I'm Glad You're My Mum, by Cathy Phelan

Most Mums enjoy hearing they are valued, and I’m Glad You’re My Mumis designed to help children say just that. This small 24 page paperback from Black Dog Books encourages and supports children in expressing their love and appreciation for Mum. Affirmations sit side-by-side with pictures to be coloured, blank pages for masterpieces and lined pages for stories. Cathy Phelan’s words offer examples on one side of the opening, and the other side is available for a child to express their personal experience. Danielle McDonald’s pastel illustrations are simple, colourful and appealing.

Very young children may need assistance (from Dad or a grandparent?) to complete the pages in I’m Glad Your Mum, but older children will manage easily on their own. Mums will treasure this gift particularly when children grow and may be less overt in expressing their love and appreciation! Recommended for 3+ aged children.

I’m Glad You’re My Mum, by Cathy Phelan ill Danielle McDonald
Black Dog Books 2008
ISBN: 9781742030364

The Flying Machine of Lombardy, by Bruce Whatley & Rosie Smith

Danny’s Uncle Leo was an artist, an inventor and a scientist. An adventurer. He had been playing around with the idea of flying for years.
‘We could build a flying machine,’ said Danny.
Uncle Leo had a BIG grin on his face. He liked a challenge.

When the Duke of Milan announces that he wants to fly, local inventors set to work to make it happen. Danny da Vinci’s Uncle Leo is busy, so Danny and his friend Mick Angelo and his little sister Lisa set to work to figure out the best way to create a flying machine.

The Flying Machine of Lombardy is the second title in the Danny da Vinci series, which bring history to life with a twist. Whilst the story and characters are humorously fictionalised, the storyline and illustrations draw on the work of Leonardo da Vinci (Danny’s Uncle Leo), with a back of book spread exploring the factual elements of the story.

The use of the graphic novel format allows the story to use illustrations based on Leonardo da Vinci’s own sketches and artworks as an integral part of the story, and young readers will find the text accessible, and enjoy the use of colour illustrations throughout.

A collaboration between husband-wife duo Bruce Whatley and Rosie Smith, The Flying Machine of Lombardy is an excellent offering.

Danny da Vinci: The Flying Machine of Lombardy, by Bruce Whatley & Rosie Smith
ABC Books, 2008

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

A Brief History of the Island of Dipsquittie

What an honour and a pleasure it is for me to write this book.
For thirty years I have been a Professor of Places Nobody Heard Of. I have written a great many books on unheard-of places. But, strangely, nobody seems to have heard of my books. That was really starting to pip me off and I was seriously thinking of becoming a Professor of Books Nobody Has Read. But then the most amazing thing happened.

Poor Professor Loder-Bull. He holidays in Scotland only to get lost in a blizzard. But just when all seems lost, he is rescued by a pink-and-purple tartaned Scot named Fergus. And finally, it seems that Professor Loder-Bull has found a place-nobody-has-heard-of that he can tell the world about. Dipsquittie is an island visited only by those blown off course by the elements. Once there, visitors discover a peaceful, happy settlement with a King and Queen whose main role is to hold parties. There was a battle with the occupants of the northern part of the island many, many years ago, but that is so long ago as to be almost forgotten. Then two Moo Coos arrive followed by Samuel B Gliblip. He has plans. And the Moo Coos are just the start of it.

A Brief History of the Island of Dipsquittie is a delightful romp through the history of an island happily lost beyond the rainclouds and wind of storms. Fortunately, Brother Bedsoc kept an account of the war, how it came to start and how it turned out. King Eggberga and Queen Syllia both played a part, as did Will Winkle/Tinkle, the undercover spy and a ten year-old boy, Flub. It was a most unusual war. The text is enhanced by illustrations scattered throughout and around the text (reminiscent of Terry Denton’s illustrations in the margins of the ‘Just’ series). A Brief History of the Island of Dipsquittie begs to be read aloud, allowing the listener to savour all the sookie eggs and stuffed blurtfish on offer.

