Two Interactive Puzzle Books

Kids love books with an interactive element and these two new offerings from Little Hare publishers offer plenty of interactivity in the form of puzzles and mazes.

Amazeing Ruins offers a series of mazes for children to find their way through. Each maze is a path through a lost civilisation – from the Colosseum in Rome, to the Great Wall of China and Babylon in Iraq. Hamill uses various art mediums to create each double page spread, with the paths of the mazes being woven into the detailed illustration. In Ancient Egypt, for example, the path is etched in hieorglyphics, whilst in Bayon, Cambodia, the path is made of vines.

As well as a page showing soltions, Amazeing Ruins also includes a brief note about the history of each site depicted in the mazes, so that the book is not only fun, but also educational.

Puzzlemazia by Rolf Heimann also includes mazes, as well as puzzles of various types. Many youngsters will already be familiar with Heimann’s work and this offering includes Heimann’s trademark bright illustrations, with a range of challenges from relatively easy to mind-bogglingly confusing.

At a rrp of $10.95, this pair make affordable and entertaining gifts and would be great for long car or plane trips.

Amazeing Ruins, by Dion Hamill
Puzzlemania, by Rolf Heimann
Both from Little Hare , 2004

The Macmillan Children's Atlas

Map reading and atlas skills are something to be encouraged in primary school aged children, but often the complexities of world atlases put them out of the reach of children’s skills. The Macmillan Children’s Atlas is child-freindly and accessible, but not so watered-down as to make it patronising or of little use.

The first thirty two pages of this sturdy hard-cover offering are devoted to atlas skills, an explanation of world weather, geography, satellite imaging and more, as well as world physical and political maps.

The rest of the atlas focusses on each of the six populated continents (the seventh, Antartica, is covered in the introductory section). Within each of these six sections, the regions of that continent are given two double page spreads, including a map, a listing of each country in that region (complete with an illustration of its flag, its current population and its capital city) and a discussion of the land use, natural features, traditions, people and history of the region.

The atlas is full of colourful illustrations, interesting facts and accessible information. It is completed with a Gazetteer (geographical index), the use of which is a key part in developing atlas skills.

This is an outstanding offering which would be an excellent home reference as an aid for school projects and for general interest. It would also be an invaluable school and library resource.

Tha Macmillan Children’s Atlas
Pan Macmillan Australia, 2004

At the Beach, by Roland Harvey

Dear Grandma, Crabby Spit is COOL!
We have the best camping spot near the toilets and the beach and the river. Mum has agreed to stop embarrassing us and only wear her new hat in the tent if we do all the cooking for the whole holiday.

When Penny, Henry and Frankie go to Crabby Spit with their parents for a holiday, Grandma stays home. But she doesn’t miss out, because the children write her a postcard every day, telling her about all the fun and excitement of their holiday.

At the Beach tells the story of this holiday through these postcards, a format which young readers will love. The intricate illustrations of Roland Harvey will also intrigue and delight.

Harvey uses dip pen and watercolour to blend cartoon elements with the landscapes of the beach, caravan park and townsite of Crabby Spit. He also adds an extra dimension by ‘losing’ his own holiday gear throughout the pages of the book – and challenging readers to find them.

This hard cover offering is suitable for readers up to the age of about eight years and would also be a useful tool in the language and creative writing classroom.

At the Beach: Postcards from Crabby Spit, by Roland Harvey
Allen & Unwin, 2004

The Man From Snowy River, illustrated by Freya Blackwood

There was movement at the station, for the word has passed around
That the colt from old Regret had got away,
And had joined the wild bush horses – he was worth a thousand pound,
So all the cracks had gathered to the fray.

Few adults – whether parents or teachers – would not be familiar with Banjo Patterson’s classic ballad telling the tale of the brave ride of the young man from Snowy River and his hardy mountain pony. With this skilful rendering of the tale into a beautifully illustrated picture book, the story can now be shared with a new generation of readers.

