10 Green Geckos by Phillip Gwynne ill by Lloyd Foye

There were ten green geckos living in our house,

but when one green gecko got taken by a mouse,

there were only nine green geckos living in our house.

There were ten green geckos living in our house,

but when one green gecko got taken by a mouse,

there were only nine green geckos living in our house.

Based on the rhyme, 10 green bottles, and offers a decreasing count as geckos one by one leave the house. The method of their leaving is humourous and the ending makes clear that no green geckos were harmed in the making of this story. Illustrations are colourful, full page and funny. The geckos have personality. Numbers are offered in words and symbol.

This is a delightful piece of nonsense and very Australian. Anyone who has ever slept in a room with a gecko will recognise the noises they make. The geckos may be stylised, and their activities fanciful, but there is plenty for a pre-schooler to chuckle at as they access counting in both words and numbers. Recommended for pre-schoolers and early primary children.

10 Green Geckos
10 Green Geckos, Phillip Gwynne ill Lloyd Foye Scholastic Press 2013 ISBN: 9781742833484

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author


February Reads

Another month has passed, and so it’s time to have a look at what I read for February. Pleasing to see my balance being restored towards my chief love – books for children. This month I indulged my six year old self and tracked down old copies of AA Milne’s poetry from Ebay. I loved rediscovering them and have moved from there to lots of other verse and poetry, so look out for them in my March list and beyond.

I only read 12 books, and several of them were short, which is a reflection of how busy my life has been of late. I’m a so reading a lot of journal articles which don’t make it into this list.

Those I’ve reviewed I’ve linked to, as always.

In Falling Snow Mary-Rose MacColl Allen & Unwin Adult
Red Fox Sandy Fussell Walker Books Children’s
Lost Voices Christopher Koch Fourth Estate Adult
The Rosie Black Chronicles Lara Morgan Walker Books Young Adult
When We Were Very Young AA Milne Dean Children’s Poetry
The Girl From Snowy River Jackie French Harper Collins Young Adult
Now We Are Six AA Milne Dean Children’s Poetry
Stories for 7 Year Olds Linsay Knight (ed) Random House Children’s
Unreviewed Adult
Rocket Into Space Ragbir Bhathal and Johanna Davids National Library Children’s NF
Topsy-Turvy World Kirsty Murray National Library Children’s NF
Catch the Zolt Phillip Gwynne Allen & Unwin Young Adult

Catch the Zolt, by Phillip Gwynne

As the van got closer, my brain started whirring, making that noise that a hard disk makes when you dump a load of data on it.
What to do next?
Suddenly, a swoosh sounds, and then blackness. Just like when I’d had my appendix out a few years ago and had been ‘put to sleep’ by the anaesthetist.
When I regained conciousness, I was lying on the footpath.
Out of the corner of my eye I could see the white van disappearing around a corner.

When Dom turns 15 he expects to get a few presents. But what he doesn’t expect is that on the day of his fifteenth birthday he inherits The Debt. An ancestor made a promise to a powerful secret organisation, and because he didn’t fulfil that promise, his descendants must pay. Dom must perform six tasks or lose a pound of flesh.

When he gets his first task, Dom is flummoxed. He must catch the Zolt, a teenage fugitive with a thing for stealing cars, boats, even planes, from rich families. He has a cult following amongst young people, but lots of enemies too. Dom is not even sure he wants to catch him – but he has no choice. The Debt want their first payment – now.

Catch the Zolt is the first instalment in Phillip Gwynne’s new series, The Debt. The action and pacing are good, taking the teen reader along on a fast moving journey with plenty of twists and unforeseen developments. Dom is a chatty first person narrator who allows the reader in to the action and his thought processes, allowing for connection. Readers will care about Dom and look forward to the second instalment.

Catch the Zolt (Debt)

Catch the Zolt (The Debt), by Phillip Gwynne
Allen & Unwin, 2013
ISBN 978174237844

Available from good bookstores or online.

The Queen with the Wobbly Bottom, by Phillip Gwynne & Bruce Whatley

There once was a queen, a beautiful and clever queen, who was loved throughout her land.
But when she looked in the mirror, when she wriggled her hips, her bottom wobbled just like a raspberry jelly.

