Gladiatrix, by Rhonda Roberts

The surge cut out abruptly. The feeling of being lifted forward was replaced by the sensation of dropping. Falling. Towards something green.
Then I realised I was falling! The green was a grassy field far below me.

A scream forced itself out of my mouth and my body went into red alert.

Kannon Jarratt doesn’t know who she really is. When she was just two she was left for dead in a cave in the Australian bush. Now, twenty years later, her adoptive mother is dead and a new lead to her identity has emerged. Could she be the long-missing daughter of US Time Marshal, Victoria Dupree?

Kannon is determined to meet Victoria , and, in spite of her fear of flying, is soon bound for the US. But nothing prepares her for just how far her journey will go, when she finds herself thrust back through time to ancient Rome, where Victoria has gone missing. To find and rescue her mother, Kannon must become a gladiatrix, and fight to the death in the arena.

Gladiatrix is an action-packed time travel adventure, set both in an alternate present and in the past, allowing readers a glimpse of Ancient Rome as well as some of the implications of time travel.

The first in a series, Gladiatrix combines action and adventure with some moments of humour.


Gladiatrix, by Rhonda Roberts
Harper Voyager, 2009

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

Jatta, by Jenny Hale

Jatta woke soaked in sweat. The nightmare was retreating deep below the throbbing in her head.
She lay draped through a door in a smoky corridor trampled with blood. Ceiling-high barricades burned. Beyond, guards peered through, their expressions a mixture of resentment, loathing and fear. Behind her, metal scraped on tile – if it was her garden bars opening, they had warped. She eased backwards into her chambers, wincing as she discovered fresh bruises over her chest.

Jatta is an Alteedan princess, but her life is far from carefree. Ever since her mother was killed by werewolves when Jatta was a toddler, the palace has been shadowed by fear. Now, Jatta discovers that the werewolves did not just take her mother – they also stole Jatta’s future. As she is haunted by terrible dreams, it becomes increasingly clear that nothing in her life will ever be the same.

Jatta and her bother must flee the palace and embark on a journey to try to save Alteeda. But each month, at the time of the wolf moon, Jatta becomes dangerous – to herself, to her brother, and to everyone else whose path she crosses. Will she be Alteeda’s saviour – or its ruin?

Jatta is a thrilling fantasy tale for young adult readers. Jatta begins the novel as a seemingly fragile child, small for her age and sheltered from evil – and from the terrible truth – by her protective family. As the story, and Jatta’s quest, unfold, it becomes clear that it is not only Jatta’s wolf which is strong and determined. Jatta herself is brave, loyal and very wily. The challenges she faces seem insurmountable at times, yet she works with her brother and some unlikely allies to overcome them. The plot is filled with the aforementioned challenges, with twists and turns, and with action, in a blend which will satisfy teen readers.


Jatta, by Jenny Hale
Scholastic, 2009

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

The Brain Finds a Leg, by Martin Chatterton

Sheldon sat up. Brilliant! They would solve the Biff Manly case, catch his killer (although personally Sheldon still hadn’t forgiven Biff for that smack on the head) and be the toast of Farrago – hooray! There might even be a reward from Dento.

Sheldon’s life isn’t going too well. His dad is dead after a mysterious boating accident involving humpback whales, and he’s the target of the school bullies. Then a mysterious new boy, called The Brain, arrives at school, which coincides with a string of strange occurrences around the usually dull Farrago Bay. Birds are flying backwards, bats are active in the daytime, and Sheldon sees a horse hunting a bird. But that’s nothing compared to the massive crocodile which thinks it is a dog.

When local surfing hero Biff Manly is found dead, The Brain decides that he is the man (or boy) to solve the case – and he chooses Sheldon to be his sidekick. Sheldon has no idea what a sidekick does, but he’s on a steep learning curve, and soon is involved in sleuthing, hunts and chases, and even a fight for his life, as he works with his new friend to figure out exactly what is going on.

This is a fast-paced, humorous read suitable for upper primary aged readers. The silliness and complete unlikelihood of the events will appeal especially to boy readers, who will love that it is the children who solve the mystery, in spite of the efforts of the stereotypically bumbling local police.

There is lots here to like.

The Brain Finds a Leg

The Brain Finds a Leg, by Martin Chatterton
Little Hare, 2007

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

I Love Christmas, by Anna Walker

Ollie the Zebra has won the hearts of lots of young Aussie readers with his ‘I Love’ stories. This Christmas, he appears in a new offering, I Love Christmas, telling us what he loves about Christmas.

From decorations and tinsel, to gluing glitter and helping make the Christmas cake, Ollie loves everything about Christmas – but what he loves best of all is to sit with his dog, Fred, and listen for Santa’s sleighbells.

I Love Christmas is as gentle and beautiful as earlier titles in the series, including I Love My Mum and I Love to Sing. With gently rhyming text, and watercolour illustrations, this small format hardcover book is perfect for babies and toddlers, and would make a lovely first Christmas gift.

