Kered's Crown, by Kaaren Sutcliffe

Alacer eyed Kered curiously, admiring how his friend could spare a moment for humour. After only a few paces the amused glint in Kered’s eyes vanished and he drew his sword. Hastily, Alacer followed suit. As soon as they emerged from the tree boughs, Kered pushed Nightstar into a trot. The bay surged forwards with a shrill whinny.

Having cheated death in the desert and been nursed back to health by his new love, Shouffa, Kered has travelled the ten realms seeking help for his battle with the invading Sarods. He is now ready to return to Tanaria and fight for his Kingdom, his people, and the safety of all the realms. But for victory to be his, he must defeat not just the human Sarrods, but their Demon Lord, Pletholax. How can he defeat an immortal?

This is the third book in the Prophecy of the Sharid trilogy, and a satisfying conclusion. We first met Kered in Kered’s Cry as an unlikely hero, riddled with guilt over the death of his parents and unwilling to believe he can avenge their deaths. Now Kered is a strong leader, respected by his allies and loved by Shouffa, the desert-dweller who saved his life. In a thrilling and action-packed volume, author Kaaren Sutcliffe brings together all the threads of the story and once again works her magic to have readers cheering Kered on throughout, even at times when he continues to question his own abilities.

With the publisher of the first two instalments now being defunct, Aust Speculative Fiction is to be commended for ensuring the publication of the final book.


Kered’s Crown, by Kaaren Sutcliffe
Aust Speculative Fiction, 2006

All Stars Series

I was already having a bad day when Josh Reeves, basketball hero, fell for me – literally. Did I mention I was having a bad day? Make that a bad year.

There are plenty of sports fiction books for children on the market, but, with many focusing on male-centered sports like football and cricket, it is refreshing to find a series aimed squarely at girls. The All Stars series, published by Black Dog Books, is just that.

The eight books in the series share the fortunes of a girls’ netball team – the All Stars – as they work their way through the season. Each book is told from the point of view of one of the players and, as well as sharing the girls’ on-court dramas, also focuses on their school and private lives, with each girl having her own set of problems, from boy problems, to shoplifting.

There is plenty of sporting drama, and the first person narration draws readers in to the life of each new narrator. This series would be an excellent addition to a school library.

All Stars 1: Maddy, Goal Defence, by Meredith Costain
All Stars 2: Bree, Centre, by Karen Tayleur
All Stars 3: Josie, Wing Attack, by Meredith Costain
All Stars 4: Jess, Wing Defence
All Stars 5: Sarah, Goal Shooter, by Claire Renner
All Stars 6: Tara, Goal Keeper, by Maryann Ballantyne
All Published by Black Dog Books, 2005

All Stars 7: Mel, Goal Attack, by Karen Tayleur
All Stars 8: Ali, Goal Attack, by Meredith Costain
Both Published by Black Dog Books, 2006

Audio Book Review: The Rainbow Wand, by Emily Rodda

Jessie’s heart lurched. She remembered Tasha’s silver fairy wings. Her grandmother’s voice echoed in her mind.
‘There are Doors to the Realm all over the world, Jessie. But only people who believe in magic can find them.’
“Tasha found the Door!” Jessie heard herself saying. “She’s gone into the Realm!”

Jessie has always enjoyed her adventures in the Fairy Realm, travelling through the door at the bottom of her grandmother’s garden, but when another human child, four year old Tasha, accidentally enters the Realm, Jessie knows she could be in trouble. She must find Tasha and return her home before anything goes wrong.

Meanwhile, she must also stop her sticky beak next door neighbour, Mrs Tweedie, from finding out too much about the Realm. Has Mrs Tweedie sent Tasha in deliberately and what can Jessie do about it?

The Rainbow Wand is the fourth and final title in the second series of the Fairy Realm series. There are plenty of fairies and other magical creatures, as well as adventure and mystery. This audio book version is beautifully read by Lucy Bell. This is a story well suited to reading aloud and with a running time of just under two hours would suit a car trip or plane journey.


