Keeper of the Crystals 5: Eve and the Griffin’s Gold by Jess Black

Eve was not good at waiting.
She stood with her nose pressed against the cold glass while balancing on tiptoe on the arm of the couch. From this height she could see all the way to the corner of Stewart Street. Eve knew that this was the way her grandmother, Sylvie, would walk from the bus stop when she arrived.

Eve and her dragon, Ingvar, are waiting for Sylvie and Oscar to arrive. Sylvie is Eve’s grandmother and Oscar her friend. They’re staying with Eve while her parents are out of town. Eve, Sylvie and Oscar have had many adventures ‘and travelled to many worlds’. Eve’s not expecting any adventure or danger this visit, but she’s always prepared. Just as well, as adventure seems to find her. This time, there’s a visit from an old enemy and a griffin who needs their help in Dracburn, where one-eyed men are stealing the lining from griffin nests. While her grandmother deals with the old enemy, Eve, Ingvar and Oscar are off on a new quest.

What young girl wouldn’t want a dragon as a companion? And the ability to help other creatures in magical worlds. Keeper of the Crystals: Eve and the Griffin’s Gold is Book 5 in this series from New Frontier Publishing. It’s at newly competent readers wanting to be whisked away on magical adventures full of jewels and wondrous creatures. Eve is a gentle champion who works with her friends to solve mysteries and rescue those in distress. She must be brave and resourceful and overcome seemingly impassable obstacles to succeed in her missions. And she does. Then arrives home in time to spend time with her grandmother. Recommended for young readers, ready for fantastical stories.

Keeper of the Crystals 5: Eve and the Griffin’s Gold, Jess Black
New Frontier Publishing 2017
ISBN: 9781925059830

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

Sage Cookson 4: Singapore Sensation by Sally Murphy

‘Come on Sage! We’ll miss the plane.’
As if! My parents are used to travelling. So am I, because I always go with them. They knew exactly what they need to do to get to the airport, check in and be on board in time.
Çoming!’I call, quickly finishing the text message to my best friend.
Off to the airport now. See you next week.
I press send, put my phone in my pocket, and grab my backpack and suitcase.

Sage and her parents are off to Singapore, now their work on the new cookbook is just about done. They have just one tiny segment to film, but the rest of their week is pure holiday. They are thrilled to see an article in the inflight magazine about the new book. Everything is going well. Things start going wrong as soon as they land. And it must have something to do with the pink-haired lady who seems to turn up everywhere they go.

Ten-year-old Sage has a life many would envy: she travels around Australia and beyond with her television chef parents. Somehow, wherever they are, there are mysteries. Luckily Sage is observant and quick-thinking and is good at solving them. Sage stays in touch with her friend, Lucy, by text and that means that her friend sometimes becomes part of the mystery-solving. Sage’s parents try to make her life as normal as possible, including giving her a phone to keep in touch with her best friend. This is a fun, realistic adventure mystery series sure to make many newly independent readers wish they were Sage!

Sage Cookson 4: Singapore Sensation, Sally Murphy
New Frontier Publishing 2017
ISBN: 9781925059960

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

Marvin and Marigold: The Big Sneeze, by Mark Carthew & Simon Prescott

Whenever young Marvin smelled biscuits or cheese
his whiskers would twitch…and he’d let out a sneeze.

Marigold Mouse has built herself a lovely new house, but there is a problem. Her neighbour, Marvin, has a terrible case of the sneezes, and whenever he sneezes, Marigold’s house shakes and gets messy. If she wants to save her house and keep Marvin as a neighbour, Marigold must search for a cure for Marvin’s sneezing.

The Big Sneeze is a delightful story in rhyme for young readers about friendship – and sneezing. The rhyme and rhythm scan well, making the story a pleasure to read aloud, and youngsters will love the humour of the situation as well as the illustrations which show quirky anthropomorphic mice and lots of detail covering every spread. The expressions of the mice are especially pleasing.