I Love Christmas

I Love Christmas, by Anna Walker
Scholastic, 2009

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

Edzel Grizzler, by James Roy

He wasn’t aware yet, but through the Egg, he was being called to another place. And that yearning call, combined with a subtle push from the dreariness of West Malaise, was all it really took to make Edsel reach out his right index finger and press the green button, all the way in.

Living with boring – but embarrassing – parents in Bland Street, West Malaise, Edsel Grizzler is unhappy. He dreams of having friends, and different parents and doing exciting things. So, when Edsel finds his way into another dimension, it seems all his dreams have come true. In Verdada there are no rules. Everyone stays forever young and everyone has fun. Want Pizza for breakfast? Want to skateboard? Ride a bike? No problems. But the longer he stays there, the more Edsel realises that not everything is as it seems in Verdada.

Edsel Grizzler is the first in a new adventure trilogy from master storyteller James Roy. Young readers will enjoy the excitement and interest of travelling to a strange world, but should also relate to Edsel’s desire to fit in and belong – feelings all children (and adults, too) experience. There is a message in this tale – about enjoying what you have, and the dangers of always searching for something better – but the message is there to make kids think, as a consequence of the story, rather than being preachy and didactic.

The second instalment in this trilogy will be eagerly awaited.

Edsel Grizzler (Voyage to Verdada)

Edsel Grizzler , by James Roy
UQP, 2009

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

Riding the Black Cockatoo, by John Danalis

‘Well; I grew up with an Aboriginal skull on my mantelpiece.’
I said the words with a sort of worldly swagger, somehow expecting the announcement to impress my younger classmates. I might as well have unzipped my pants and flopped my penis on the table – everyone turned and stared at me with a mixture of incredulousness, disgust and horror. My worldliness withered.

As a child, John Danalis never stopped to consider why an Aboriginal skull was a fixture on his family’s mantelpiece, or even why it was considered okay to display a person’s remains in this way. But, as an adult, when he shared this piece of his past, his classmate’s reactions lead him to thinking about where the skull, which his family had named ‘Mary’, came from, and where it should now go.

In the weeks following this event, Danalis set about answering these questions, in an emotional journey which ultimately led to the skull being handed over to be returned to Mary’s country.

Riding the Black Cockatoo is a true story of one man’s journey to understanding not just a part of his own family’s story, but the story of Aboriginal people around Australia. Danalis admits to not knowing, or even having spoken with, Aboriginal people, before he began the quest to return Mary to his rightful home. But, in the process of returning Mary, Danalis is forced to explore both his own preconceptions and Australia’s history, which proves both confronting and very disturbing.

Riding the Black Cockatoo is an important book, which should be read by all Australians for a greater understanding of our history and our culture.

Riding the Black Cockatoo

Riding the Black Cockatoo, by John Danalis
Allen & Unwin, 2009

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

All the Colours of Paradise, by Glenda Millard

Griffin came to the Silk family after the Rainbow Girls: Scarlet, Indigo, Violet, Amber and Saffron, and before Tishkin. And then came Layla, who was not born a Silk, but was sent to comfort them after Tishkin went away.
Perry Angel came last of all. He arrived on the ten-thirty express with a small and shabby suitcase embossed with five gold letters.

Since he came to the Kingdom of Silk, Perry has learned lots of things about life and about friendship, but mostly about love. The various members of the Silk family – Annie and Ben, their children Griffin and the rainbow girls, as well as Nell and Layla – and various friends from around the town, have all shown Perry that he is loved and wanted, and that it’s okay if he doesn’t always want to talk.

One thing Perry does do well is to express his feelings through drawing. So when something terrible happens, and Perry stops drawing, his friends are worried that he might never draw again. One friend in particular, Mr Kadri from the Colour Patch Cafe, understands that sometimes art can do what words can’t. So he presents Perry with all the colours of Paradise, to use as he needs.

All the Colours of Paradise is the fourth book in the award-winning Kingdom of Silk series, and continues the series with the same beauty and poignancy readers have come to expect. Whilst most of the characters are familiar, and the message of unconditional love repeated, the story is not formulaic or predictable, and there are surprises and new elements in this ongoing tale of a special family.

All the Colours of Paradise is a delightful, feel good book with gentle action and real warmth.

Very satisfying.

All the Colours of Paradise (Kingdom of Silk)

All the Colours of Paradise , by Glenda Millard, ill by Stephen Michael King
ABC Books, 2009

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

What Does Your Daddy Do? by Gordon Reece

One day my mummy found me crying in my room.
‘What’s wrong, Tina?’ she asked.
‘Today in class,’ I sobbed, ‘Miss Jones asked us all,
‘What does your daddy do?’

Tina is sad. When Miss Jones asked about what daddies do, she didn’t want to answer. Everyone else’s dad seemed to have a glamorous or important job and she is embarrassed to answer. The question seems to become a competition about who’s dad is the most important or popular or glamorous. But when she tells Mum, Tina is reminded of all the things that really make dads important. Vilma Cencic has drawn all the characters as Australian animals. There is abundant white space and the font is large, easy to read and child-like. The cover shows a proud Tina talking to the class.

