The Royal Flea, by Rolf Heimann

What a conundrum! When the King is bitten by a flea, nobody is sure what to do. On the one hand the flea should be killed for harming His Majesty. On the other, the flea now has royal blood inside it, so it would not be right to injure it.

Author/illustrator Rolf Heimann is known for his fun puzzles, and the quandry of the king’s flea is just one of the funny plot ideas explored in this collection of ten short stories. Each is both humorous and unique, with a smattering of Heimann’s cartoon-style illustrations.

As well as plenty of laughs, the stories also gently explore some serious themes – including that of sibling rivalry, as presented in the story Otter Tails where five young otters compete for their mother’s attention. The main focus, though, is not on morals, but on fun, which is the essence of Heimann’s work.

This offering will appeal to kids aged 8 to 12.

The Royal Flea, by Rolf Heimann
Little Hare, 2005

The Tenth Power, by Kate Constable

The great Wall of Antaris reared over them. Calwyn’s breath caught in her throat…Something was different. It wasn’t just that she viewed the wall from outside now. What was missing was her awareness of the magic that had built and sustained the mighty rampart of ice, the living power that hummed through it and crackled around it.

When Calwyn loses all her powers of chantment, she heads home to Antaris seeking solace and understanding from the community. Instead, she finds many of the sisters dead or dying from a mysterious sickness, and in the grips of tyranny from the order’s new leader.

Instead of being welcomed, Calwyn is forced to hide, until events in the community lead her to reveal herself. With all of Tremaris suffering an endless winter, Calwyn and her friends know they have to leave Antaris and search for some answers. But will those answers come in time to save Darrow, who has been infected by the sickness? Calwyn is sure she couldn’t live without him, even though the loss of her powers has put a great strain on their relationship.

This is the third and, sadly, the final installment in the Chanters of Tremaris series. Those who have read the first two volumes will be satisfied with this one, which rounds out the quest of the young friends.

Calwyn is a well-developed character, who has grown through the three books from a young girl into an adult who is constantly learning and maturing. Her friendships are deep, yet complex and, all too often for Calywn’s liking, complicated. There are some unexpected twists in these relationships, which prevent the book from becoming predictable.

Aimed at a teen audience, this series has been deservedly loved by many young readers. The conclusion will not disappoint.

The Tenth Power, by Kate Constable
Allen & Unwin, 2005

The Man Who Loved Boxes, by Stephen Michael King

Once there was man, Stephen Michael King writes, who loved boxes and who also loved his son. Unfortunately, he didn’t know how to tell his son that he loved him – so he made things with boxes to share with his son, to show his love. Other people thought that the man was strange, even a bit crazy, but the man didn’t mind, and neither did his son, because they had a special way of showing their love.

This delightful picture book, King’s first, was first published in 1995 and subsequently won the Australian Family Therapist’s Award as well as being shortlisted for the Chrichton Award for Children’s Book Illustration. The fact that Scholastic have seen fit to reprint the book some ten years later is of little surprise – it is a timeless piece with a timeless message about family relationships.

King’s whimiscal illustrations use a combination of watercolours with ink outlines and the use of dusky blues and greens captures the gentle tone of the piece.

This is a book which should be read by every father – both to himself and with his children – and would make perfect bedtime reading.

The one disappointment of this particular issue is the very thin card of the softback cover, which may not withstand the regular reading and rereading which such an offering is likely to inspire. Still, it is such a delightful book, that parents will look for a way to preserve iit, raather than passing it over.

The Man Who Loved Boxes, written and illustrated by Stephen Michael King
Scholastic, first Published 1995, this edition 2005

Heavenly Pleasures, by Kerry Greenwood

Corinna Chapman likes the quiet life: good food, good company and her daily work as a baker. She doesn’t really want mystery and intrigue in her life. Unfortunately for her, she doesn’t have much choice.

Corinna’s apartment building seems to be a magnet for mystery and mayhem and, with her new lover Daniel a private investigator, Corinna seems destined to be involved in solving these mysteries.

This second book in the series sees a prankster spiking the chocolates at the nearby Heavenly Pleasures chocolate store, an attempt to blow up the apartment block, and strange new residents moving in.

This new series has some of the hallmarks of author Kerry Greenwood’s other long running series – the Phryne Fisher mysteries: mystery (of course), good food, gorgeous young men and a sassy central female character. But Corinna Chapman is not a modern day Phryne Fisher. Where Phryne is classy and independently wealthy, Corinna is overweight, frumpy and tied to her bread shop. Where Phryne has a butler and a ladies’ maid, Corinna’s helpers in her shop are Jason, a recovering drug addict, and two anorexic models. What is common in the two is that Greenwood manages to portray each so skilfully.

Heavenly Pleasures is a delicious offering and, for those who may have been put off by some of the darker parts of its prequel, Earthly Delights, this title is a little more mainstream in taste.

Heavenly Pleasures, by Kerry Greenwood
Allen & Unwin, 2005

S.N.A.G the Sensitive New-Age Gadiator, by Margaret Clark

Reviewed by Pauline Burgess

‘I don’t want to go to gladiator school,’ said Snag. ‘I hate violence. I hate fighting. And I faint at the sight of blood.’
‘Sorry,’ said the chief of gladiators, ‘you don’t have a choice.’

S.N.A.G. the sensitive new-age gladiator is captured and sent to gladiator school to learn to fight and how to be bloodthirsty. Unfortunately, the sight of blood makes Snag faint. When he’s learning to fight, Snag defeats his beastly opponent and now everyone thinks he is fierce. But can Snag win the biggest fight of his life against elephants, lions, tigers, bulls, dogs, chariots and maniacs?

Kids will love Snag because he’s sensitive and wants to play his fife or paint marigolds instead of learning the bloodthirsty sport of being a gladiator.

Margaret Clark once again writes a side-splitting story with a smattering of detail about Roman life and some funny modern day twists.

S.N.A.G the Sensitive New-Age Gladiator is from the popular series of Aussie Nibble books. This book is great for eight to twelve-year-old readers who love a funny story that will keep them entertained until the end.

S.N.A.G the Sensitive New-Age Gladiator, by Margaret Clark, Illustrated by Terry Denton
Puffin Books, 2001.