The Big Sneeze, by Mark Carthew, illustrated by Simon Prescott

New Frontier, 2016
ISBN 9781925059656

Meet My Book: Sage Cookson's Sweet Escape, by Sally Murphy

It’s always great to have an author drop by to introduce readers to their new book – but today I’m especially excited because the ‘visiting’ author is me. That’s right, I’m busy celebrating the release of my newest book, and first ever series.DSCN2727

  1. Give us the details – title, publisher, illustrator, release date.    Sage Cookson’s Sweet Escape, published by New Frontier, with illustrations by Celeste Hulme (ISBN 9781925059618) Its release date is today – July 1!
  2. Why did you write the book? I was asked by New Frontier if I was interested in creating a series for younger readers. Of course I said yes, then set about thinking up a premise for the series as well as individual storylines. I love television cooking shows and also mysteries, so I combined those two interests to create a series where the main character, Sage, travels with her parents who have their own television show. Everywhere they go, something goes wrong, and Sage is at the centre of solving it.
  3. How long from idea to publication? About 18 months. First I wrote an outline for the first four titles, then we discussed the strengths and weaknesses of my ideas before I started writing. Then, as with any book, there were multiple drafts, plus editing and copyediting, as well as things like illustration and design.
  4. What was the hardest thing about writing it?  Overcoming chocolate cravings! I love chocolate A LOT and in Sweet Escape, Sage and her parents visit a chocolate factory. I kept thinking about all the yummy goodness and wanting to race out and buy more chocolate.
  5. Coolest thing about your book?  The chocolate. Oh, and the fact that it’s the first title in my first ever series. Four books have been commissioned so far, but we are currently talking about adding to the series.
  6. Something you learnt through writing the book?   That I CAN write series fiction. I had always wanted to write a series –  because I’ve always liked reading them – but had to stop and think about the whole series before I wrote this first one. The first book must tell a story of its own but also sets the scene for what’s to follow.Advance Sage 1
  7. What did you do celebrate the release?  Today I will open a bottle of something bubble and share it with my family. I’m also trying to organise a book launch in a month or so.
  8. And how will you promote the book? Lots of ways. I will blog on my own website and on other blogs. There is also a website dedicated to the series, which will have recipes, activities, sample chapters and more. And I will talk about the book at school visits and festivals.
  9. What are you working on next?  At the moment I am finalising book 4 of the series, and also working on finishing Doctoral studies. As part of my  thesis I have written three new creative works, which I hope to see published in the future.  I am also working on some picture book projects.
  10. Where we can find out more about you and your book?  At my website and at Sage Cookson’s website. Sweet Escape is now available in good bookstores and online. Check out the gorgeous cover. Cover Sage Cookson 1

Blue Whale Blues, by Peter Carnavas

I’ve got the Blue Whale Blues,
I’ve got the Blue Whale,

Whale is singing the blues. He’s sad because he doesn’t know which was the bike he found goes. Luckily his good friend Penguin is there to help him turn it up the right way. But with that problem fixed, Whale finds another, and another. Finally comes the biggest problem of all, when the friends set out to ride thier ‘bike’ and discover that it isn’t a bike at all, but an abandoned shopping trolley.

Blue Whale Blues is a humorous story about friendship and imagination which will have youngsters laughing out loud – and probably telling Whale and Penguin of their mistake long before they realise it for themsleves, with a little help from their friend Turtle. The repeated refrain will encourage them to join in singing the Blue Whale Blues, and the illustrations, using watercolour, collage and digital techniques, will delight.

Lots of fun for preschoolers but adults will smile too.

Blue Whale Blues, by Peter Caranavas
New Frontier, 2015
ISBN 978192505941

Meet My Book: The Gobbling Tree, by Mark Carthew

I’m happy to welcome Mark Carthew to the blog today. Mark is here to introduce us to his latest book, The Gobbling Tree, which has just been rereleased.

Welcome Mark.

1.       Give us the details – title, publisher, illustrator, release date.

The Gobbling Tree

New Frontier Publishing

By Mark Carthew, illustrated by Susy Boyer

Release Feb 1 2014

2.       Why did you write the book?

The idea came from a real life experience as a primary teacher, seeing a student kick a football up into a tree and the efforts of everyone around (including me) try to get it back down!  It was very funny.

