Columbia Sneezes, by Janeen Brian

Columbia Camel loves everything about his desert home – except for one thing:
All the sand that is carried by each desert breeze –
It tickles my nostrils and fills me with SNEEZE!
Atishoo, atishoo, atishoo! And then,
atishoo, I sneeze and atishoo again!’

Columbia can’t stop sneezing and, when he seeks help for his problem, it seems nothing will cure it – until he meets a stranger who needs his help, and, in return, offers a solution for Columbia’s. With his sneezing fixed, there is nothing Columbia does not like about the desert.

This is a wonderful rhyming picture book, with a humorous plot and rhythmical text which is especially fun when read aloud. Adults and children alike will love the silliness of both the problem and the solution, and the repeated refrain of ‘atishoo’ will encourage youngsters to join in. The illustrations are also humorous, with the sandy desert colours splashed with highlights in blues, purples and greens.

Loads of fun.

Columbia Sneezes, by Janeen Brian and Gabe Cunnett
Omnibus, 2008

Lamplighter, by D. M. Cornish

Rossamund’s internals gripped and a yelp of terror was strangled as it formed. A dark, monstrous thing was rising from the rear of the park-drag. Massive horns curled back from its crown; the slits of its eyes glowed wicked orange. Threwd exploded like pain up the back of Rossamund’s head as the carriage shot by, the stench of the horn-ed thing upon it rushing up his nostrils with the gust of their passing.
Some boys wailed.
“Frogs and toads!” Grindrod cursed. “The carriage is attacked!”

As he trains as an apprentice lamplighter, Rossamund Bookchild finds life difficult. As if the long days of training were not enough, now the Fortress is becoming increasingly under attack from monsters. Out on the road on a lamplighting shift Rossamund witnesses a carriage being attacked. One of its passengers is a young wit, on her way to the fortress to try to become a lamplighter. As Rossamund and threnody forge an uneasy friendship, life at the fortress becomes increasingly dangerous and unpredictable. Rossamund is making friends, but he’s also making plenty of enemies.

Lamplighter is the second book in the Monster Blood Tattoo Series. This lengthy hardcover volume will delight young fantasy fans, with plenty of monsters, lots of twists and turns and adventures both frightening and exciting. For those who have read the first book, there are more hints and revelations about Rossamund’s past, and the reappearance of many of the characters from the earlier book. For those new to the series, Lamplighter can be read alone, though readers will enjoy the stories more if they are read in order.

A gripping adventure for fantasy fans aged 10 and over.

Lamplighter (Monster Blood Tattoo)

Lamplighter, by D. M. Cornish
Omnibus, 2008

This book is available from Fishpond . Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

Dearly Departed, by Georgina Walker

Death and dying are often unpalatable topics. The loss of loved ones, worries about our own mortality, and lack of confidence in helping others who have suffered bereavements are just some of the troubling issues faced by most people at some time in their lives. In Dearly Departedpsychic intuitive Georgina Walker attempts to help readers with answers to questions about afterlife, offering hope and guidance based on her own experiences.

Walker is well-known in the Australian media, appearing on television, writing a weekly column in New Idea magazine, and hosting a regular spot on the Austereo radio network. Away from the spotlight she helps people from all walks of life in one on one sessions, and has been consulted by rock stars and royalty.

Walker’s relaxed style talks directly to the reader, sharing her own road to harnessing her skills, and detailing many specific cases where she has helped people cope with death and loss. She also offers practical advice about dealing with loss, tackling questions such as what happens to people after they die, what needs to be done for someone who is dying, and whether loved ones can communicate after death.

Dearly Departed: Everything You Want to Know About the Afterlife

Dearly Departed, by Georgina Walker
Allen & Unwin, 2008

This book is available online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

The Number One Aussie Counting Book, by Heath McKenzie

Australian animals push from the inside of this new counting book and jostle for space on the front cover. Numbers run down the other side of the front cover, and also spread out across the back cover. There is no doubt that what the reader is offered here is a counting book. But it’s also a public relations exercise for the animals being counted. Wombat, who can sometime suffers an image problem is presented as handsome, dashing, classy and more. As the pages fill with more and more animals, descriptions contract to well known Australianisms. There are ‘dinki-di’ Tasmanian devils and ‘fair dinkum’ fur seals. The final page, full of hatching crocodiles hints that there could more mischief afoot.

