Happy Birthday Roly and Where Are You, Roly?, by Selena Chan and Michelle Katsouranis

Roly is a chubby purple puppy, which is hardly surprising when you realise that his father is blue and his mother pink. Kids will love his crazy colour and his cute face and they’ll like his adventures, too.

Both of these offerings have very simple storylines and lots of colour, and so are suited for very young children – aged up to four years. Where Are You, Roly? is a lift the flap book with each double page spread showing Roly hidden in various places – in a treehouse, behind the bubbles in the bath, behind books on his desk and so on with a simple but sturdy flap to be lifted or opened to reveal him. The text is patterned, with each page beginning with the question: Where are you, Roly? This is followed by Roly’s description of what he is doing, in simple rhyme, and his question, Can you see me?

Happy Birthday Roly is similarly simple, although slightly larger in format and without the flap feature. It is Roly’s birthday and he is preparing for his birthday party. He is planning to do a magic act for his friends but he has nothing special to wear. Until he opens his parents’ gift.

A feature of both books is the inclusion of notes for parents on the back cover, with simple suggestions for before, during and after reading the book. There are also further tips and activities avaialable at the publisher’s website.This cute pair would be suitable as a birthday gift and their sturdy pages make them likely to withstand the love they will get from toddler owners.

Happy Birthday Roly and Where Are You Roly?, by Selena Chan, illustrated by Michelle Katsouranis
Ibis Publishing, 2004

This Dog Bruce, by Frances Watts and Bridget Strevens-Marzo

One brown rabbit was sitting on a hill, sitting very still and enjoying the sun, when…
This dog Bruce comes sniffing along, wagging his tail and looking for FUN! With a hippity-hop, the rabbit was gone.

Bruce is a delightfully bouncy pup who just wants his friends to play with him. Unfortunately, his friends don’t seem to want to play . Bruce is baffled until they explain that he is just too rough. Fortunately, Bruce is able to think of a game that they all can play.

This Dog Bruce is a lively read-aloud title that young prereaders will adore. Perfect for sharing, youngsters will soon pick up the repetitive tagline and will also catch on to the inbuilt counting lesson. With lovely rhyme and rhythm, adult readers will enjoy sharing this one too and will overlook the slight awkwardness of the shifting tense (from past to present and back again).

The animal illustrations of Bridget Srtevens-Marzo (who most recently illustrated Margaret Wild’s Kiss Kiss) are perfect for the tone of the story, with lots of colour and cute expressions. The four fluffy ducklings are especially appealing.

This Dog Bruce is a delight.

This Dog Bruce, by Frances Watts and Bridget Strevens-Marzo
Little Hare Books, 2004

Thanks a Kazillion, by Nick Place

It wasn’t until Harlan had passed the Fruitfly Cafe that he felt the shiver run up his neck. Something had been gnawing away at the back of his mind for a few minutes, but he’d only just realised what it was. He couldn’t believe he’d missed it!
‘Something is gnawing away at the back of your mind? Euuuwww, yuck!’ said a strangely high-pitched voice in a completely unnecessary and outrageously exaggerated French accent.

Harlan Banana has found his sister Ainsley pretty annoying lately, but when she is kidnapped by a pair of Martians he’s not happy. No one kidnaps his sister and gets away with it. Unfortunately, he has no idea where she is or how to rescue her, until his old friends join forces to help him.

Soon Harlan, his also-sister Georgina, a talking dog named Fly, assorted Frongles, Martians and superheroes are in pursuit of Ainsley and her kidnappers. With so much collective genius it is surely just a matter of time until they have rescued her.

Thanks a Kazillion is fast paced and completely silly, with plenty of colourful and crazy characters, loads of one-liners, zany humour and far-fetched adventure.

A sequel to The Kazillion Wish, in which Harlan and Ainsley seek a big wish to make their father happy, this can still be read as a stand-alone title. Both titles also provide a subtle message about the workings of blended families.

This zany read will appeal to 10-12 year old readers.

Thanks a Kazillion, by Nick Place,
Allen & Unwin, 2004

The Bad Book, by Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton

Little Willy took a match
And set fire to the cat.
Said Little Willy as it burnt,
‘I bet the cat hates that.’

Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton are two of the best-known names in the children’s publishing industry in recent years, both individually and as a team. Whilst each new offering is greeted enthusiastically by young readers, adult critics are not always positive about what is produced. This latest collaboration, The Bad Book is no exception, with newspapers around the country running stories about reactions to the book, which have included some bookstores refusing to stock it, recommended reading lists being amended to exclude it, and parent groups up in arms.

Despite all the fuss, it must be said that this is a book for kids, not adults, and kids will love its silliness and complete irreverence. From cover to cover there are rude jokes, messy jokes and (of course) bad jokes. There are jokes about bodily functions, jokes about bad parents and loads of violence. So, while adults may have their doubts, very few kids will. They will laugh, they will share it with their friends and they will read it – probably over and over.

The Bad Book will appeal to kids. Adult purchasers – parents, teachers and librarians – will want to make their own decision about its appropriateness or otherwise for their young charges.

The Bad Book, by Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton
Pan Macmillan, 2004


Penny McRose picked her nose
Morning, noon and night.
She picked it until her head caved in
And her family died of fright.

3, by Grant King

Half an hour ago, as part of ‘dog procurement’ process, Caesar was weighed. He came in at a shade over seventy-five kilos Seventy-five kilos! I am only ten more than that myself! He doubled in size before my eyes at the mere thought of it.

Steven Ralph is down on his luck. He’s severely depressed and hasn’t had any work from the company he freelances for for weeks. He can’t pay the bills, has no friends and drinks himslef to oblivion on a daily basis. So he does what every person in this situation would do – he gets a dog. And not just any dog – a huge rotweiler/german shepherd cross called Caesar. He is sure having a dog will turn his life around.

Perhaps he is right. Caesar’s arrival coincides with changes in his life. First he manages to get another chance with the ad agency. Then he gets himself a flatmate. Maybe life is on the up. But when Caesar develops a taste for Steven’s girlfriends, it seems the dog may have to go. Or does he?

This is not a feel good book and not for those with delicate stomachs, but it is a cleverly-written and humorous read. The tour through the advertising industry and the streets of Brisbane is entertaining, and Steven is a strangely likeable character – the reader can understand his choices and even, almost, come to like the dog.

Truly bizarre, this is still a very readable book.

3, by Grant King
University of Queensland Press, 2004

Return to Shalott, by Felicity Pulman

Spinning through infinite space, through an icy rushing darkness. Racing towards the unknown. Callie took courage from her sense of the others’ presence, but still she wished with all her heart that she might somehow reverse the process and bring them safely home once more. Yet already it was too late.

After her last visit to Camelot, Callie vowed never to return. The ramifications were just too many. Yet here she is, hurtling through space and time with her friends Stephen and Hal and her twin sister El.

From their moment of arrival, they are in trouble. First, Howell, a squire who befriended the teens on their last visit, is thrown from his horse and killed – an incident caused by his catching site of Hal, who is identical in appearance.

Soon, though, it seems Howell’s death won’t be the only one. Guinevere is not happy to see Callie back, sure that Callie is trying to steal Lancelot’s love away from her. And Guinevere is not Callie’s only enemy. The evil Morgan le Fay wants her out of the way – for good. Only courage and friendship can keep the teens alive until they can return home.

Return to Shalott is a gripping sequel to Shalott (2001) and the combination of the ultra-modern concept of virtual reality with the medieval world of Camelot is a mix which will appeal to a range of teens.

Pulman shows an ability to entwine a well-researched tale with the problems and dilemmas faced by many teens, to make the characters both real and easy to relate to.

Return to Shalott is yet another gripping read from an outstanding author.

Return to Shalott, by Felicity Pulman
Random House, 2002

The Other Ark, by Lynley Dodd

Enough!’ thundered Noah. He bolted the door.
‘This Ark is JAM PACKED!’ he said, but…there were more.
He studied the view of the animal queue and called to a friend of his, Sam Jam Balu.
‘Sam,’ he said kindly, ‘you’ve nothing to do and I really need help with this two-by-two zoo. My problems are solved if you’re quick off the mark – you can take all the rest in my second-best Ark.’

When there is no more room in the ark, Noah calls on his friend Sam to take the rest on another ark. While Noah sails off with his regular animals, Sam begins to load his ark with the animals too exotic to join Noah. And exotic is almost too moderate a word – there are camels with candy-stripes and four humps, mad kangaroosters, flying flapdoodles and blunderbuss dragons.

Sam works hard to accomodate this motley assortment on the second ark but, in the end, takes so long, that the ark is firmly stuck because the floods have already receded.