A simple question doesn’t always have a simple answer. Tina is overwhelmed by the grand jobs other daddies do. Initially she pretends her daddy is just as glamorous, and is an astronaut. But others tell what her dad really does and she is embarrassed. At home, Mum helps her to remember the most important job daddies can do – being father to their children. The message here is very clear but gently handled. Fathers are important because of their fathering, not their jobs. Rendering the characters as animals keeps the story light and entertaining. Small children can often be caught in an escalating cycle of exaggeration and the first half of What Does Your Daddy Do? uses this to good effect. The pace changes then as Mum comforts her child and brings her back to understanding true value. Another title perfect for Father’s Day, particularly for 3-6 year olds.

What Does Your Daddy Do?

What Does Your Daddy Do?, Gordon Reece Ill Vilma Cencic
Lothian Books, 2009
ISBN: 9781734411129

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

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

The Great Cold, by Gladys Milroy

The Great Cold is coming,’ said Magpie as Crow shivered in her nest. ‘You must leave before it it’s too late.’
‘I know,’ Crow said fearfully, ‘but I can’t leave, I have an egg to look after.’
‘Then you and your baby will freeze,’ said Magpie sadly, and with a flap of his wings he left his friend and flew away.

Moon and Sun are fighting over their position in the sky and the earth is in danger of experiencing a cold so intense it will kill everything on earth. Magpie is torn. She knows there is a good chance she will perish if she doesn’t seek shelter with the other animals. But she can’t abandon her nest, because she sitting on her egg. She is the last of the animals, the others all taking shelter deep in a cave that will be sealed to keep the cold out. She carries her nest with her and makes the difficult journey to the cave. Goanna helps her, but there is a cost.

The Great Cold is a new story but it has the feel of an ancient one. It is mystical and yet seems real. The characters are concerned with survival and earthly things, but there is exploration of the nature of collaboration, friendship and trust. The Great Cold is an early chapter book for newly-confident readers. It is part of a new series, ‘Waarda’ from Fremantle Press designed to support the literacy needs of Indigenous children in primary school. Each title is written by an Indigenous author. Cover design and internal black and white images show the Indigenous influence too. But this, and other title in the series, will be enjoyed by a wide range of new readers. It’s just a great story. Recommended for newly-independent readers.

The Great Cold (Waarda, Nyungar)

The Great Cold, Gladys Milroy
Fremantle Press 2009
ISBN: 9781921361586

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

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

Loving Richard Feynman, by Penny Tangey

Dear Professor Feynman,
Last week Dad bought me a poster of you for my birthday. I hung it up on my wall, perpendicularly adjacent to my desk. It is one of the best presents I have ever received. A month ago, I had never even heard of you, which is embarrassing now I know how important you are. It was my dad who first mentioned you. I was worried about some dumb thing that happened at school. We were discussing the ethics of stem cell research in Social Studies. I had a few points to make on the subject. After I’d been talking for a while I became aware that people in the class were giggling. I looked up and everyone was staring at me like I was a raving idiot. I suddenly realised that I had been getting a bit overexcited, waving my arms and talking too loudly.
When I told Dad how humiliated I was he said, ‘In the words of Richard Feynman: What do you care what other people think?’

Catherine is 15, in Year 10 and is a nerd. Not that she thinks the title ‘nerd’ is an insult. Far from it. She wears that badge with pride, but it’s about the only part of her life that she’s sure about. The poster of physicist Richard Feynman becomes a focus in her life and she writes to him. Through the letters, she tries to sort out her emotions, her responses by speculating what he would do in the same situation. She reads a book about Feynman and is inspired. Meanwhile, relationships at school are a mystery she struggles to unravel. It seems that her motives are always misinterpreted. Writing to Richard gives her opportunities to ‘replay’ what’s happened at school, even though she knows he’s dead. A maths competition brings together Catherine, her friend Sophie, Harry (one of the ferals) and new annoying boy, Felix. As the maths competition approaches, Catherine must re-examine her assessments of people close to her .

Loving Richard Feynman is told entirely in letters from main character Catherine to her hero, Richard Feynman. Initially she is drawn to him because of her love of science and the esteem her father feels for ‘one of the best physicists in the twentieth century’. Then she begins to read a collection of anecdotes Feynman told about his life. She idolises and idealises Feynman. Catherine’s view of the world is fairly black and white. Feynman is good, Bitch-face Renee is bad. She likes the certainty of numbers, the rigour of science. But of course, life is seldom so neat. The letter format gives only Catherine’s take on her world, but her reportage frequently lets the reader learn much more than that. Catherine’s flawed observations are full of the humour and angst that sit so closely together for many teenagers. There are themes about hero worship, friendship, individuality and more. Recommended for 13+.

Loving Richard Feynman

Loving Richard Feynman, Penny Tangey
UQP 2009
ISBN: 9780702237256

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

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author