Tarin of the Mammoths: The Exile, by Jo Sandhu

‘Weakling child,’ Maija said. ‘He will never be the man Kalle is.’
Tarin clenched his teeth. All his life he had heard people mutter and wonder aloud: How coudl Kalle and Aila, the two strong leaders of Mammoth clan, have such a weak, sickly son? It must be the bad Spirits…

Tarin’s father is the clan leader and Tarin longs to be a brave hunter, just like him. But Tarin is sickly and has a deformed leg, and people either fear him or pity him. So, when he is responsible for scaring the mammoths away, leaving the clan with no food for the winter, Tarin volunteers to carry an offering to the Earth Mother so that she may change their fortunes.Soon he is travelling alone across wild, unknown lands, facing his fears and pushing his body and mind to their limits.

Kaija and Luuka are travelling too, forced to flee when illness ravages their clan and they and their healer mother are at risk of being blamed. When their new clan grows to include two wolf cubs, and both twins are seriously injured, Tarin must reach inside himself for answers and strength to continue on.

The Exile is the first in a brilliant new fantasy trilogy for younger readers, set in an imaginary Scandinavian land thirty million years ago. Readers will enjoy this look into prehistoric lives, societies and animals, and the adventures of Tarin and his friends and will be left eagerly awaiting the next installment.

Tarin of the Mammoths: The Exile , by Jo Sandhu
Puffin Books, 2017
ISBN 9780143309376

Jinny & Cooper: My Teacher’s Big Bad Secret and Revenge of the Stone Witch, by Tania Ingram

‘Eat the carrot, Fuzzy.’
The scruffy ball of fur gave a little cough as though clearing his throat. then he looked directly at Tyrone and in a clear voice said, ‘My name is NOT Fuzzy, it’s Cooper. I don’t like carrots and if you keep poking one in my face I may be forced to do something that you will regret!’
Tyrone fell off the bed with a scream.

Jinny has always dreamt of owning a beautiful, golden guinea pig. But the pet shop owner has a deal Jinny’s mum can’t resist, and now Jinny owns the scruffiest, messiest guinea pig ever. Still, at least she has a guinea pg. But Fuzzy has a secret. He can talk – and the first thing he makes clear is that his name isn’t Fuzzy. Jinny and her brother Tyrone decide to keep Cooper’s skills a secret, but it isn’t easy when cooper’s other skills – such as invisibility – become apparent. And Cooper doesn’t always do what he’s told.Still, Jinny soon finds that having Cooper around can be very helpful when trouble turns up.

In My Teacher’s Big Bad Secret, it is Cooper who realises Jinny’s seemingly kind old teacher, Miss Bunney is actually a witch, and in Revenge of the Stone Witch, Jinny and Cooper combine to figure out what is causing the strange goings on in their neighbourhood. Both books blend fantasy, humour and action for an entertaining blend perfectly suited for middle primary aged readers.

The premise of a talking, magical guinea pig with connections to the fantastical world will leave readers eager for more adventures from Jinny and Cooper.

Jinny & Cooper: My Teacher’s Big Bad Secret
Jinny & Cooper: Revenge of the Stone Witch
both by Tania Ingram
Puffin Books, 2016

Carnage, by Michael Adams

Yasmin screamed through the night as she was flung from the train. Eyes wide with horror, her hands desperately clutched at empty air as the stars and moon blurred overhead. But there was nothing to hold on to. Nothing to break her fall.
Then…time seemed to stand still.

Being named DARE Award winnings was always going to life-changing, but for Yasmin and her six fellow winners, it is a lot different than they could possibly imagine. Yasmin is fighting for her life on the top of a speeding train, after fleeing the chaos of catastrophic attacks in Egypt. Around teh world, the others are trying to keep safe while they puzzle their way through the clues which have been mysteriously given to them – clues which might help them stop a second terrible attack.

Carnage, the second title in the Seven Signs series picks up where the first left off, with YAsmin fighting for her life on the top of the train. as she tries to survive, readers are shown the stories of the other six characters, through chapters which alternate third person perspectives.