The Other Ark is a colourful rhyming tale which will appeal to young fans of the talented Lynley Dodd. Although the story is not perhaps as well-constructed as Dodd’s other works – especially the lovable Hairy Maclary titles – the illustrations and simply ridiculous nature of the various beasts being loaded onto the ark ensure that it will be a hit with littlies.

A fun fantasy.

The Other Ark, by Lynley Dodd
ABC Books, 2004

Stegosaur Stone, by Patricia Bernard

Five minutes later they reached the track that ran along the cliffs of Reddell beach. Abba poked her head above the bushes to see if it was safe to break cover. With a hiss of warning she dropped to the ground, gluing herself to the earth. Giles did the same as two men staggered up the hill carrying a heavy load in a blanket slung between them.

When Abba, James and Giles sneak out at night to see the Stegosaur footprints in the National Park, the last thing they expect is to witness a murder. But they do, and then don’t know what to do about it – if they admit to being witnesses they will all be in trouble with their parents for even being there.

The next day they discover that, as well as a murder, the Park was the scene of another crime. The Stegosaur prints have been stolen.

The three teens decide they must collect enough evidence to prove who committed the crime and where the precious prints are now. There isn’t much time and they are up against a gang which has already proven itself capable of murder. Will they survive long enough to ensure justice is done?

Stegosaur Stone is a fast-paced novel for 10-14 year old readers, and is especially likely to appeal to those with an interest in fossils and lovers of mystery titles. Set largely in Brooome, in the north of Western Australia, with the final action playing out in Sydney, young readers will learn about a place they may know little about.

A thrilling read.

Stegosaur Stone, by Patricia Stone
Scholastic Press, 2004

The Big Ball of String, by Ross Mueller, illustrated by Craig Smith

George wanted to play soccer.
But he didn’t have a soccer ball to kick.
All he had was a big ball of string.
George decided he could use his big ball of string for a game of soccer.

So begins this delightful story of a little boy with a big imagination. Sent to play outside, George takes his ball of string to the park, where he kicks it and kicks it round and round. George doesn’t notice what the reader does – that the string is unravelling – until, having kicked the ball all the way home, he suddenly realises it is gone. Spying a piece of string, he starts to wind it and wind it – all the way back to the park, where he suddenly realises that the ball of string is in his hand.

This cute story will tickle young imaginations as they watch the ball of string unravel wherever George goes and see his astonishment when it reappears. They will love the illustrations of Craig Smith – from endpapers with squiggles of green string to the curious birds who watch George’s comings and goings, and, of course, George himself with delightfully baggy short-alls and a grin that shows his simple joy.

This is a delightful read aloud title – the repetition and rhythm make it both easy and fun to read and encourages children to join in.


The Big Ball of String, by Ross Mueller and Craig Smith
Allen & Unwin, 2004

Cool for Cats, by Jessica Adams

I find myself making a list in my head of pros and cons for David, as if it will help me sort out this confusion, Instead, it makes things worse, This is the man who sewed the end of my jeans back together once, after I borrowe dhis bicycle and the denim got shredded in his bicycle chain. I was wearing flares – that’s how long ago that was. But it’s also the same man who had a serious conversation with me about how much house-keeping money I’d get from him once we were married. Just like dad all over again. Just like your worst nightmare, in fact.

Linda Tyler is working in a chinese restaurant, engaged to a bank clerk and living in a oring town when she sees the advertisment that changes her life. A new music magazine is looking for a writer. No experience need – just a passion for music and some youthfulness. Before she has time to draw breath, Linda is on her way to London to work for New Wave Weekly, her engagement with Dave is off and she’s living the life she didn’t dare to dream could be hers.

So why is she still obsessing about Dave and his new girlfriend? And why is she alone when everwhere she goes people are together?

Cool for Cats is a trip down memory lane to 1979, the year Margaret Thatcher was elected as England’s Prime Minister, Sid Vicious commited suicide, the Boom Tonw Rats sang about hating Mondays and wearing school uniforms outside of school bacame cool. Linda’s lessons in music journalism and in love are both funny and poignant, especiallyf or products of that era, who will share (or laugh at) her music addictions and the highs and lows of relationships.

Cool for Cats IS a cool book.

Cool for Cats, by Jessica Adams
Pan Macmillan, 2003, reprinted 2004