Promises! by Karen Tayleur

When our class captain announced he was leaving, you couldn’t wipe the smile off Rose Thornton’s face.
“Things are sure going to change around here when I’m class captain,” she threatened.

When no one else will run against Rose Thornton in the election of a new class captain, David finds himself up for election. But Rose is desperate to win and is using every trick she can think of. If David wants to beat her he’s going to have to make some promises, even ones that he probably won’t keep.

Promises! is the sixth title in the David Mortimore Baxter series, and, like its predecessors, is sure to appeal to readers aged 8 to 12. David’s first person narration is honest (even about lying) and funny and the stories are ones which kids will relate to, even while exaggerated for humorous effect.

Whilst each book in the series builds on the others, they are also self contained and so accessible to readers who haven’t read the whole series.

Lots of fun.

Promises! Vote 1 David Mortimore Baxter, by Karen Tayleur
Black Dog Books, 2005

Tashi and the Forbidden Room, by Anna & Barbara Fienberg

It all began with the castle on the hill…The castle had stood empty for many years. It had twenty-three bedrooms, upstairs and downstairs, and they were dark and dusty with cobwebs. But one day Second Aunt came to tell us that she had just met the new owner. He was a wealthy merchant, she said, tall and handsome, with hair as blue-black as a raven’s wing.

When Tashi’s cousin decides to marry the wealthy Bluebeard, the whole village is excited – except Tashi. He has glimpsed Bluebeard’s evil heart, and doesn’t want Ho Hum to marry him. When Ho Hum takes Tashi to visit the castle, Tashi uncovers Bluebeard’s secrets. But is he too late to save his cousin?

Tashi and the Forbidden Room is the twelfth book in the Tashi series. As in the previous titles, Tashi tells his friend Jack of his adventures back home in the village. In each adventure, Tashi is faced by a tricky dilemma or shady character and uses his wile and a little magic to fix it.

Bluebeard, Tashi tells Jack, is the most frightening character he ever faced, who will always haunt me. The second adventure in this book, The Three Tasks features another villain, the Baron, who has appeared in earlier stories. Tashi must complete three tasks in order to rescue the Baron’s dog, Pongo, who the Baron has locked in a dungeon.

These are exciting stories, with a pleasing blend of old and new. Tashi’s adventures in his unnamed land are mixed with Jack’s life in a contemporary setting. Perfect for reading aloud, or independently, Tashi and the Forbidden Room will appeal to readers aged 6 to 10.

Tashi and the Forbidden Room, by Anna Fienberg and Barbara Fienberg, illustrated by Kim Gamble
Allen & Unwin, 2005

Secrets! by Karen Tayleur

Okay, I didn’t ask Smashing Smorgan to tell me his secret. But he did anyway. Then he blabbed to the whole world that I could keep a secret. Suddenly everyone wanted to offload their secrets on me. But there was one secret that might just blow my family apart. And time was running out…

When Smashing Smorgan tells the world that David Baxter is good at keeping secrets, it seems they all believe it. Soon, David is being asked to keep more secrets than he can handle. Everyone from his next door neighbour to the school bully is offloading their secrets on David – and if he blabs, he’ll be in big trouble.

With his teacher on stress leave and the town fair coming up, David is struggling to keep his mouth shut – but when he finds out a secret so big it could blow his family apart, he doesn’t know what to do. When is it okay to share a secret?

Secrets! is the fifth offering in the David Mortimore Baxter series from author Karen Tayleur and Black Dog Books. With plenty of laughs and a sassy first person narrator, kids aged 8 to 12 will love this title, and the rest of the series.

Secrets! The Secret Life of David Mortimore Baxter, by Karen Tayleur
Black Dog Books, 2005

Kered's Call, by Kaaren Sutcliffe

Taking a deep breath, Kered thought ‘I’m safe!’ It was en eternity since he’d felt safe. Out of the window, the blue sky held the promise of a beautiful day. Far below him, verdant lawns twinkling with morning dew rolled away from the palace walls. The flowers coyly unfolded their petals, and hints of scents wafted past on the breeze.

