The ABC Book of Lullabies

Star light, star bright
First star I see tonight
I wish I may, I wish I might,
Have the wish I wish tonight.

The ABC Book of Lullabies is a collection of lullabies, some familiar, some less so. Some contain extra verses that are less well known. But these lullabies have been gathered to showcase the work of some popular Australia’s children’s illustrators. There are thirteen double spreads and each features a lullaby illustrated by a different illustrator. Styles vary from realistic to fantasy, from watercolour to Photoshop. Many depict night-time scenes, but others, like Tamsin Ainslie’s illustration for ‘Lavender’s Blue’ depict an imaginary garden that is part collage. Lullabies like ‘Lavender’s Blue’ show that it’s sometimes less the words that count than the mood of the singer/singing. Emma Quay’s illustrations for ‘The Man in the Moon’ also grace the cover.

Books like The ABC Book of Lullabies are produced for two audiences simultaneously: the child who focuses on the images as the words are read to them and the adult (usually) who is reading. Each will take different things from the reading. An adult may well be interested in the differences between the images and the differing styles of each illustrator. Short bios, including sketches and photos are included in the final pages for those readers. Each illustrator shares a little about what they do and why, and why they’ve chosen the particular lullaby. Children will enjoy this collection whatever time they read or are read to, but it does make a lovely bedtime collection. For adults, The ABC Book of Lullabies is a bit like a sampler, introducing the work of some of Australia’s most talented illustrators. Or perhaps an illustrators’ version of a anthology. Recommended for 3-6 year olds and adults who love illustration.

The ABC Book of Lullabies

The ABC Book of Lullabies, various illustrators
ABC Books 2008
ISBN: 9780733323621

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

The ABC Book of Animals, by Helen Martin & Judith Simpson

The ABC Book of Animalsfeatures a wide range of animals from all over the world. Baby animals hatch, squirm and totter. They hitch rides with Mum or make their own way. There are words to describe how different animals move and the noises they make. There are bushland animals, grassland animals, sea and snow land animals. Even farm animals are here, making their farmyard noises. Animals have different skin. Some have scales, others feathers. Some skin is soft, some tough and leathery. And finally animals sleep. Each double page spread with multiple animals and descriptions is followed by spreads with a more detailed look at selected animals in their habitat, eating, moving and sleeping.

The ABC Book of Animals is a sturdy board book, perfect for little fingers. It is easy to imagine it becoming a household favourite. The range of pictured animals is wide and varied. For the younger child there are animals to identify. For the older child, there is information related to each animal and about their habitat. They can also act out the movements described, and play at hopping and swooping, growling and hissing. The illustrations are realistic both in form and colour and are beautifully rendered in watercolour. A perfect first book on the world of animals. Recommended for toddlers up.

The ABC Book of Animals [Board book]

The ABC Book of Animals, Helen Martin and Judith Simpson, ill Anne Bowman
ABC Books 2008
ISBN: 9780733323829

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

The Mare's Tale, by Darrel & Sally Odgers

It was a noisy night at Cowfork House. The rain poured and the wind blew. Every so often, a small branch would crack and I’d hear the rustle and crunch as it hit the ground. It was so noisy that I didn’t hear the midnight train go through from Doggeroo Station.

When rough weather hits, Dr Max finds that his arthritis really bothers him. Trump feels sorry for Dr Max, but as she helps Dr Jeanie do her rounds she realises that it’s not just humans who can be affected by arthritis, when she meets an aging dalmatian. Also having trouble in the stormy weather is Helen, a pregnant mare expecting her first foal. Can Trump and Dr Jeanie help Helen and Paris (the Dalmatian) through their ordeals?

The Mare’s Tale is the second in the Pet Vet series from Darrel & Sally Odgers, who are also the creators of the ,I>Jack Russell: Dog Detective series. Trump is a likeable first person (fist canine?) narrator, who takes her new job as an Animal Liaison Officer at the Pet vet Clinic very seriously, even when she’d rather stay in bed out of the storm, or chase the rats she can hear in the stable. Her animal friends each have their own foibles and oddities which make for an appealing cast of characters.