The numbers are large on each page. Text curls its way across the page. There is a sense of constant movement as kangaroos leapfrog, cockatoos call. Even the witchetty grubs have personality. The most well-known of Aussie animals are here but so too are bilbies, cuscus and lyrebirds. There is plenty of white space on the cover and on the pages. The Number One Aussie Counting Book is bright, colourful, zany. Young children will enjoy the counting and older children will enjoy reading the descriptions. All will enjoy the antics on each opening. Recommended for pre- and early school age children. Would also be a great gift to send overseas.

The Number One Aussie Counting Book, by Heath McKenzie
Black Dog Books 2007
ISBN: 9781742030098

Pilgrim, by Jo Oliver

Pilgrimis the name of a boat, built by the narrator’s great-grandfather. The narrator, a small boy, tells the reader about his first journey to sea. He and his father rise early and make their preparations for this father and son fishing trip. They pass familiar landmarks seen for the first time from the water. The boat leaves the river or cove and they are at sea. The boy relaxes, safe in his great-grandfather’s boat with his father. Now he can enjoy the sea, feeling ‘brave and peaceful.’

Pilgrim, on the surface, is a story about a small boy overcoming his fear and going to sea with his father. His initial nervousness is transformed as he watches dolphins. This will suffice for most small readers/listeners. But there is more here for the older reader. The reference to the builder of the boat as a returned soldier is expanded upon as they journey past landmarks with the name of well-known war battles. The illustrations in Pilgrim are strong hand-coloured lino cuts. Each image is framed by white and occupies a page or opening. There are also smaller lino cut images showing other images, a feather, war medals and a soldier’s hat. Perhaps the suggestion is that all journeys, no matter how small, require courage and the support of those around us. And some, like the great-grandfather of this story, also make it safely home. Recommended for 5-8 year olds, although it may also be used for older children in classroom discussions around war.

Pilgrim, by Jo Oliver
New Frontier Publishing 2008
ISBN: 9781921042850

The Gobbling Tree, by Mark Carthew

Reviewed by Kathryn Duncan


Mark Carthew’s first picture book, Five Little Owlswas a delight to read and the rhyme and rhythm flowed in a way rare these days. There is always the expectation that a follow up will be just as good.

The Gobbling Tree does not disappoint as the rhyme and rhythm is again fluid and easy to read. Eating everything that is sent its way, The Gobbling Tree refuses to give up all manner of objects it receives as the local children attempt to retrieve a red cricket ball that finds its way into the branches. The story is entertaining and fun, as the whole community gets involved in finding a way to get back the much needed cricket ball. Sticks, a kite, a ladder, brooms and even Simon find their way into the luscious green foliage. The question is: how will they get all the things back?

No newcomer to illustrations, The Gobbling Tree is Susie Boyer’s second picture book. The smile on the tree’s face portrays a sense of cheeky fun as it captures the objects one by one, with no plans of letting them go. The illustrations are colourful and bright, adding to the sense of fun that the story is about. There is a lot in the illustrations, and they add beautifully to the text, helping us remember each item lost within the branches, and watch in the hope that the next attempt will see everything come tumbling down.

When it seems that all attempts are in vain, it is the simplest thing that sees the tree give up its treasures. But as in life, children don’t always learn and when the urge to play another game of cricket is too much for Zac – you can guess what will happen.

The Gobbling Tree is a delightful book that everyone can relate to and, as with so many of New Frontier’s books, destined to become a favourite.

The Gobbling Tree, by Mark Carthew, illus by Susie Boyer
New Frontier. 2008

HB rrp $24.95

Bridget's Book of Nursery Rhymes

Nursery rhymes are age old. Some are steeped in symbolism, others tell stories of great historical events. Some teach counting, others are plain nonsense. But children are generally not interested in any of that, they love nursery rhymes for the rhyme and repetition, the absurdity and the familiarity. The collection opens with full page colour for ‘Pat-a-Cake’ and ends with bath, bed and a final ‘Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star’. In this last, a smaller image looks through the bedroom window at the night sky as the text diminishes in size (volume? wakefulness?) In between, there are a variety of well-known rhymes.

Bridget’s Book of Nursery Rhymes, released in hardback in 2006, is now in a sturdy, large-format square paperback. Bridget’s illustrations are in bright primary colours with black outlines. Some openings have bright colour backgrounds, others make use of the white space. A young teddy bear features strongly but there are also rabbits, pigs, mice and more. A small mouse is present on each page for a child to find. It is easy to imagine this book being a bedtime favourite with both reader and child. Recommended for preschool children.

