in amazement. He couldn’t believe he was actually here at the Floating Hotel of Venus.

‘Wow! This is the best prize ever,’ a voice said.

Jake turned. It was Rory, who had just arrived from Mars with his mum and dad. And Rory was right – the hotel was even more incredible than Jake had heard. The foyer was round, with gleaming bronze pillars and walls that shimmered bright yellow like a golden waterfall.

Jake dropped his old backpack in amazement. He couldn’t believe he was actually here at the Floating Hotel of Venus.

‘Wow! This is the best prize ever,’ a voice said.

Jake turned. It was Rory, who had just arrived from Mars with his mum and dad. And Rory was right – the hotel was even more incredible than Jake had heard. The foyer was round, with gleaming bronze pillars and walls that shimmered bright yellow like a golden waterfall.

Jake and his friends are on Venus staying at the unimaginably luxurious Floating Hotel of Venus courtesy of a reward for saving the world from being taken over by robots. But it’s not long before a new mystery finds them. The action quickly moves from deciding which luxury treat to have first, to who to trust and how to find out just who has dangerous secrets. There are fast vehicles and near misses, red herrings and volcanoes to be navigated. And as always, time is running out before catastrophe ensues. Chapter headings are illustrated and there is a flip space race happening across the bottom of each spread.

As if there’s not enough to be had on Earth, Jake and his friends, Rory, Henry, Skye and Milly, take the action off-Earth and into space. They are trained in space driving but more than that, the friends between them have the skills and insights necessary to solve all manner of mysteries. They don’t always get it right first time, but with teamwork, they consistently out-think and out-manoeuvre their foes. The stakes are high, and there is plenty of high-tech equipment at their disposal. These fast-paced adventures are ideal for newly independent readers.

Jake in Space: Volcanoes of Venus, Candice Lemon-Scott New Frontier Publishing 2015 ISBN: 9781925059281

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

www.clairesaxby.com

Jake In Space: Robot Games by Candice Lemon-Scott

Whoosh! A robot in a jet-powered winged suit flew straight past Jake and his friends. It looked like a cross between a person and a plane. Jake could smell the burning fuel as the robot shot upwards. The heat from the jets was so intense it almost burned the skin on his face.

Zoom! Another robot came out of nowhere.

Jake jumped as it roared by, making him spill his super-fizz swurpie all over himself. The rainbow-coloured fizzy bubbles started popping all over his pants, leaving a wet, sticky mess.

‘Great!’ he mumbled, pulling an instant-dry cloth from his shirt pocket.

He was busy trying to wipe his pants clean when Rory nudged him. Following his gaze skywards, Jake’s jaw dropped open.

Whoosh! A robot in a jet-powered winged suit flew straight past Jake and his friends. It looked like a cross between a person and a plane. Jake could smell the burning fuel as the robot shot upwards. The heat from the jets was so intense it almost burned the skin on his face.

Zoom! Another robot came out of nowhere.

Jake jumped as it roared by, making him spill his super-fizz swurpie all over himself. The rainbow-coloured fizzy bubbles started popping all over his pants, leaving a wet, sticky mess.

‘Great!’ he mumbled, pulling an instant-dry cloth from his shirt pocket.

He was busy trying to wipe his pants clean when Rory nudged him. Following his gaze skywards, Jake’s jaw dropped open.

Jake and his friends are attending the Robot Games, arena spectacular competitions and displays by the most advanced robots ever developed. But something’s is wrong with their cyborg friend Henry. It could be that he has eaten too many of the weird popping snack, Gob Pop, he seems to love. They’re not sure what’s going on with him so they take him to the nearby medical centre, despite having to miss some of the Robot Games events. Black and white images appear with each new chapter and across the bottom of each opening.

‘Jake In Space: Robot Games’ is a third instalment in a series for young readers from New Frontier Publishing. Three more titles are to be released soon. Each adventure involves Jake and his friends in a mystery that only they can solve. Each is set in a future where robots are familiar and children control their own space cars. Characters require clear-thinking skills and imagination. Action is fast-paced and there are plenty of wonderful gadgets to keep readers engaged. Recommended for newly-independent readers.