Talented young illustrator Freya Blackwood has skilfully drawn the horses and the horsemen, with a sense of the time and place in which Patterson’s tale is set. The horses are wiry and each different, as are the horsemen, and the colours of the Australian bush flow from the endpapers, through the mountains, ridges and tree-filled plains.

Suitable for home or the classroom, this one is likely to especially appeal to male readers and all lovers of Australian bush poetry.


The Man From Snowy River, by A. B. ‘Banjo Paterson, illustrated by Freya Blackwood
Scholastic, 2004

Nightmare, by Christine Harris

A long silence stretched between them.
‘OK,’ said Jesse. ‘You have a question on your face that isn’t making it to your lips. What is it?’
‘I heard you attacked another agent. Is that true?’
‘Attacked?’ She glared at Liam. ‘If somebody grabs you around the throat and you fight back, would you call that attacking?’

Jesse Sharpe, child prodigy and secret agent, is back in the third book in the Spy Girl series. Once again she is on a secret mission – this time in a camp for gifted children.

Jesse must identify a threat in the camp, but it isn’t easy. The ‘threat’ is one of the other children, a child who has unspecified ‘unusual skills’. Jesse is glad of the chance to meet other children and act normal for a few days, but the opportunity doesn’t last long. She is soon caught up in a terrifying chain of events which threaten her life.

Each new Spy Girl mystery deals not only with a new case, but also uncovers more of Jesse’s past and of the workings of C2. In this episode Jesse learns more about the fate of her friend and fellow child prodigy, Rohan, who disappeared from C2 some time ago.

The series is aimed at young lovers of the mystery and thriller genre and has a science fiction element which creates intrigue and also a dark side. Jesse is a scientifically engineered genius, trapped in the control of C2. An orphan, every facet of her life is monitored and orchestrated by C2.

Nightmare is likely to appeal to 10 to 14 year old readers.

Spy Girl #3: Nightmare, by Christine Harris
Scholastic, 2005

Enough is Enough! by Scott Willis and Jenna Packer

When Henry and Zoe move to a new country, Henry doesn’t know how to speak the language. Zoe has to go to work and Henry is left to entertain himself and his cat, Balthus.

When Henry and Balthus go shopping in the local market they discover a wonderful array of stalls selling delicious food – fish, fruit and vegetables, cheeses and bread. But without the right words to order what he wants, Henry finds himself with a problem. The stallkeepers don’t understand him – and he doesn’t know how to say enough! Each stallholder gives him more and more food, until Henry has more food than he can carry. What will he do with so many provisions?

Enough is Enough! is a fun book about food, friendship and cultural difference. Kids will love the solution to Henry’s problem and the array of food on offer. The cheeky Balthus the cat, who has adventures both with and apart from Henry, will also amuse youngsters.

Illustrator Jenna Packer provides detailed market scenes and manages to portray a range of ethnicities in the faces of the stallholders and of Henry’s new neighbours, who come to his rescue when the food proves to be too much for Henry to get home. The cats scattered throughout the pages will also delight.

Enough is Enough! is suitable both for private sharing sessions at home and for classroom use, where it could be used to complement several themes, including food and other cultures.

Enough is Enough!, by Scott Willis and Jenna Packer
Scholastic, 2003, this edition 2005

So Stinky! by J.A. Mawter

Something warm is trickling down my back. I can feel the hotness of it against my wind-cooled skin, almost burning. It starts at my neck and slowly, slowly meanders down. I want to deck him! Him is Felix, my kid brother. The liquid cools as it trickles down. My face burns.

Having your baby brother wee down your back is not nice. At all. But when he wees down your back when you’re talking to the coolest chick in your class it is simply unbearable. It seems that things can’t get any worse – but Jake soon discovers that they can, when he is stuck babysitting his incontinent brother during the school holidays.

One Flakey Fountain is one of the four silly stories which make up So Stinky, the sixth book in the So seris from the comic team of author J.A. Mawter and illustrator Gus Gordon. Other stories involve dinosaur dung, goat poo and a collection of human teeth.