As well as being entertaining, the series is informative, with Trump offering explanations of animal and veterinary terms, and hints for animal care.

The Mare's Tale (Pet Vet)

The Mare’s Tale, by Darrel & Sally Odgers

Scholastic, 2008

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

The Case of the Diamond Shadow, by Sophie Masson

Friends Daisy Miller and George Dale live in Thornton, a village in the English countryside. Both long for a more exciting life. First Daisy secures a post with a rich and eccentric Australian woman, Mrs Peabody and moves to London, then George seizes his opportunity too. Daisy finds her new duties allow her ample time to get to know London. She also spends time with dashing and attentive young Frenchman, Victor. She is quite entranced by all the perks of her new life, including the chance to meet famous people like movie star, Olivia Marlow. But who is ‘The Shadow’, who sends cards to his intended victims detailing the time and location he intends to rob them? Both Daisy and George, helped and hindered by their employers find themselves drawn deeper and deeper into the mystery. Sitting at home in their quiet English village, they had never have imagined quite such an exciting life!

The Case of the Diamond Shadow is a fast-paced, compelling mystery, set mostly in London of the 1930’s. Teenagers Daisy and George are good friends, with just a frisson of more hinted at (at least on George’s part). Both are employees of Miss Grantley’s Typing Bureau. Daisy is bright and enthusiastic and a fan of the movies. She is eager to sample life. George is painted as responsible and reliable, although a passionate fan of a famous detective and the books he writes about his cases. The action quickly moves away from their quiet home town, to the bustle and excitement of a posh London hotel. The narrative alternates between the two main characters, both told in third person. Styled like an Agatha Christie story, The Case of the Diamond Shadow is a twisting-turning-twisting mystery, with plenty of subtle humour. Recommended for 12+ readers.

The Case of the Diamond Shadow

The Case of the Diamond Shadow, Sophie Masson
ABC Books 2008
ISBN: 9780733323300

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

The Ice-cream Man, by Jenny Mounfield

Marty flicked sweat out of his eyes as he hurtled down the path towards the bike compound. Where was Rick? He’d better not keep him waiting long. it was too hot to be hanging around. Marty swerved to avoid a kid with a terminal overbite and skidded to a stoop. Scanning the faces of the kids crowding the gate, he quickly backed up. The last thing he needed was some smart alec ramming his legs for fun. As he did so, he caught sight of a scuffle at the back of the compound.

Rick and Marty are sure the ice-cream man saw them, but the van takes off before they can get there. With their new friend Aaron tagging somewhat reluctantly along, they decide to play a prank. The prank is successful, and although they don’t see his reaction, they feel sure they have paid him back. But the prank is a beginning. The ice-cream man hits back. Marty is struggling to escape his over-protective mother and responds to her concerns by trying more and more dangerous stunts in his wheelchair. Rick’s father has died and his mother is struggling to cope. Aaron, the newest friend, endures constant bullying from his new step-brother and gets little support from his mother or step-father. The three boys draw together against a common, unseen, vengeful enemy.

Jenny Mounfield has constructed a complex, tightly plotted story of revenge. Each of the three boys is struggling with their own demons and their need binds them together. This is not to say that they share all their secrets. To the contrary, they all have secrets, all have something to hide. In uniting against a common enemy, they come to understand each other a little more. These are boys acting out loudly to hide their individual fears. In many ways they are all alone, even if the solitude is one that they somehow self-impose. ‘The Ice-cream Man’ is a chilling story of a prank that has far reaching consequences. Themes include loss, grief, families, friendship, ability and disability. The three main characters Marty, Rick and Aaron take turns to narrate the story, with chapters overlapping the action from the different points of view. This is a suspenseful, frightening read that is difficult to put down. Recommended for mid-secondary readers.

The Ice-cream Man, Jenny Mounfield
Ford St 2008
ISBN: 9780876462680

The Joke's on Selby, by Duncan Ball

Reviewed by Dale Harcombe

Not realizing what I was starting, I first gave my grandson a Selby book a year or so ago. He loved it so much he has since gone on to read and re-read several others. In fact I suspect he’s angling to end up with the whole Selby collection – all 19 of them.