No matter what the Royal Lady-In-Waiting tells her, the Queen is sure that her people can’t possibly love her, because of her big wobbly bottom. So she offers ever increasing rewards for whoever can solve the problem of the royal wobble. But it’s hard – the royal beautician can’t fix it, the royal inventor can’t fix it, even the royal fitness instructor can’t do it. The Queen is about to despair, until the Poet offers a solution. The Queen doesn’t think it will work but, encourage by her Lady-In-Waiting she gives it a go. The Poet doesn’t fix the wobble but, after writing her poems of praise each day for thirty days, he fixes her self-perception. The Queen realises, at last, that she is loved, wobbly bottom or not.

The Queen with the Wobbly Bottom is a delightful, humours picture book story about self-confidence, wobbly bottoms and the value of good poetry. The message is strong, but there’s no need for it to be hammered, because the humour and simplicity of the solution says it all.The illustrations show the cleverness we have come to expect from much-loved illustrator Bruce Whatley, with the Queen portrayed as a abuetifully round and regal hippopotamus, and her Lady-In-Waiting a clever-looking mouse, with the other court members a delightful array of animals.

This is a picture book which youngsters will love both for the tale and for the chance to explore the illustrations, and educators and parents will also love the message. Poets (and lovers of poetry) will also adore that it is poetry that saves the day!

The Queen with the Wobbly Bottom

The Queen with the Wobbly Bottom, by Phillip Gwynne & Bruce Whatley
Litte Hare, 2012
ISBN 9781921714597

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

Swerve, by Phillip Gwynne

The Monaro was a spaceship hurtling through the intergalactic, a submarine slicing through Atlantic depths. Inside, the milky light from the dashboard; outside, headlights punching holes in the outback night.

Hugh Twycross is a 16 year old nerd with a bright future – everybody says so. One of Australia’s best young cellists, he is preparing for an audition at the prestigious conservatorium. But Hugh is harbouring a secret. Beneath his neat uniform, his nerdy hair, and his passion for music lies another passion – for cars and motor racing. So when his newly-discovered grandfather, Poppy, asks him to come on a road trip to Uluru in his 1970 Monaro, Hugh can’t refuse. Soon Hugh and Poppy are hurtling across the country, getting into all sorts of tangles, and having the time of their lives.

Along the way, Hugh and Poppy make some new friends – and tangle with new enemies. But Poppy is hiding his own secret, a secret which will rock Hugh’s world.

Swerve is a fast moving, funny but also touching story of self-discovery, family, and friendship . As Hugh travels with the grandfather who has been estranged from the family for many years, the pair build a bond which seems initially unbreakable, but which is tested by both revelations and the events of the trip. The use of an opening chapter which flashes forward gives the reader an insight into a possible outcome, but doesn’t blow the ending.

Young car-lovers will love the road trip, but there is something for every teen, with issues, humour, adventure and even mystery.



Swerve, by Phillip Gywnne
Penguin, 2009

This book can be purchased online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

YA AudioBook Review: Deadly Unna?, by Phillip Gwynne

Blacky (Gary Black) and Dumby Red play for the same football team, but they come from different worlds. Blacky lives in town with his seven siblings, his long-suffering mother and his alchoholic father. Dumby lives on the point, in the Aborignal settlement.

At first, Blacky thinks he hasn’t got much in common with Dumby, but when Dumby saves his skin by defending him, Gary realises Dumby is his friend. Unfortunately, its might be okay for a Nunga and a Gunya to play football together, but it isn’t so easy for them to be firends.

Through his friendship with Dumby, Blacky starts to see his town through different eyes. He starts to question some of the things which he has previously accepted – racist jokes, rude graffiti, and the separation of black and white.

Deadly Unna is a story about racism, but it is also a story about much more – friendship, family and self-identity being among the themes explored.

The voice of actor Chris Pittman is an excellent fit for the first-person narration of the text, which won the Book of the Year (Older Readers) Award in the CBCA Awards in 1999.

A great version of an outstanding novel for teens.

Deadly Unna, by Phillip Gwynne, read by Chris Pitman
ABC Audio, 2001