Primary school children love gross stories, and So Stinky is sure to appeal to kids aged 8 to 12. There are plenty of smells, stinks, pongs and whiffs, along with some action and loads of laughs.

The cartoon-style illustrations on every page provide an extra facet, as do the three poems which come in between the stories.

So Stinky is a fun package.

So Stinky!, by J.A. Mawter, illustrated by Gus Gordon
Angus & Robertson, an imprint of Harper Collins, 2005

Emily Eyefinger and the Puzzle in the Jungle, by Duncan Ball

‘Stop the horse!’ the woman yelled. ‘Pull harder!’
‘I-I can’t. There’s something wierd. It’s staring at me.’
‘But it’s facing the other way. How can it be staring at you?’
‘It’s got an eye back here. It’s looking right at me.’

Emily Eyefinger truly lives up to her name – she has an eye on her finger. Having an eye on the end of one your fingers could be problematic – but Emily finds it pretty helpful. She uses her extra eye to solve all sorts of mysteries.

In this, the ninth Emily Eyefinger book, she uses the finger to see out of the back half of a horse suit, catch a quiz cheat, and even to solve an ancient puzzle. Along the way she has lots of fun and adventure.

Emily Eyefinger is the invention of Duncan Ball, perhaps best known for his series about Selby, the talking dog. Ball’s sense of humour and his refusal to let the impossible stand in the way of a good story are what endears him to young readers. His simple language is accessible for struggling readers, without excluding more advanced readers.

Emily Eyefinger and the Puzzle in the Jungle is sure to please 8 to 10 year old readers.

Emily Eyefinger and the Puzzle in the Jungle, by Duncan Ball, illustrated by Craig Smith
Harper Collins, 2005

Bunyips Don't, by Sally Odgers

Young Bunyip lived with Old Bunyip in the dankest part of the creek.
It was cold and not much fun.
‘Why can’t we live on the sunny side of the creek?’ asked Young Bunyip? “Because we’re bunyips, fathead,’ said Old Bunyip, ‘and bunyips don’t!’

Poor Young Bunyip. He is lonely and bored and just wants a little fun. But whenever he suggests anything fun, Old Bunyip repeats his refrain: ‘Bunyips don’t!’

Young Bunyip grows sadder and sadder until he meets some children who show him that old Bunyip doesn’t know everything – and that, perhaps, bunyips do.

Bunyips Don’t! is a fun picture book combining the writing genius of the talented Sally Odgers with the superb illustrative talent of Kim Gamble. Odgers has a knack of creating stories which are very Australian, full of fun, yet able to provide food for thought.The fun of Bunyips Don’t is enriched by the gentle messages about following your instincts and believing in yourself.

Gamble’s watercolour illustrations are a delight. The juxtaposition of the darkness of Young Bunyip’s loneliness with the brightness of company is clever and Young Bunyip’s facial expressions and cute cuddly body are endearing.

Bunyip’s Don’t was first published in 1996. It is little surpise that Scholastic have chosen to rerelease it.

Bunyips Don’t, by Sally Odgers, illustrated by Kim Gamble
This edition Scholastic, 2005

Taking Care of Business, by Peter Corris

The character of Cliff Hardy has dominated Australian crime fiction since 1980, in a career catalogued in 26 books. This new offering sees Hardy in a different literary form – the short story – but he is still the same likeable rogue detective.

Hardy’s clients range from a highly strung corporate whisteblower to a computer genius and his local florist. The cases are varied – invloving missing people, missing paintings, missing money. Yet two things bind the collection together – a common theme of money and a common quality of writing.

For fans of Peter Corris, the change to the shorter form is refreshing – showing another side of his talents, and for those who’ve not read previous books, this is a good introduction the character of Cliff Hardy. The form is not actually new to Corris and some of the stories have been previously published, but for many readers this will be a new side of Corris’ work.

Taking Care of Business is superb crime fiction.

Taking Care of Business, by Peter Corris
Allen & Unwin, 2004