Duncan Ball has a sense of humour that reaches out to children. His wordplay is very clever. They are a good, fun read. The Joke’s on Selby is no exception. It features Garry Gaggs the comedian who is back in Bogusville, where Selby and the Trifles live, to do his comedy act. What’s more, he’s staying at the Trifle’s house, which presents Selby with a problem. He knows he dare not laugh at Garry’s jokes which are so awful, they’re funny. Do that and his secret would be out. Selby decides he has no choice but to make a run for it.

When the librarian is threatening to blow up the school, Selby finds a creative and fun way to calm her down.

Garry has a list of heckler busters that usually work but suddenly he strikes a heckler who is not so easily put off. Garry dubs him the phantom heckler and threatens to quit being a comedian. Once again Selby comes to the rescue and uncovers the culprit. When he finds out who is responsible, Garry is extremely surprised and has to take drastic steps.

This collection of stories is as funny as the other Selby books. Kids will love it. It’s no wonder the Selby books were awarded the Kroc (Kids Reading Oz Choice) Series Award winner.

The Joke’s on Selby ,By Duncan Ball
ISBN: 9780732288624
Published by Angus&Robertson
An imprint of HarperCollins Publishers Australia
RRP $12.95

Do You Know Millie, by Gordon Winch

Reviewed by Kathryn Duncan

Change is difficult for everyone, so when you are a small child moving away from your friends, it is normal to be sad. In Do you know Millie?, Sarah is moving to the big city and is told by her friend, Rosa, that Millie also lives in the big city and will be Sarah’s friend. The only problem is, that nobody seems to know Millie.

Do you know Millie? is a story about friendship and finding that some things are closer than you think. The story flows smoothly as we follow Sarah in search of Millie and the basic concept of asking people if they know her indicates the size of the world we live in. Despite this, Sarah does not easily give up her search.

There is disappointment for Sarah, but the book ends on a positive note as she finds a new friend in her neighbour.

You feel Sarah’s emotions in Alan Robinson’s illustrations and the double page spreads are bright and have a positive feel to them. Do you know Millie? is Robinson’s first picture book and his work complements Winch’s simple, yet heartfelt text. Sarah’s teddy and little white dog join her in each illustration as her constant companions, and friends.

This is another enjoyable story from New Frontier and once again they have produced a publication worthy of sitting on our bookshelves.

Do you know Millie? Winch, Gordon (text) and Robinson, Alan (illus)
New Frontier, 2008
HB rrp $24.95

Crossing the Line, by Dianne Bates

Reviewed by Kathryn Duncan

Sophie is embarking on a new part of her life, one that sets her challenges she has never previously faced. Abandoned as a child, her early life is spent with her aunt and uncle before they too leave her alone and she eventually falls into the cycle of foster families. As a young adult, she is given the opportunity to live in a share house with Amy and Matt and her life looks to be on track.

Like many teenagers, Sophie has her own secrets; self-harming being one of them and one she is able to hide. Concerned about the depression Sophie suffers from, her counsellor arranges for her to be hospitalised. Sophie finds reassurance in developing a friendship with her new counsellor. The counsellor, however, does not view the relationship in the same way and before long Sophie is struggling with what she perceives as another rejection.

Crossing the Line is a compassionate story of teenage struggles and one that is willing to look at the harder issues faced by teenagers today. Sophie’s character develops from a confident young girl trying to make a new start, to a distressed teen in a situation she cannot control. The only person she believes she can trust rejects her, and the one person she can trust, she rejects. It is an emotional roller coaster not only for Sophie, but also for the reader.

Crossing the Line is a story that could have more than one outcome and as a reader you hope that the final pages offer a positive one. Rather than provide endings, Crossing the Line offers new beginnings and encourages readers to believe that there is a brighter side to life, once you have made it through the darkness.

Crossing the Line is a well written and sensitive look at a difficult and emotional topic, and a book you will have finished before you realise you have even started.

Crossing the Line, by Dianne Bates
Ford Street Publishing, 2008
PB rrp $16.95