Bridget's Book of Nursery Rhymes

Bridget’s Book of Nursery Rhymes, Bridget Strevens-Marzo
Little Hare 2007
ISBN: 9871921272127

This book can be purchased online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

Little Blue, by Gaye Chapman

Little Blue has been lost for the longest time. Then Will finds her. All she wants to do is go home. Will wants to help her but it’s not easy. Her descriptions of the way home sound similar to Will’s way home, but as he brings her to the hills, the creek, the trees, family, they are not quite right. They cannot find the way to Little Blue’s home. Only when Will takes Little Blue to his home with Grandmother, do they find Little Blue’s home.

Gaye Chapman is both author and illustrator of Little Blue. From the four seasons of the front ‘end papers’ showing us how long Little Blue has been lost to the final endpaper detailing her return home, this is a beautiful book. The story is a simple one of a boy trying to help a lost girl find her way home. A small blue bird is on every page, guiding or accompanying the travelling pair. The girl’s way home and her home are by her account much grander than Will’s simple existence, yet he is the one who brings her home. She describes mountains, he describes hills. The reader is left to wonder at the accuracy of her description – perhaps she is exaggerating? On alternate pages Little Blue (in words and image) draws for Will a growing picture of her way home, The sketches provide clues for the reader as to the ending. These alternate openings have blue borders, as if to differentiate the world from the differing points of view. Will and Little Blue progress their way across the pages, emerging from a tunnel of trees near Will’s home. At the conclusion, both Little Blue and Will are safely home again. Recommended for 4+.

Little Blue, by Gaye Chapman
Little Hare 2008
ISBN: 9781921049989

Love is Helping and Happiness is Sharing, by Peter Whitfield, illus by Nancy Bevington

Reviewed by Kathryn Duncan

Following on the success of their Zen Tails series, New Frontier have produced a series of board books of the same themes. Aimed at the 2-6 year old reader, each story offers a simple message easy for young children to appreciate.

The messages are simple. In Love is helping, Pierre, Bruno and Gilbert work together to build a dam; Fur Ball doesn’t help, but finds a special job of their own that contributes to the end result. Love is helping reminds the reader of watching a group of four year old children use their individual abilities, without judgement, or criticism, to build a tower.

Happiness is sharing is a concept that young children struggle to understand. Ownership is everything. Whilst Bruno, Gilbert and Pierre share their books and balloons, Grizzel Bear prefers not to share. But, he is not happy and it is in the simple act of sharing his balloons where he finds happiness.

Nancy Bevington’s illustrations are colourful and clear and allows the non reader to enjoy the story being read to them. Once the story is known, they are books that children can look at, and enjoy independently, over and over again.

Love is Helping and Happiness is Sharing, by Peter Whitfield, illus by Nancy Bevington
New Frontier, 2008
HB rrp $9.95

Blood of the Incas, by David Harris

Intrepid adventurer Hiram Bingham has been missing in the Andes for over a month. ‘The Cuzco Herald’ investigates Hiram’s journey and disappearance.
Earlier this month he disappeared into the uncharted mountains of Peru. His quest – to find and follow ancient Inca Trails…What drives a man to risk his life among mile-high precipices, glaciers, raging rivers and deep valleys ruled by cannibal head-hunters?

Hiram Bingham, adventurer, is following his passion. He’s in the Andes looking for clues to the ancient Incas. His initial trip, during which outsiders speculate on his motivation and his whereabouts, is full of danger and excitement as Bingham and his guide Callisto traverse cliff tops, narrow mountain paths and waterfalls in search of ancient fortresses. But the dangers of this first trip are nothing to those of the return journey. Bingham follows in the footsteps of Spaniards and Indians as he searches for a lost city high in the mountains. But he must first overcome superstition, an inhospitable terrain, a man-eating panther.

Blood of the Incas is chock-a-block full of adventure, danger, ancient and not-so-ancient South America. Hiram Bingham was an American Archaeologist credited with the ‘discovery’ of the mountaintop ruins of Machu Picchu. Harris has blended fact, legend and action-packed fiction as he takes Bingham and his rag-tag crew across some of the most rugged terrain in the world. There are numerous historical references to the Spanish Conquistadors, the Incas themselves. For the reader keen on adventure, Blood of the Incas can be read as pure fiction, but there are plenty of titbits for the budding adventurer or historian to explore further. Recommended for 9-12 year old readers.

Blood of the Incas: Time Raiders

Blood of the Incas, by David Harris
ABC Books 2008
ISBN: 9780733320972

This book can be purchased online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.