Recommended for mid- to upper-primary readers.

A Brief History of the Island of Dipsquittie

A Brief History of the Island of Dipsquittie, by Prof Walter Loder-Bull, ill Janine Dawson
Omnibus Books 2008
ISBN: 9781862917620

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

Horse Mad Western, by Kathy Helidoniotis

‘It’s on again, people!’ Gary Cho stood on his dusty blue milk crate and beamed at the members of the Shady Creek Riding Club. Gary is the most awesome Riding Club instructor anywhere in the world. ‘The fourteenth annual Pinebark Ridge Western Riding Club Show is on in eight weeks.’
‘Cool!’ I murmured, rubbing my fingers in my gorgeous chestnut mare’s soft copper-coloured mane. I’d never done any Western riding. But I never let details like that stop me. Once I knew there was a show on I wanted in.

Ash, as the title suggests, is mad about horses and riding. In this fifth instalment of the ‘Horse Mad’ series, Ash is learning about ‘Western’ riding. Even for someone who eats, sleeps and breathes horses and riding, there is a lot to learn. And there’s only eight short weeks to learn it before the competition. Ash may be horse mad, but there are plenty of other things going on in her life. Her parents are opening a bed & breakfast business, her best friend’s father has a secret, her employer’s English granddaughters are in town, and Jenna, her moved-to-Italy best friend is not answering emails. As the Western riding competition and her 12th birthday approach, Ash also has to worry about whether she’ll be offered a chance to go to Linley Heights ‘horsey’ boarding school or whether she should stay at home and go to the local high school with her friends.

Horse Mad Western may be No 5 in a series but it also stands alone quite comfortably. There are references to other adventures, but it is not necessary to have read previous offerings to enjoy this one. Horse-lovers will enjoy the detail of different riding experiences, but there’s plenty of action for the general reader. Ash, the main character, is at the end of primary school and much in her life is changing. She’s duelling with her parents, her friends are changing, as are her foes. She’s on the brink of adolescence, swinging between impulse and responsibility. Her determination and devotion to friends and to riding help her find a way through the most testing of times. Recommended for 9-12 yo, particularly horse-lovers.

Horse Mad Western, by Kathy Helidoniotis
Angus & Robertson 2008
ISBN: 9780732284244

The Two-Hearted Numbat, by Ambelin & Ezekiel Kwaymullina

Reviewed by Sally and Conor Murphy

Sally’s Review

Numbat has two hearts. When he wears the first, a feather, he feels soft and gentle, but when he wears it he finds himself spending all his time looking after the other numbats, until he has nothing left for himself. When Numbat wears his other heart, a stone, he feels powerful and strong, and works too hard, refusing to let anyone help him.

When Numbat decides it is too hard having two hearts, he goes to Eldest Numbat for some help. Eventually he comes to realise that he doesn’t need to choose. Instead, he needs to wear both of his hearts together, so that he can be both strong and compassionate.

This beautiful tale of wisdom and self-awareness is brightly illustrated with images of the Western Australian bush and animals. The author and illustrator are members of the traditional Baligu and Nyamal peoples of the Pilbara region, and both the text and illustrations are visibly influenced by their traditional links.

A gorgeous story which will be enjoyed both for private reading and classroom use.

Conor’s Review

This story is about a numbat. He can’t figure out which heart to have. A rock heart or a feather heart. He ends up having both.

This story is okay. I like the pictures because they have outlines and lots of good colours.
(Conor Murphy, age 7)

The Two-Hearted Numbat, by Ambelin & Ezekiel Kwaymullina
Fremantle Press, 2008

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

I'm Still Awake, Still, by Elizabeth Honey & Sue Johnson

‘I’m still awake, still!’ called Fiddy.
‘Not tired, little Fiddy?’ said Parlo. ‘When I can’t sleep I dream up something wondrous and sing about it in my head. Try that, little Fiddy.’

