Australia’s Great War: 1918, by Libby Gleeson

The barrage was on.
Crashing artillery.
Smashing shells.
Buildings, bricks, rocks and debris, in the air.
Deafening. Deafening.

It is 1918, and the War is still going. While the Russians have withdrawn, it seems Germany remains strong, holding out against the allies across the Western Front. Ned and his tired soldier mates are sent into battle at the small village of Villers-Bretonneux. A win here, they are told, could help to turn the war around. But promises about the end of the war have been heard so many times, it is hard to know what to believe. All Ned wants is for the fighting to be over, and to be back home with his family. First he just needs to survive.

1918 is the gripping last installment in the Australia’s Great War series from Scholastic. Each book has seen a different author (disclosure: this reviewer wrote one of the earlier titles, 1915) tell a story set amidst key events of that year of World War One. 1918 brings the final year of the war to life through the eyes of Ned, who struggles with the horror of the war and with his concept of bravery. The role of nurses, and the behind the front treatment of wounded and sick soldiers is also explored, as well as the aftermath of the conscription referendum of 1917, providing lots of insight into the events and impact of the war on those who were there as well as on Australia as a whole.

1918 can be read a stand alone, but young history buffs might be inspred to read the rest of the series.

Australia’s Great War: 1918, by Libby Gleeson
Scholastic, 2018
ISBN 9781743622513

The Fifth Room, by A.J. Rushby

‘I…’ I begin to argue, but my dad stops me, leaning forward over the table.
‘Miri, it would be unwise of me to say too much for both our sakes, but I will say this: there are things I used to be involved in – that I used to believe in – that I am no longer involved in or believe in. If you proceed with your current course, there are things I cannot help you with. Matters in which I would be more of a hindrance to you than a help if you were to call upon me. Do you understand what I’m saying?’

Miri should be in high school, but her brilliance and aptitude for medicine have seen her placed in an elite college program and invited to be part of an international secret society. She is thrilled to be part of the Society,and eager to engage in the opportunities it offers – especially the chance to do her own research, unhampered by the need for ethics approvals. But when her research proposal is accepted, she finds herself whisked away to a secret location where she must compete with other young researchers. Miri’s experiment means she is awake night after night , giving the opportunity to see that not everything at the research centre is at it seems. As her doubts grow, she isn’t sure who she can trust, or even if she’ll get out alive.

The Fifth Room is a blend of mystery, romance and psychological thriller. A fairly easy read, it explores concepts surrounding moral dilemmas in an intriguing setting.

The Fifth Room, by A. J. Rushby
Scholastic, 2017
ISBN 9781742762548

The Great Rabbit Chase,by Freya Blackwood

Mum went out to buy a new pair of gumboots,
but came home with a rabbit.
I named him Gumboots.

Gumboots the rabbit is a much loved pet, but the thing he does best is escape. Today, he chooses the moment Mum is in the shower and the narrator’s friend Norman is at the door to escape. Soon Mum (wrapped in a towel) and the two children are in pursuit. As they move through the town,more people join in the chase – a neighbour with a plate of cakes,a man with shiny black shoes, even a mum with a crying baby. Finally, Gumboots leads them to a park, where everyone feels more rested, and Gumboots has a surprise.

The Great Rabbit Chase is an adorable picture book about happiness, slowing down -and rabbits. Blackwood, best known for her gentle, life-filled watercolour illustrations, shows that her creative talents extend to writing with a similar touch of gentle whimsy.

Adorable.

The Great Rabbit Chase, by Freya Blackwood
Scholastic, 2017
ISBN 9781743811641

500 Minutes of Danger, by Jack Heath

As soon as her foot hit the quicksand, Ella knew she was doomed…
Panic gripped her chest. ‘Help!’ she screamed. ‘Someone help me! Please!’
Insects buzzed. Birds chirped. But there were no voices. No help was coming.

A girl trapped in quicksand, with no chance that anyone will hear or. A boy trapped in what seems to be a coffin. And a girl, searching for a lost heirloom, instead finding  killer crocodiles on the rampage.