3.       How long from idea to publication?

About 4 … or 40 years; depending how you define the ‘idea’ germ – as I suspect the idea  really started in my childhood when lots of the toys and objects  my brother and I played  with such as kites, Frisbees and balls sometimes got caught up in trees.

4.       What was the hardest thing about writing it?

Making sure the rhyming text rolled off the tongue with both logic and energy, while still allowing the text and visual narrative some space. It was also important to me to build up some tension to the resolution – along with the ‘teasers’ of predicted outcomes in each stanza.

5.       Coolest thing about your book?

Winning the Speech Pathology Australia Book of Year Award. (… and Susy’s great illustrations. I love her use of shadows and the fun element of the little dog in every picture)

6.       Something you learnt through writing the book?

That working with illustrators is one of the greatest things about being a children’s author. I loved working with Susy and the way she enjoyed all discussions about text and illustration placement.

7.       What did you do celebrate the release?

We had an exhibition and book launch event at the wonderful Mark’s and Gardner Galley & café in  Tamborine Mountain, Qld. They placed full sized objects from the story in a grand old oak tree in their beautiful open garden. The locals still call it The Gobbling Tree!

8.       And how will you promote the book?

I present at lots of festivals, libraries, events and schools and provide bookmarks, posters and activity sheets and notes for teachers and children.

9.       What are you working on next?

Like most authors I normally have lots of projects and ideas bubbling away!  I have written a sequel to my latest book The Moose is Loose! and I have also written a follow up title to Five Little Owls (Six Little Ducks) which will also have a matching CD / song.  I’m also working on a graphic novel for older children and a number of other picture books.

10.   Where we can find out more about you and your book?

My website  is a good place. I put lots of fun free songs, activities, book links, interviews and resources up there for parents, teachers and students … and I’m adding things all the time!


Thanks heaps for visiting Mark. You can see a review of The Gobbling Tree here

Meet My Book: Jonathan! by Peter Carnavas & Amanda Francey

Today Peter Carnavas is here to share the news of his new picture book, Jonathan, which was released on February 1. Welcome Peter!


  1. Give us the details – title, publisher, illustrator, release date.


Written by Peter Carnavas

Illustrated by Amanda Francey

New Frontier Publishing – February 2014

 2. Why did you write the book?

I remember walking my dog and thinking about the sorts of books my children really enjoyed.  At the time, they were about three and five years old, and they loved simple, funny and playful stories, with little bits of repetitive suspense throughout the book.  I initially thought of two sibling characters that always tried to scare each other, then decided to keep it to one child character who tries to scare his family.  It’s one of the first stories I have written with my children’s tastes in mind.  They quite like it, so I hope other kids do, too.

 3. How long from idea to publication?

I had sent Jonathan! to my publisher quite a while ago, along with some other stories.  At the time, we decided to go ahead with another story and work on Jonathan! later, as it targeted a slightly younger audience, compared to my usual stories.  I’m glad we waited, as I met Amanda Francey the following year and she agreed to illustrate the book.  So it was probably over two years from idea to publication.

4. What was the hardest thing about writing it?

This is the first picture book I have written in rhyme, so that was a challenge.  I have always been reluctant to use rhyme, as I always felt it would be harder than it seemed.  I was right!

 5. Coolest thing about your book?

For kids, I think the coolest thing about the book is when Jonathan meets the thing that will help him REALLY scare his family.

For me, the coolest thing about the book was having another illustrator bring my ideas to life.

6. Something you learnt through writing the book?

I learnt that being an author is much easier than being an author/illustrator!

 7. What did you do celebrate the release?

The same thing I do whenever I celebrate anything – I had a nice cup of tea.

 8. And how will you promote the book?

We will launch the book in March, in Brisbane.  I believe Amanda has organised some costumes for the event, which will be loads of fun.  I’ll also be visiting lots of schools throughout the year, getting kids involved in the Jonathan! story and inspiring them to make their own books.