Fairy Realm: The Rainbow Wand, by Emily Rodda, read by Lucy Bell
ABC Audio, 2006

Beastly Nights, by Elizabeth Pyle

If only a special friend were waiting in my dreams, that would be fun…

Every night when Jessica goes to sleep she dreams of scary beasts who chase after her. She wakes screaming – and her mum gets woken, too. The dreams keep coming night after night and Jessica’s mum is so tired she’s turning into a beast herself. Then Jessica’s pop comes to visit. He tells Jessica about the scary things in his own dreams when he was a child. Soon, Jessica is able to conquer her fears.

Beastly Nights is a lovely story about how one child overcomes her nightmares with help from a wise grandparent. With black and white line drawings by author/illustrator Elizabeth Pyle, which bring the dreams to life, this book could be used as a tool for helping children address their own fears, and is suitable for reading aloud at home or in the classroom.

Beastly Nights, by Elizabeth Pyle
Fremantle Arts Centre Press, 2006

The Tuckshop Kid, by Pat Flynn

Except for a few minutes at the start of lunch, I don’t have many friends. I used to be best mates with Craig Withers until a new kid started calling him water buffalo. I told Craig to either ignore it or beat the hell out of the new kid, but for some reason it got to Withers – who’s the second fattest kid in the school, behind yours truly. After that, Withers didn’t want to be my mate anymore. In fact, he started teasing me more than anyone. And his new best friend? The new kid. When you’re like me you learn something pretty quick. Life doesn’t sense too much make.

Mrs O’Neill, the school principal, says that every child has a special talent. She’s right. Some kids are good at sport, others at doing back flips and others at poetry. But Matt’s special talent is tuckshop. He can tell you exactly what you can get with your lunch money, and even offer tips to getting the best value for your money, including which line to queue in.

Matt is pretty popular at the start of lunchtime – but that’s the only time. The rest of the time he’s the fat kid, and he’s getting picked on. But that’s not his only worry – his poor diet is starting to affect his health. The doctor says he has to change his ways. But eating differently and getting exercise are pretty challenging things when you’re the tuckshop kid.

The Tuckshop Kid is a humorous tale with a very serious message about nutrition, bullying and self-image. Matt is a feisty, likeable character with insecurities which are believable, though sad. Child readers will relate to the school scenario and the range of characters there, including students who will seem very familiar – every school has the wise-mouthed bully , the grumpy tuckshop lady or the sporty kid who just adores phys ed lessons. Author Pat Flynn uses this familiarity to tell a story which could be that of many children in Australia.

Suitable for children aged 8 to 12, and ideal for school libraries and classrooms.

The Tuckshop kid, by Pat Flynn
UQP, 2006

Tide Stealers, by Kim Wilkins

Give it back!’ She ran boldly to the edge of the shore, but her voice was drowned out in the sound of the longship submerging again. Water rushed in to fill the gap; bubbles spewed upwards in streams. It all happened in moments.
Then, silence. Asa could hear her own breathing, loud in her ears.
’No, no,’ she whispered.
The Moonstone Star, her family’s magic, the last memory of her mother, was gone. And it was all her fault.

When Asa takes the Moonstone Star to the edge of the water to try to get its magic to work, it is stolen by Tide-Stealers, underwater outlaws. Asa and Rollo try to find it, but they must face ghosts, the tide stealers and sea giants to do so.

With their parents, King Sigurd and the Star Queen, dead, Asa and Rollo are the last hope for the people of the Star Lands. Flood, the evil court magician, has taken over the kingdom, using his powers to leave it submerged. In this, the second book in the Sunken Kingdom series, the adventures of Asa and Rollo continue, with help coming from an unlikely source.

This is an intriguing series, with all the elements of good fantasy – a well-woven fantasy world in turmoil, plenty of baddies, and heroes with huge obstacles to overcome. Of course, this is all condensed into a format suitable for younger readers, making it a great introduction to fantasy for primary aged children.

The Sunken Kingdom series is part of Omnibus Books’ new Fantastica imprint, offering fantasy tales for children from world-class fantasy writers. It seems destined for success.

Tide Stealers, by Kim Wilkins
Omnibus Books, 2006

The Kid Whose Mum Kept Possums in her Bra, by Dianne Wolfer

Mum looked down. The possum’s nose was peeking out from her bra. She laughed as the scratchy whiskers twitched back and forth. ‘Stop it,’ I hissed. ‘You’re embarrassing me!’

