Five Little Owls, by Mark Carthew

Reviewed by Kathryn Duncan


Good rhyming books can be difficult to find but Mark Carthew has met the rhyming challenge with Five Little Owls. The rhyme and rhythm remind me of Julia Donaldon’s The Gruffaloand as a result, the reader is rewarded with a well written book where the words flow beautifully and musically off the tongue.

We join five little owls as they play hide and seeks across the pages with mice, frog, rabbits and bats. Young children can relate to the excitement of the game being played in the story and can join in the search for the animals as well as the delightful peek-a-boo ending.

Once again, Mini Goss’s illustrations have been perfectly paired with the text and are a delight to look at. The illustrations generate discussion between reader and child as they search the pages for the hiding animals, not only about which animals are hiding, but whether or not those animals are really owl’s prey. As always, if you want to get a feel for the characters, look at the eyes of Goss’s animals.

Five Little Owls will appeal beyond the pre-school age group it is intended for. It is a memorable for book for combining the simplicity of childhood games with the complexity of beautiful rhyme and illustrations. This book is destined to be read over and over again.

Five Little Owls Mark Carthew (text) and Mini Goss(illus)
New Frontier, HB rrp $24.95

The Sorcerer in the North, by John Flanagan

It happened as quickly as that. One moment there was nothing. Then, in the blink of an eye, the figure was there, fully formed. Huge and menacing, black against the mist, a shadow figure of a giant warrior in ancient, spiked armour, with a massive winged helmet on its head. It must have been twelve metres high, he thought as he stood, rooted to the spot in terror.

Will has finally completed his apprenticeship and is now a fully-fledged Ranger, assigned to a small, safe fief. But even a small, quiet fief holds challenges to test Will’s ranger skills. Then his friend Alyss arrives, bearing news of a secret assignment, and Will must travel North, disguised as a jongleur, to seek answers to the mystery of a ghostly Night Warrior. Here, Will must use all of his Ranger skills to solve the mystery and protect the future safety of the Kingdom.

The Sorcerer in the North is the fifth title in the wonderful Ranger’s Apprentice series and sees Will on his first top secret mission as a Ranger. He is no longer under the instruction of Halt, the Ranger to whom he was apprenticed in earlier books, but Halt is still a figure in this book, as are other favourites including Will’s friends Alyss and Horace. The story stands alone, though readers who’ve read the earlier books will have an advantage.

Exciting fantasy reading.

Sorcerer in the North (Ranger's Apprentice S.)

Ranger’s Apprentice: The Sorcerer in the North, by John Flanagan
Random House, 2006

Rose by Any Other Name, by Maureen McCarthy

Don’tcha just hate the way you get caught up in stuff without really wanting to? You make a wrong move and before you know it you’re in some weird scene that isn’t you but…how do you get out of it? Maybe you lied, maybe you stole, maybe you betrayed your closest friends. It happens. Yeah. Then it goes a bit further, and suddenly you’re one of those jerks you hate because…you can’t be trusted.

Rose is taking a road trip. Her van is packed, her tank is full and she’s off. There’s only one problem – her mother has decided to come along for the ride. As they take the scenic route to visit Rose’s dying grandmother, they also start to mend some of the damage the past year has done to their relationship.

Rose By Any Other Name is a story of self-discovery and of recovery. Rose’s life has been turned upside down with the sudden break-up of her parents’ marriage and the fracturing of her friendship with her best friend, Zoe. She blames herself for what has happened, and feels that others must blame her too. As she travels the coast line she relives the previous summer and moves towards a new beginning.

From the author of the bestselling Queen Kat, Carmel and St Jude Get a Life, Rose’s story will appeal to teens and adult readers alike.

Rose by Any Other Name

Rose By Any Other Name, by Maureen McCarthy
Allen & Unwin, 2006

The Secret Army – Operation Loki, by Sophie Masson

Nicky Flamel, a motorbike racing ace.
Andromeda Frost, a beautiful English socialite.
Otis Falcon, a young American ex-boxer.

Three teenagers from very diverse backgrounds find they have one thing in common – psychic abilities which have been triggered by recent accidents. Now they are on Archangel Island, where a secret institute has been set up to train such psychics to battle the Nazis in Germany and abroad. But Andromeda is not happy on the island and when she escapes she finds herself caught up in a lot of trouble – trouble which Nicky and Otis must help her out of.

The Secret Army is a graphic novel from the combined talents of renowned children’s author Sophie Masson and artist and animator Anthony Davis. Set in the time of Hitler’s Germany the book is set against the background of real events, with the fantasy element of the main plot making the history interesting and accessible to young readers.

The use of the graphic novel format, with narration, speech bubbles and black and white illustrations, adds an interest factor and again makes the story accessible to readers of a range of abilities.

Especially likely to appeal to teenage boys.

The Secret Army: Operation, by Sophie Masson, illustrated by Anthony Davis
ABC Books, 2006

Ravens Rising, by Kerry Greenwood

‘We have them now. It will work,’ said the first voice, sweet and breathy but just off key enough to irritate a musical ear.
‘ It might,’ said the other.
‘Surely they cannot resist,’ said the first voice. ‘Such seductions, such delights as we can show them, until they are altogether enslaved and incapable of resistance?’
‘One will resist,’ said second voice. ‘Just out of sheer bloody-minded perversity. I ought to know. He’s my son.’

When the Ravens return to the University after bringing down the lightning Nest, they find it seemingly deserted and under the spell of some strange force. The gates are locked, but when Dismas breaks the code and gets them in, they find themselves trapped. The unseen force wants to control their thoughts, and to use their bodies to become human.