 9. What are you working on next?

I have illustrated an hilarious book called My Nanna is a Ninja, by Damon Young, which comes out very soon.  I’ve also just finished working on another book of my own, called Oliver and George, about a cheeky boy trying desperately to get his big bear friend’s nose out of a book.

10. Where we can find out more about you and your book?

You can visit my site or my publisher’s site


Thanks so much for visiting, Peter.

Jonathan! is available now in good bookstores.

Professor Fred Hollows, by Hazel Edwards

foundation, to ensure that his work continued long after his death.

In Professor Fred Hollows, part of the Aussie Heroes series, author Hazel Edwards recounts the key events in Hollows’ life and work in a simple, accessible form. Coloured illustrations scattered throughout the book bring the story to life.

Three out of four people who are blind don’t have to be. They are blinded by poverty alone.

Frederick (Fred) Cossom Hollows was born and grew up in New Zealand, knowing from a young age that he wanted to make a change for the better. He studied medicine and then decided to become an eye doctor. Moving to Australi,a he recognised the need to take eye care to the people who most needed it, and so set up mobile eye clinics, working in remote and Aboriginal communities providing low cost and free medical aid, and saving the sight of thousands of people. Later, he took his programs to other countries. Before his death in 1992 he established a foundation, to ensure that his work continued long after his death.

In Professor Fred Hollows, part of the Aussie Heroes series, author Hazel Edwards recounts the key events in Hollows’ life and work in a simple, accessible form. Coloured illustrations scattered throughout the book bring the story to life.

Hollows is an inspirational character and an excellent role model to be presented to children as an example of humanitarian action, and the power of self-belief and the difference an individual can make. Professor Fred Hollows would make an excellent addition to school libraries and is suitable for classroom use.

Professor Fred Hollows (Aussie Heroes)

Professor Fred Hollows (Aussie Heroes), by Hazel Edwards, illustrated by Pat Reynolds
New Frontier, 2012
ISBN 978192104275

This book can be purchased in good bookstores or online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

Lily's Wish, by Barbara Pyett & Serena Geddes

Lily is writing her Christmas list, and it’s quite short. All she wants is to be able to fly. Santa responds, but with no promise that he can fulfil her wish. Lily explains a little more and Santa promises to do what he can. So begins a memorable Christmas. Illustrations are in pencil and watercolour, alive with the spirit of the season.

Christmas can be a fraught time with all media screaming Buy! Buy! Buy! and families trying to balance budgets and joy of the festive season. Lily’s wish reminds readers that not all wishes are about objects, and that in this wide world there are other important wishes. Lily’s Wish offers magic and wonder mixed with an exhilaratingly wild ride through the sky. Recommended for pre-school and beyond.

Lily’s Wish, Barbara Pyett & Serena Geddes
New Frontier Publishing 2011
ISBN: 9781921042829

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

This book is available in good bookstores or online from Fishpond.

Mr Darcy, by Alex Field and Peter Carnavas

Mr Darcy, as most readers will know, was one of the main characters in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. The story has been popular for many, many years appearing on television and in film. It has even been treated to a zombie makeover in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. And here is a picture book version of the story, with Darcy as a duck. He is a pleasant enough character, but distant and a bit proud. He ignores an invitation to tea from Lizzy, because living as she does in a quite small park, she is unlikely to provide much company. Why then does he keep tripping and falling and crashing when she is near? He is polite but quite contained. But something changes his mind. Illustrations are Peter Carnavas’ trademark pencil-outlined gentle watercolours set in lots of white space.

Mr Darcy might seem an odd subject for a picture book, but it is really a story about learning not to judge by appearances. Lizzy’s manners initially fail to break through Darcy’s reserve, but she persists rather than giving up. Darcy’s friends Bingley and Caroline step in when Darcy’s insistence that he’s fine threatens to cause him harm, but only after Lizzy has come up with a plan. Lizzy is resolute but not pushy and Darcy eventually has to overcome his prejudices. This is a sweet picture book, that will also introduce new readers to a classic story. Recommended for pre-school and early school-age children.

Mr Darcy, Alex Field & Peter Carnavas
New Frontier Publishing 2011
ISBN: 978921042836

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author