This fast paced series set in an unspecified future where travel and technology has advanced in believable ways. the teen characters are diverse – coming from seven different continents and with different interests and strengths, but each with strengths which have seen them chosen as winners of trillionaire Felix Scott’s DARE Awards.

Upper primary and lower secondary readers will be keen to follow the series.

Carnage, by Michael Adams
Scholastic, 2016
ISBN 9781743628027

Sage Cookson’s Fishy Surprise (Bk3) by Sally Murphy

‘But I don’t know what to paaaaack,’ my friend Lucy wails down the phone.
I laugh. ‘Don’t panic. You can always borrow my stuff if you forget anything. I’m just so glad you’re coming with us!’
I switch the phone to my other ear as I look around my bedroom, making sure I haven’t forgotten anything in my own packing. ‘It will be nice and warm at Crystal Bay, so you won’t need much.’ I glance at my suitcase. ‘I’ve packed my swimmers, shorts, t-shirts, pyjamas …’

Sage Cookson is the daughter of famous TV chefs and has a wonderful life travelling around with her parents. But she misses her best friend, Lucy, so she’s excited that Lucy is joining them for this trip. They are off to a seaside town and there’s the promise of beach and great food. There’s also a mystery as an old foe reappears. It might be just coincidence, but Nancy is no more friendly than when last they met.

‘Fishy Surprise’ is episode three in this series for young independent readers. Sage’s life is much more exciting than that of many other ten-year-olds, but it also has its challenges. Not spending enough time with her friends is one of them. Not this time. With Lucy beside her, Sage has an accomplice as she works to solve this mystery. Young readers will thrill to the life Sage leads and empathise with her travails. Themes around family, friendship, loyalty round out these stories and add filling to the pastry. Recommended for independent readers.

Sage Cookson’s Fishy Surprise, Sally Murphy
New Frontier Publishing 2017
ISBN: 9781925059755

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

Star of Deltora: The Hungry Isle, by Emily Rodda

She hurried to the porthole and looked out. The sky was filmed with cloud through which the sun glowed sullenly, casting an eerie yellow light. The sea was dull and oily-looking. At first she could see nothing unusual. And then she began to pick out dark shapes beneath the surface of the water, many, many dark shapes, and as she realised what they were, the hair on the back of her neck began to prickle.
‘Turtles!’ she whispered.

Although the Star of Deltorahas managed to escape Illica, Britta is still in danger. She must stay in her cabin, safe from the moody distrust coming her way from the ship’s crew, who think she is a witch and the reason the voyage has been beset with problems. In spite of Britta’s protestations, the ship is being surrounded by turtles, seeming to want to steer the ship. Britta soon realises that the Staff of Tier has sensed her, and wants her to come to the Hungry Isle. Could it be that her secrecy has lead her and her friends, including Trader Mab, into terrible danger?

The fourth title in the Star of Deltora series, The Hungry Isle provides a gripping climax to the journey that Britta and her fellow would-be Trader’s apprentices have been on. Britta has managed to keep her true identity – as the daughter of the hated Dare Larsett – a secret, but when everything hangs in the balance, the secret is no longer hers to keep.

Best read after the first three titles, The Hungry Isle is a satisfying conlusion to the series.

The Hungry Isle, by Emily Rodda
Scholastic, 2016
ISBN 9781742991337

Lola's Toy Box: Party at Cuddleton Castle, by Danny Parker

‘This party must be for a very important toy,’ said Lola.
She was right. On the cake, written in sprinkles, it said:
Happy birthday,
Great High Bear!

Lola has a magic toy box. When she opens it and jumps inside, she is never quite sure where she will end up. This time it has taken Lola and her toy friend Buddy to the great High Bear’s castle, where his birthday party is just about to start. But Lola notices something suspicious about the cake.

Party at Cuddleton Castle is the sixth title in the Lola’s Toy Box series. There is enough backstory and explanation for readers new to the series to read this one, and fans of the earlier books will enjoy this new adventure.