Having witnessed the horrific deaths of his parents and the invasion of his land, Tanaria, Kered has been rescued by a magical chameleon and Shouffa, a desert dweller. Now, at last, he is safe in Ateppa, the home of his Uncle Gonov. Surely Gonov will know what to do to free Tanaria.

But he is not as safe as he thinks. Gonov sees an opportunity to take over the rule of Tanaria, and Gonov’s daughter, Mirayla, has her own designs on him. Kered and his friends flee once more. Now it is up to Kered to find the means to free his people and take the throne that is rightfully his.

Overshadowing all of his actions is an ancient prophecy which casts Kered in the role of saviour of all the realms from a terrible enemy. Kered, though, must accept his own strengths and limitations, if he is to fulfil his destiny.

This is the second book in the Prophecy of the Sharid trilogy. Like the first, it has plenty of action, a well-woven fantasy setting and many twists and turns. The character of Kered, damaged by his experiences in the first book, develops nicely in this instalment, as he explores issues of trust and friendship and learns to confront his fears.

Action, danger, fantastic settings, magic, wild and wonderful creatures – in fact all of the elements of a gripping fantasy are here for readers to soak up.


Kered’s Call, by Kaaren Sutcliffe
Loranda Publishing, 2004

The Truth! by Karen Tayleur

So here’s the thing. I didn’t want to go to Rose Thornton’s house for dinner so I pretended to be sick. But I wasn’t sick. And Mum found out. Now Mum’s so mad with me that she’s thought up the worst punishment ever. One more lie and Boris is going to the pet shelter. So that’s it. I’m turning over a new leaf.

David’s lies have landed him in trouble plenty of times – but never as much trouble as he’s in now. When his Mum discovers his latest lies, she threatens to take his dog away the next time he lies. David has to change his lying ways – quickly.

Soon, however, David realises that telling the truth can land him in as much trouble as telling lies. Sometimes, it seems, people don’t want to hear the truth.

The Truth! is the funny third instalment in the David Mortimore Baxter series. As with the first two books – Liar! and Excuses!, David finds himself in and out of trouble as he navigates the art of story telling and the world of friendships and family. Kids will love this very real character.

The Truth! David Mortimore Baxter Comes Clean, by Karen Tayleur
Black Dog Books, 2004

Everyman's Rules for Scientific Living, by Carrie Tiffany

Everyman’s Rules for Scientific Living
1. Contribute to society for the achievement of mutual benefit.
2. The only true foundation is a fact.
3. Keep up-to-date.
4. Avoid mawkish consideration of history and religion.
5. Keep the mind flexible through the development and testing of new hypotheses.

Robert Pettergree is a man with an unusual taste for soil. A scientist and soil sampler, he believes the key to success in farming and every other aspect of life is science. He formulates principles for scientific living, which he follows fervently. When he meets Jean, he expects her to follow them too.

Jean has grown up an orphan and trained in home economics. She meets Robert when they are employed together on the ‘Better Farming Train’ which tours the countryside teaching farmers better practises. When Robert proposes, Jean agrees, and soon the pair are making a go at farming in the Mallee, where they try to put Robert’s scientific principles into practise. It seems though, that there are some things for which science has no answers.

Everyman’s Rules for Scientific Living is a powerfully haunting novel. Set in the period between the two worlds, in a community struggling through the depression and drought, this is a gripping first novel from a new Australian talent.

Everyman’s Rules for Scientific Living, by Carrie Tiffany
Picador, 2005

Excuses! by Karen Tayleur

My mum has this book called ‘1001 Handy Hints for Homemakers’. She got it from Dad for her last birthday. She didn’t seem too happy when he gave it to her, but it got me thinking. Kids could do with a handy hints book. What we need is a book of ‘1001 Exciting Excuses for Kids’

When David Mortimore Baxter can’t find a book of excuses for kids in his local library, he decides to write his own. When it’s finished, he realises he doesn’t have 1001 excuses, so he has to change the title. But the book is full of excuses, which David assures us are bound to come in handy.