Jake In Space: Robot Games, Candice Lemon-Scott 2014 New Frontier Publishing ISBN: 9781925059120

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

www.clairesaxby.com

Mr Darcy and the Christmas Pudding by Alex Field ill Peter Carnavas

Christmas is the very best time of year, thought Mr Darcy.

Snow was falling as he hung the mistletoe over his front door,

making sure there were enough berries for everyone.

Christmas is the very best time of year, thought Mr Darcy.

Snow was falling as he hung the mistletoe over his front door,

making sure there were enough berries for everyone.

Mr Darcy is making his Christmas Pudding and all of his friends join him for the traditional Stir-Up Sunday. On Stir-Up Sunday, everyone has a turn stirring the Christmas pudding as they close their eyes and make a wish. Everyone is there, everyone except Mr Collins who has been left outside after behaving badly towards Maria.

But kind-hearted Lizzy can’t relax while Mr Collins is outside in the snow and they are warm and safe inside. Mr Darcy relents and everyone has a splendid afternoon of Christmas games and hot chocolate. Illustrations are watercolour with black outline. Some openings feature a single full scene with colours to page edge, while other openings include several smaller scenes set in white space.

This is a third picture book from Alex Field and Peter Carnavas featuring Mr Darcy, Lizzy and other characters of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. As with the others, Mr Darcy and the Christmas Pudding gently examines pride and prejudice and their consequences. This time, there is the addition of a Christmas tradition. Young readers need have no knowledge of the novel from which the characters are drawn to enjoy this story. It’s a tender story of family and sharing, and behaving well. Recommended for pre- and early-schoolers.

Mr Darcy and the Christmas Pudding, Alex Field ill Peter Carnavas New Frontier Publishing 2014 ISBN: 9781925059137

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

www.clairesaxby.com

Jessica's Box by Peter Carnavas (with support from Cerebral Palsy Alliance)

Jessica’s mind was too busy for sleep.
Her thoughts were already with tomorrow.
And when tomorrow came, everybody was excited.

Everyone in Jessica’s family is as excited about her first day at school as Jessica herself is. She is particularly excited about making lots of new friends. She takes her box with her to make sure of it. She knows that everyone will be as interested in sharing her box and its contents as she is. But school is a different place, and making friends isn’t as easy or automatic as she envisaged. A square hardback, ‘Jessica’s Box’ uses white space to echo Jessica’s initial silence as she tries to make friends. When she has their attention, the white space diminishes. When her efforts fail, the images fade to almost black and white. She keeps trying, but the results are not quite right, until she puts something extra special in the box. It works. Endpapers are a gentle sunny yellow and include a smaller version of the front cover image.

The first day of school is a biggie. For some children, it’s a day that can’t come too soon. Others approach the changes that school will bring with trepidation, despite the best preparation. ‘Jessica’s Box’ shows a child keen to go to school, but with an underlying unspoken anxiety about how it will all go. So she takes a familiar object, her box. Her box can be anything that she wants it to be. She is sure that it will facilitate friendships. The responses to her box are varied and not as she expects. She is trying to ‘buy’ friendship with the contents of her box. Only when she stops trying, does she inadvertently discover all she needs to make friends is herself. Recommended for pre-school to early-primary children, particularly those approaching school-age.

This new edition of ‘Jessica’s Box’ has an identical text to the original, but Jessica is shown in a wheelchair throughout. There is a dust jacket and the cover is pale green, rather than white. The publication is supported by Cerebral Palsy Alliance. Jessica’s disability is irrelevant to the story and is not mentioned at all. Plenty of opportunity for classroom discussion at many levels about the decision to re-release ‘Jessica’s Box’ with these new illustrations. Plenty of room for discussion about the depiction of disability in literature. Recommended for pre-schoolers, early-primary and beyond.

Jessica's Box

Jessica’s Box, auth/ill Peter Carnavas
New Frontier Publishing 2008
ISBN: 9781921042911

Jessica’s Box, auth/ill Peter Carnavas

New Frontier Publishing 2013ISBN: 9781921928574