Harmony (she much prefers to be called Mon) used to think that her mum’s work with injured wildlife was cool, but now that she’s in year six she’s tired of being pecked and peed on by Mum’s orphans, and she’s tired of living in the bush. She wants her mum to be normal. Or does she?

The Kid Whose Mum Kept Possums in Her Bra is funny junior fiction, which explores some important issues, including family relationships and communication. As Harmony struggles to cope with her need to fit in with other children, she must also understand her mother’s motivations, and learn to compromise about the things that are important to each of them.

As well as being an insightful tale, the story also deals with animal rehabilitation issues, and includes back of book information about caring for injured animals and contact details for Emergency Wildlife Rescue organisations in each state.

The Kid Whose Mum Kept Possums in her Bra, by Dianne Wolfer
Fremantle Arts Centre Press, 2006

Laugh Out Loud! Camp Quality

What did the astronaut eat for breakfast?
An unidentified Frying Object.

What is a monkey’s favourite ice-cream?
Chocolate chimp.

What biscuit can fly?
A plain biscuit.

Laugh Out Loud is filled with jokes just like the three above – plenty of old well-known jokes, but just as many that kids will not have heard before. Many have been contributed by celebrities from around Australia – including Rove McManus, Gretel Killeen, Wendy Harmer, Andrew Daddo and many more.

The book has been produced by Camp Quality, a non-profit group which provides recreational, educational and financial support programs to children living with cancer and their families. All royalties from the sale of the book will go to Camp Quality.

As well as supporting a great cause and getting lots of good value laughs, readers will enjoy the sound chip inside the cover which plays the laughter of ‘Giggle’, Camp Quality’s mascot, when the book is opened. They will also enjoy the novelty of being able to choose the colour of the cover – which is available in six different colours.

Every household should buy a copy to support this worthy cause.

Laugh Out Loud! Camp Quality
Scholastic Australia, 2006

Pirates Eat Porridge, by Christopher Morgan & Neil Curtis

He was just wondering whether jellyfish might taste like jelly when a large sheet of paper blew in through the window and rolled itself up like a scroll at his feet.
It had TREASURE MAP written on it in big, bold letters.
Suddenly Billy’s sister, Heidi, jumped over the top of the ladder and tumbled into the tree house.
‘There’s a pirate at our door!’
‘A pirate?’
‘A pirate. And a pig.’
‘I’d better go and see what they want.’

When a Pirate turns up on Billy’s doorstop while his parents are at the grocery store, Billy doesn’t know what to do. But the Pirate quickly takes control and Billy and his sister Heidi find themselves setting sail in their house, which has miraculously become a pirate ship. They help the pirate and his pig – who believes he is a parrot – to find buried treasure on Itchy Ear Island, before heading for home.

Pirates Eat Porridge is a rollicking, humorous adventure for readers aged 5 to 9. Youngsters will laugh at the silliness of it all, and adults will enjoy reading aloud to pre-readers. The illustrations, by award-winning illustrator, Neil Curtis, provide plenty of extra humour, with hidden details and Curtis’ trademark quirkiness.

Loads of fun.

Pirates Eat Porridge, by Christopher Morgan, illustrated by Neil Curtis
Allen & Unwin, 2006

Star of the Show, by Nette Hilton

Whether Serena could draw an angel or not wasn’t going to make a scrap of difference. If Serena decided she wanted to be one, we could all be sure she was going to get chosen. It mightn’t make her the star of the show though. I drew a big star on top of my angel. I rubbed it for luck, but it didn’t make me feel a whole lot better.

Serena Sweetmay is the girl who everybody loves. She’s always chosen to do jobs in the classroom, always answers every question correctly, and when it’s time for the annual school play, she’s always the star of the show. Aimee Appleshore has had to put up with being in the same class at Serena all her life – and she’s sick of it. She wants a turn at being star of the show.

Star of the Show is a funny but touching novel for younger readers, which deals with a situation most primary aged girls would be able to relate to – that of the girl who’s got it all, and has the ability to make life miserable for ‘normal’ girls. Aimee, of curse, is special in her own way – she is bright and funny, and has a caring nature. In the end, this nature shows through and sees her triumph in an unexpected way.

Nette Hilton ha s knack of getting inside her character’s heads and developing a voice which is real and endearing. Star of the Show is a touching read.

Star of the Show, by Nette Hilton
UQP, 2006