Excuses! is the second book told through the eyes of the cheeky David Baxter. With plenty of humour and silly stories, David shares his best excuses for everything from not making your bed, to not doing your homework. He also fits in some excuses that adults use, like pretending not to see someone they’ve been trying to avoid.

Suitable for readers aged 8-12, this is a fun offering and, whilst it is a sequel to Liar! stands comfortably on its own.

Excuses! Survive and Succeed With David Mortimore Baxter, by Karen Tayleur
Black Dog Books, 2004

I Had a Black Dog, by Matthew Johnstone

There are many different breeds of Black Dog affecting millions of people from all walks of life. The Black Dog is an equal opportunity mongrel.

Since Winston Churchill coined the phrase Black Dog to describe his own struggle with depression, the term has been a popular metaphor for the affliction. Clinical depression affects one in four women and one in six men during their lifetime. It affected author Matthew Johnstone and inspired him to write a book about it.

This is no ordinary book. Johnstone uses a format more familiar to readers of comic books or picture books, with large, cartoon-style illustrations and limited text. However, the tone is not light, as Johnstone explores the effects of depression and the ways it can be overcome. Throughout the book depression is characterised as a black dog, who appears in every picture impacting on the male character. When Johnstone talks about depression impacting on his relationships, taking my love and burying my intimacy, the black dog is there, in the middle of the bed between the character and his wife. When the character sits at a bar, drinking, the black dog is there perched on the next stool. Even when the character brings depression under control, the black dog is still there – but kept firmly on a leash.

This book will speak to all those who have been affected by depression – either first-hand, or through knowing a sufferer. Its appeal is in it simplicity – it is a quick read, but deeply effective.

A wonderful addition to library, health service offices and, of course, home collections.

I Had a Black Dog, written and illustrated by Matthew Johnstone
Pan, 2005

Liar! by Karen Tayleur

You’ve probably guessed by now that I’ve bent the truth before. I have. But it’s not like I get up in the morning and think, ‘Let’s churn out a few today!’ Things just happen to me. It’s not my fault. Like that time I invented a whole new breed of dog just before the Hampton Animal Show.

David Mortimer Baxter has a terrible problem. He can’t stop lying. And now his lying has landed him in trouble. He’s told his class that famous wrestler Smashing Smorgan is coming to his house for Sunday lunch. When the whole class all turn up at his house on Sunday to see the wrestler, David has to think fast.

Liar! (subtitled The True Story of David Mortimore Baxter) is a funny tale about the lies kids tell and the trouble they can find themselves in. Told in first person through the eyes of the likeable rogue, David, the story is fast moving and funny. Whilst the story is chronological, each chapter has a self-contained smaller plot, focussing on a different lie that David tells and its consequence.

Suitable for children aged 8 to 12, this is sure to be a hit, especially with boys in this age group.

Liar! The True Story of David Mortimore Baxter, by Karen Tayleur
Black Dog Books, 2004

Little Lunch Three, by Danny Katz

When Mrs Gonsha bakes a pavlova for her class, to celebrate Max and Elsa’s birthday, the children are excited – until they sneak a taste of the pavlova while Mrs Gonsha isn’t looking. It tastes terrible – and when Mrs Gonsha comes back, she’ll expect them to eat it.

Under the Tree Near the oval is one of three funny stories in Little Lunch Three The second story, The Lost and Found Box tells the story of what Attcius Busby finds in the lost and found box when he loses his glasses, whilst the final story, The Bubblers recounts a joke-telling session at the water bubblers.

Each story takes place at recess (or little lunch) time and so is fast-moving, slice-of-life stuff, with plenty of kid-level laughs. The text is easy to read, with comic-style drawings on every page, both to support the text and to provide extra humour.

Little Lunch Three, by Danny Katz, illustrated by Mitch Vane
Black Dog Books, 2003