The ten stories which make  up 500 Minutes of Danger are high-action, fast paced stories each of which sees a young character engaged in a life and death struggle, with plenty of cliffhanger moments and twists and turns. Each story stands alone and can be read in about half an hour. But, as the book progresses,  readers gradually become aware that the stories are linked and that seemingly unconnected events and characters are all overshadowed – literally – by one big menace.

Perfect for reluctant readers.

500 Minutes of Danger, by Jack Heath
Scholastic, 2017
ISBN 9781743816493

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A Perfectly Posh Pink Afternoon Tea, by Coral Vass & Gabriel Evans

The table was set, today was the day!
In a dainty pink dress danced Annabelle Mae,
with five little friends by the old willow tree,
for a perfectly posh pink afternoon tea!

Annabelle Mae is having a party – a posh afternoon tea, with her friends all dressed up an lots of sweat treats with tea cups and spoons. But next door, two boys – Darcy and Dean – are scheming to spoil the party. When they turn the sprinklers on it looks like everything might be ruined – but Annabelle Mae is not so easily upset. Instead, the posh tea party becomes a messy mud party.

With text in rhyme which scans well and is a pleasure to read aloud, a story with a lovely, non-preachy message, and joyful illustrations, A Perfectly Posh Pink Afternoon Tea is a cute picture book for younger readers.

Good fun.

A Perfectly Posh Pink Afternoon Tea , by Coral Vass & Gabriel Evans
Scholastic, 2017
ISBN 9781743811689

Miniwings: Whizz’s Internet Oopsie and Glitterwing’s Book Week Blunder

Let me tell you right now: the Internet oopsie was NOT OUR FAULT. The only thing Clara and I did wrong was to have a teeny, tiny moan to Mum about how we never got to buy anything online. We asked if she might like to give us her credit card number. She said: “Dream on.”
That was it. PROMISE.

When Nana gives Sophia and Clara six little winged horse toys for Christmas, they think they are just ordinary plastic toys. But when there are no adults around, the Miniwings come alive, to become a herd of tiny, talking, glitter-twinkly, flying horses. Which is pretty cool – except that they are also very mischeivous.

In Whizz’s Internet Oopsie, the miniwings are bored when Sophia and Clara are at school, so they use Mum’s credit card to order a few things online: first a footspa, then a cordless drill and, finally, a goat. Chaos ensues. In Glitterwing’s Book Week Blunder, they make such a mess that it looks like the girls won’t be able to dress up for the Book Week parade. Disaster.

Miniwings is a new, glittery, fun-filled series for younger readers. With colour illustrations, glitter, and of course sparkly horses, there is lots to appeal, and adornments including font effects and back of book glossaries of Miniwing-ese.

Cute.

Whizz’s Internet Oopsie ISBN 9781775434245
Glitterwing’s Book Week Blunder ISBN 9781775434238
Both by Sally Sutton, illustrated by Kirsten Richards
Scholastic, 2017

Blossom, by Tamsin Janu

The little girl was silent, and just stared.
So Lottie asked questions. ‘What’re you up to? Are you lost?’
Silence. The little girl hadn’t blinked once.
‘Where’re your parents?’
Silence.
‘Don’t worry if you haven’t got any parents. I don’t. I live with my Uncle Bobby, who’s kind enough.’

Lottie lives with just her Uncle Bobby, and has always longed for a sister, so when a lost girl turns up on her doorstep, she’s excited. But the girl – who Lottie names Blossom – isn’t like other children. Not only doesn’t she speak, but she only eats plants, makes funny sounds, and has green liquid instead of blood. Lottie navigates the difficulties of having such an odd sister presents, until Blossom gets sick, and suddenly becomes the center of scientific interest. Only Lottie and her friends can rescue her.