Ravens Rising is the third title in the Stormbringer trilogy and brings the Ravens together in a battle to maintain their very humanity. Whilst it is most accessible to those who have read the first two books in the series, The Rat and The Raven it is still quite readable for the reader new to the series.

Raven's Rising (Stormbringer)

Ravens Rising, by Kerry Greenwood
Lothian, 2006

Ranger's Apprentice Books One & Two, by John Flanagan

Will saw the muscles bunch in the massive hindquarters. He was too far from cover to run. He’d have to face the charge here in the open. He dropped to one knee and, hopelessly, held out the keen-bladed Ranger knife in front of him as the boar charged. Dimly, he heard Horace’s hoarse cry as the apprentice warrior charged forward to help him, his spear at the ready.

For as long as he can remember, Will has wanted to be apprenticed as a knight, so when he is rejected by the knights and subsequently accepted as an apprentice Ranger, his first reaction is one of disappointment. But as he learns more about this mysterious group, whose job in protecting the Kingdom of Araluen is just as important as that of the knights, Will realises he will have as much adventure as he could want – and then some.

Will first appeared in The Ruins of Gorlan in 2004, with his adventures continued in 2005 in The Burning Bridge. Now these first two books in the Ranger’s Apprentice series have been bound together in one hardcover volume providing both an attractive collector’s edition and a satisfying read for young fantasy lovers new to the series.

This is an enticing read suitable for ages 12 to adult.

Ranger’s Apprentice Books One & Two, by John Flanagan
Random House, 2006

Pearlie and the Christmas Angel

Jasper thought for a minute. ‘Will you take the angel’s place…just for one night?’ he asked Pearlie.
‘Me?’ exclaimed Pearlie. ‘But…I’m so shy…and…I…’
‘Go on, mate,’ said Opal. ‘You have to do it for the children. A tree without an angel? It just wouldn’t be Christmas!’

It is nearly Christmas and Pearlie and her friends can’t wait for the Carols by Candlelight in Jubilee Park. But then a fierce summer storm hits the park and the decorations are ruined. Pearlie and her friends manage to redecorate the tree and clean up the rubbish, but the angel from the top of the tree has been damaged and has caught a cold. Pearlie’s friends encourage her to overcome her shyness and save Christmas Eve for the children.

Pearlie and the Christmas Angel is a delightful story for Christmas or any time of the year. Pearlie and Opal the fairies and Jasper the elf, along with their various animal friends are cute characters, brought to life in full colour illustrations by Gypsy Taylor, based on original character illustrations by Mike Zarb.

This is the sixth story in the Pearlie series by author and comedienne Wendy Harmer, and will especially appeal to to kids aged 4 to 8.

Pearlie and the Christmas Angel

Pearlie and the Christmas Angel, by Wendy Harmer
Random House, 2007

The King's Fool, by Amanda Holohan

‘Foolish boy!’ Jurd cursed. ‘He has no idea what he has got himself involved in, or where he may end up!’
‘We’re the ones who got him involved,’ Perry said. ‘We have to go after him.’
‘Come on, girl,’ Jurd took her hand, led her forward and they stepped hand in hand into the tunnel of lights. The lights winked once, twice and the tunnel disappeared. The room was empty.

All Perry wants is to be normal, for once in her life. But her guardian, Jurd, has her living a strange existence, moving constantly, changing schools, and training ceaselessly in self-defence. And then the terrifying Collector of Children appears in the little town of Trucel and Perry’s life is changed forever. The Collector is looking for Perry, but while he’s in town, is attracted to the little sister of Perry’s friend Rowland.

Perry finds herself back in the land of her birth, a land where everything is overshadowed by the presence of the collector. She becomes the unwilling apprentice to the King’s Fool, but soon learns that her role is to be something much more –s he is the champion who is supposed to defeat the Collector of Children.

The King’s Fool is a riveting fantasy novel for young adult readers. Perry is a likeable main character who faces the challenges life deals her with termination and some humour. She is an unwitting hero, but manages to find the strength to deal with life-threatening situations and many blows. This would appear to be the first book in the Perry Brightfield Chronicles as the book is badged, though there is no indication whether further titles will be available.

The King's Fool: The Perry Brightfield Chronicles (Perry Brightfield Chronicles S.)

The Perry Brightfield Chronicles: The King’s Fool, by Amanda Holohan
ABC Books, 2006

Moon Bear Rescue, by Kim Dale

Bewildered, Star clung to the bars that held him a prisoner, alone in a frightening world he did not understand.
This little black bear cub would never know freedom in the wild again.

In rural China, Asiatic black bears, (known as Moon Bears because of the white crescents on their chests) are farmed for their bile, which is used in Chinese medicines. The bears are kept in small cages and ‘milked’ of the bile daily through catheters inserted in their gall bladders. Moon Bear Rescue tells the true story of one Moon Bear, Star, who is injured by the men who trap him before finding his way to the Moon Bear Rescue Centre in Sichuan. Star has to learn how to trust humans in his long journey to rehabilitation.

This is a touching tale which highlights not just Star’s tale but also highlights the plight of the Moon bears and the work that the rescue centre is doing. It especially highlights the contribution made by Jill Robinson (MBE) who became aware of the Moon bear’s plight in 1993 and has worked tirelessly to establish the centre and promote awareness of the animals’ plight.

Kim Dale’s beautiful watercolour illustrations bring the story to life in touching detail. This is a book which tells a sometimes sad story but which will touch the hearts of readers, young and old.

Moon Bear Rescue, by Kim Dale
Lothian, 2006

You can buy this book online at Fishpond