Good sized font, full page illustrations in each chapter (by Guy Shield), and fast paced action make Party at Cuddleton Castle accessible for newly confident readers.

Party at Cuddleton Castle, by Danny Parker
Hardie Grant Egmont, 2016
ISBN 9781760126858

Princess Betony Series, by Pamela Freeman, illustrated by Tamsin Ainslie

“Mother,” she hissed, but her mother didn’t hear. The shadowy figure set out across the terrace and down to the lawn below, heading across the grounds.
Betony’s breath caught in her throat.
Her mother was going into the Dark Forest of Nevermore. She was leaving.

Princess Betony adores the queen, her mother, and knows that her mother loves her, too. But her mother is a dryad, a tree spirit, and misses the Dark Forest. And with the Lord Chancellor, the King’s chief advisor, making life very difficult for the queen, Betony is worried she will lose her to the forest. So, when she sees her mother disappear into the trees in the middle of the night, Betony follows her, even though she knows it is dangerous. She will do whatever it takes to get her mother back – even catch a unicorn.

Princess Betony and the Unicorn is the first of four adventures featuring the adventurous, feisty but loyal Princess Betony. First published in 2012, its has been re-released along with the other three titles. Each features a magical adventure and is beautifully illustrated with grey scale illustrations on each spread, and charming cover designs.

Suitable for young fantasy lovers and those new to the genre, these are gorgeous books which will be treasured.

Princess Betony and the Unicorn (ISBN 9781925381023)
Princess Betony and the Thunder Egg (ISBN 9781925381030)
Princess Betony and the Rule of Wishing (ISBN 9781925381047)
Princess Betony and the Hobgoblin 9ISBN 9781921720260)
Walker Books, 2016

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

Little Lunch: Triple the Treats, by Danny Katz & Mitch Vane

Rory ran all the way to the school gate and pressed his face against the wire fence so hard he got crisscross marks on his nose.
He was about to do the unthinkable, he was ready to do the impossible. Rory was about to go …
Out of bounds.

Rory is always forgetting his playlunch, and nobody has any food to share with him – so he has a great idea. He’ll sneak over to the shop and get some hot chips. Not everybody agrees that it’s a good plan – and if Mrs Gonsha finds out he’ll be in big trouble!

The Milk Bar is one of three funny stories that make up Little Lunch: Triple the Treats . The Little Lunch stories have amused young readers for several years, but now they have also been made into a television series and the stories in Triple the Treats are based on episodes of the show.

The stories are humorous, fast moving (each takes place within a single recess break) and well woven, with the characters both diverse and likeable. Black and white illustrations by Mitch Vane are complemented by still photos from the television series.

Lots of fun.

Triple the Treats , by Danny Katz and Mitch Vane
Black Dog Books, 2016
ISBN 9781925126907

Tiny Timmy: Soccer Superstar! by Tim Cahill

A word of advice, lad,’ Coach Roach said. ‘Practise until you can practise any more. Work on your game. You may not get any bigger, but you’ll definitely get better. Then who knows, it might not matter how big you are.’

Tiny Timmy desperately wants to make the school soccer team. He tries hard to show the coach what he can do – but he keeps getting tackled, tripped and bumped. When the team sheet goes up, Timmy is on orange duty. Coach tells him that his problem is his size – but encourages him to keep practising. So Timmy plays soccer and practises his skills at every opportunity. He also tries to figure out ways to get taller. But it is when he discovers that he has a special skill nobody knew about, that he finds a way into the team.

Soccer Superstar is the first in in the Tiny Timmy series written by Socceroos legend Tim Cahill. For young soccer fans, or anyone who loves humour and action, the story blends funny moments with sport and personal discovery. The text is accessible with good sized font and embellishments, and complemented by comic style illustrations by Heath McKenzie.

A strong start to the series.

Soccer Superstar , by Tim Cahill
Scholastic, 2015
ISBN 9781760158880