Fiddy is a busy little boy so, when bedtime comes, he finds it hard to get to sleep. Marlo tries reading him a story, and Parlo tells him to sing a song in his head. But Fiddy is still awake. His family are busy downstairs, so Parlo seeks help from the animals and flowers. Eventually, it is Nonno’s song, and his patience, which lull Fiddy off to sleep.

I’m Still Awake, Still is more than a bedtime story, though it is certainly that. Accompanying the tale, illustrated by Elizabeth Honey, is a CD recording of the songs which feature in the story, written by Honey and singer/composer Sue Johnson, from band Coco’s Lunch. The story is also read aloud by Honey on the CD, and the lyrics of the songs are printed on the endpapers of the book.

There is much to be discovered here, and enjoyed on different levels and at different times. One could imagine the CD, for example, being played at rest time either at home or in a childcare setting.

A lovely offering.

I'm Still Awake, Still!

I’m Still Awake, Still, by Elizabeth Honey and Sue Johnson
Allen & Unwin, 2008

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

Finding Darcy, by Sue Lawson

‘You’re joking.’
‘Keep your voice down, Darcy,’ whispered Mum, stirring her coffee. She glanced around the packed café. ‘We need to discuss this calmly.’
I leaned forward. The edge of the table pressed against my ribs. ‘Discuss? What’s to discuss? It’s all decided. You’re moving to Melbourne for three months and I have to live with Misery and Batty.’
‘Why not? It suits them. Grandma’s mad, and as for Granny! She’s a foul-tempered old witch.’ I sat back, arms folded.

Darcy lives with her nurse mother, in a small coastal town. Her mother has to update her training and for three months, Darcy will live with her grandmother who is also caring for her own mother, Darcy’s great-grandmother. Four generations of women on their own. Darcy’s father died when she was a small child. Her grandfather is dead and mystery surrounds the death of the great-grandfather whose name she shares. All Darcy knows is that he died during the war. Discussion about him is forbidden, even by Mum. As if living with a grandmother she calls Misery and a great-grandmother she calls Batty isn’t bad enough, her class is set a living history assignment. They must interview their grandparents for family stories about World War II. Darcy can’t talk to her family so she begins to research herself. A misunderstanding at school leads to a spiralling episode of bullying. Darcy discovers allies in unexpected places and unwraps the secrets that have so dramatically impacted on four generations of her family.

Finding Darcy is a compelling journey of discovery. Pulled rudely out of her secure and happy environment, Darcy struggles with school bullying while experiencing similar issues out of school hours. She is a fully-developed, likeable character who struggles to adapt to her challenging new living environment. Issues of family secrets, bullying, racism, small town small-mindedness are all handled realistically and sensitively. Misery, Batty, even her nemesis ‘Neanderthal’ are all skilfully developed as flawed-but-not-irredeemable characters. Her teacher, ‘The Newt’ and her friend, Laura provide constancy and support, while keeping Darcy accountable for her actions. Darcy’s exploration of the circumstances of her great-grandfather’s death illuminate a lesser-known tragedy and put a human face to war and its far-reaching effects. Parallels are drawn between the death of her father and that of her great-grandfather. Themes include coping with loss, family, war, friendship and bullying. Recommended for early- to mid-secondary readers.

Finding Darcy, by Sue Lawson
black dog books 2008
ISBN: 9781742030234

Extreme! by J. A. Mawter

‘Now there’s a girl with a death wish.’
Mio watched the girl skateboard down some handrails, nailing the landing but carving close enough to fog up a metal pole. Straightening, and with a push-push of her foot, she popped into the air, the skateboard somehow stuck to her feet, before flipping and spinning, only to drop to a crouched landing before rolling away.
Mio smiled as she spotted the sign attached to the pole. The ‘N’ had been whitened out and texta-ed over so that the NO SKATEBOARDING now read GO SKATEBOARDING. She pointed out the sign to her friend Clem saying. ‘Those skateboarders don’t miss a trick.’