Blossom is a beautiful tale of an unexpected friendship, with an equally unexpected outcome. It soon becomes apparent that Blossom may be from another world, but just how different this place is is only slowly revealed. In the meantime, Lottie draws on her own strengths as well as the help of those around her.

A beautiful, whimsy-filled story.

Blossom, by Tamsin Janu
Scholastic, 2017
ISBN 9781742991641

Attack of the Giant Robot Zombie Mermaid by Matt Cosgrove

Once upon a slime-covered planet …
… in the deep blue depths of outer space there lived a zombie mermaid.
The youngest and grossest of six annoying sisters, the zombie mermaid lived in the grand outer space palace of her father, the Meerkat. (She was adopted) He was a mean and flatulent ruler of the intergalactic kingdom, and a fast-food fiend!
The walls of the palace were made of french fries and the roof of hot dogs! It was a greasy sight to behold, and it’s making me hungry.

The zombie mermaid is waiting her turn to visit the fun park above their planet where humans went for holidays. Each of her sisters has visited and returned with tales of the wonderful time they’d had. Now, as soon as she turns fifteen years old, it will be her turn. Finally, she reaches her fifteenth birthday and sets out for the fun park, hungry for brains. She has a wonderful time then towards the end of the day spies the perfect brains. But before she can eat this tasty treat, the park closes and she retreats. When she returns home, instead of sharing stories with her sisters, she pines away in her room. Brains, all she wants is brains. Each spread is full of guts, gore, and gratuitous asides.

Attack of the Giant Robot Zombie Mermaid’ is the result of letting Matt Cosgrove near a fairy tale. Text is altered and added to, images are distorted and ‘revised’. It’s truly disgusting. And dreadful. And gory. And more. Readers will lap up the horribleness and laugh at the barely recognisable tale that sits underneath this multi-gory story. Indeed, readers may well be tempted to plunge elbow-deep into a fairytale, dismember and rebuild it in their own style, words and images. You have been warned. Recommended for independent readers.

Attack of the Giant Robot Zombie Mermaid, Matt Cosgrove
Scholastic 2017 ISBN: 9781743811702

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller
www.clairesaxby.com

Twinkle , Twinkle, Little Star, illustrated by Matt Shanks

Twinkle, twinkle, little star,
How I wonder what you are!

There is no doubting the popularity of classic nursery rhyme brought to life in this book, though probably many readers will be surprised at the number of verses, some of which may be less familiar. But it is the way it is brought to life in the adorable illustrations which make this version so appealing. Olive the owl (named only in the blurb), flies across the darkening landscape, delivering books (each adorned with a star) to her sleepy friends – a flock of sheep, a family of wombats, even a human child – before returning home to read to her three owlets.

The gentle blues and purples of the night skies, together with the expressive, sweet faced animals and the familiar text make this an ideal bedtime or rest time offering.

Lovely.

Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star, illustrated by Matt Shanks
Scholastic, 2017
ISBN 9781760158668

Trouble and the New Kid, by Cate Whittle, illustrated by Stephen Michael King

Apparently, dragons don’t exist.
Apparently, dragons are all in my imagination.
That’s what Nina Willis said, anyway, on the Monday before the Monday before last.

When a new kid named Nina arrives at school, Georgia soon learns that Nina doesn’t believe in dragons. Which makes Georgia sad, and a little bit cross, because her friend, Trouble is a dragon. Worse, though, when Trouble finds out someone doesn’t believe in him, he starts to change. Georgia needs to find a way to get Nina to believe.

Trouble and the New Kid is the third story featuring trouble and Georgia, but sits well on its own for those new to the series. Georgia is a wonderful heroine, warm hearted, but often in trouble at school. Trouble, too, is fun and the concept behind the series is wonderful.

Illustrated with greay scale illustrations by the whimsical Stephen Michael King, Trouble and the New Kid  will appeal to junior primary aged readers and anyone who loves whimsy.

Trouble and the New Kid, by Cate Whittle
Omnibus, 2017
ISBN 9781742990781

review by Sally Murphy, children’s author, reviewer and poet