Mio and her friends, Clem, Bryce, Tong and Darcy, are mad keen BMX riders. They are excited that the council is constructing a BMX/skate park, until they find there’s been a change in plans. The council have decided that it’s too dangerous to have the bikers and skaters together and the park will now be just for the skaters. They are all furious, but Mio is the most determined to do something about it. They meet with their friend, Mr Lark to plan a course of action. Mio borrows Mr Lark’s Vietnam War dog tags for a school project and things begin to go wrong, especially for her. Each attempt she makes to sort things out just lands her in more trouble, until even her closest friends seem keen to distance themselves.

Extreme! is a rocketing ride from start to finish. It is full of BMX stunts, described in detail. The reader has plenty of opportunities to experience the similarities and differences between BMX riding and skateboarding. The thrills and the spills. There are chase scenes worthy of any action movie. Extreme is told from the omniscient point of view with characters from Japanese, Vietnamese, Jewish and Anglo backgrounds. In Mio, for example, Japanese reticence fights with an Australian forthrightness. Tong struggles with English, but also with some Australian concepts. The relationship the children have with Mr Lark is an anchor for them all, particularly when other adults appear to be being unreasonable. Themes include justice, cultural identity, friendship, identity theft, cooperation and safety.

Recommended for upper primary-early secondary readers.

Extreme!, by J A Mawter
Harper Collins
ISBN: 9780732285319

Superior Saturday, by Garth Nix

Arthur is beset on all sides. Nothing is eroding the house, and only the power of the keys can hold back the tide of destruction. His home city is under attack. His allies are unreliable. How will Arthur get inside the apparently impregnable Upper House? And even if he does, will the Sixth Part of the Will and the Sixth Key be enough to counter Saturday’s sorcerous hordes and stop her bid to ultimate power?

With five of the trustees defeated, and the will more than halfway complete, Arthur Penhaligon is getting more powerful and confident, however he is also getting more and more like a Denizen of the House. With the seemingly impossible challenge of relieving Superior Saturday of her key ahead of him, he must defeat her, save the world, and keep his humanity.

Superior Saturday is the sixth in the bestselling Keys to the Kingdom series, by Australia’s fantasy master, Garth Nix. As with the earlier titles in the series, there is plenty of action, loads of twists and turns and a great range of characters both quirky and gruesome. Some of these characters from the earlier tiles, including Dame Primus and Leaf are changing in ways both physical and mental, building their confidence and changing themselves, for better or for worse.

An enthralling read.

Superior Saturday, by Garth Nix
Allen & Unwin, 2008

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

Norton Saves the Day & Norton's Blue Ribbon, by Bernadette Kelly

‘Norton must be opening the paddock gate all by himself,’ I said. ‘How clever.’
‘How naughty,’ said Mum. ‘He got into that new bag of oats. It’s just lucky I found him before he ate himself sick.’

Norton the naughty pony is back, in two more chapter book adventures, still just as naughty and as funny as in the first two books in the Pony Patch series. In Norton Saves the Day, Norton’s owner, Molly, takes him to riding school, to give him some lessons. Of course, really they shouldn’t be in the beginner classes, but they show the other riders – and their horses – how things should be done. Molly is surprised to realise that the instructor thinks that Norton is naughty. Norton needs to show that he can listen.

In Norton’s Blue Ribbon Molly takes Norton to the local show. When Norton eats the flower on the judge’s hat, he misses out on a ribbon, but Molly is sure he deserves to win something.

This delightful series is easy to read, with short, humorous stories which will appeal to young horse-lovers. The main humour comes from the clash between the story being told in Molly’s first-person narrative, and the events being shown in the illustrations, which show us what is really happening. Like any loving owner, Molly’s take on Norton’s behaviour is very different from the reader’s observation.

Sure to be a hit with readers aged 6 and up, especially horse-mad girls.

Norton Saves the Dat and Norton’s Blue Ribbon, by Bernadette Kelly, illustrated by Liz Alger
black dog books, 2008