Waterfight Frenzy, by Felice Arena

This morning I woke up early, my pillow wet with sweat. Finally! The first really hot day of the summer holidays. Up until now our break was turning out to be a snore-fest. Rainy weather had kept me indoors for two weeks. I was busting to get outside, and my friends Marty, Johnno and Tubs felt the same way.

Ben and his mates have been frustrated by the un-summer weather. When the first hot day arrives, they are determined to make the most of it. Marty invites Ben and their friends, Johnno and Tubs to his house for a swim. First they are pirates and take Ben captive. They will ‘throw him to the sharks’, they say. But Captain Ben Lightfoot is too fast for them. More adventures follow as the boys revel in the sunshine and warmth. The four main characters are introduced before the story begins and there is contents page. At the end there are several blank pages with an invitation for readers to draw their own adventure. Each page is accompanied by stick figure illustrations. There are also extra images and flip pictures at the bottom of each page.

Water Fight Frenzy is a short chapter book. The featured characters have had one previous outing as part of the short story collection, Farticus Maximus and Other Stories that Stink. Now the boys have their own series. The text is large and the chapters are short. Younger readers will be able to skim the illustrations and ‘read’ most of the story, although there are more details in the text. Water Fight Frenzy is a light-hearted, fast-paced adventure aimed at boys. Girls do appear, but typically for the age-group, they are the enemy! Recommended for mid-primary boys, newly independent and reluctant readers.

Water Fight Frenzy (Stick Dudes)

Water Fight Frenzy (Stick Dudes), Felice Arena
Scholastic, 2009
ISBN: 9781741694413

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

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

Scrimshaw, by Nazam Anhar

Never will I forget that fine spring day when I first crossed the gangway and set foot on the deck of the barque Pioneer. The Pioneer was a humble ship, but to my young eyes she seemed a marvel. Her three tall masts soared up to the sky, bearing acres of canvas and miles of tangled rigging. Her flag fluttered restlessly from the mainmast, as if she were as impatient as I was to begin her great adventure across the seas. The sailors were working furiously as they prepared to weigh anchor: loading the last items of cargo; scurrying over the deck shouting, cursing and singing; and hoisting themselves up nimbly up to the dizzying heights above to work among the spars and sails.

English boy, Nathan Whitford has just completed his schooling but his family consider him too young for Oxford and he is thrilled when his ship surgeon father convinces his mother that he should spend some time at sea. Nathan sets off with his father in the barque Pioneer. The adventure that follows is nothing he could ever have imagined. They are sailing down the coast of Africa when approached by a pirate ship, captained by the infamous Captain Graham. Graham was once a British Naval captain but a series of events had seen him lose his ship and his family. Now he attacks any British ship he sees. Nathan is taken hostage by Graham. He is presented with a choice: join the pirates or be hung.

Scrimshaw is an adventure in a grand style, told from the point of view of a sixteen year-old boy. Set in the 1700’s, Nathan leaves the security of England and travels into the wild oceans with his father. Nazam Anhar’s betrays a love of the sea and sailing in the detailed depiction of life at sea. His journey is a rite of passage and he faces many challenges once he is taken aboard the pirate ship. Characters reveal themselves gradually, with first impressions sometimes deceiving, sometimes proving true. Nathan is completely beyond any familiar experience and must begin to form his own opinions about who to trust. He must also call upon his own inner resources if he is to survive. A scrimshaw is a carved or etched whale tooth or bone. Recommended for 13+ and all those who wish they could ‘go to sea’.


Scrimshaw, Nazam Anhar
Scholastic Press 2009
ISBN: 9781741693386

Also by Nazam Anhar:
Milad: The Voyage to Ophir

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

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

Jake's Gigantic List, by Ken Spillman

Jake’s birthday was just around the corner.
Every morning, the big day had crept a little closer.
One day, Jake was counting the number of sleeps left to go when his father asked him a question. Not just any question – a BIG question.
‘Have you decided what you’d like for your birthday?’

Jake liked birthdays. He liked feeling special. He liked being older. He liked the cake Nana made him. When Dad asks him what he would like for his birthday, he decides to write a list of the things he’d really like. Everyone seems to think he has everything, but Jake knows that’s not true. His list includes his own beach and unmelting snow, a pirate and a cheetah. His birthday grows nearer and the list grows longer. He has no real expectation that he will get anything on his list but he’s determined to make sure he doesn’t get any more boring presents. Jake’s Aunt Lyn just might have the answer. There are no page numbers in Jake’s Gigantic List, and illustrations on each page. The story is divided into short chapters.

Jake’s Gigantic List is a first chapter book for newly independent readers. Jake’s list is an exercise in imagination. If there were no limits, money-wise or other-wise, what would you wish for. Readers will develop their own lists of imaginary presents, no doubt wilder and wilder. Aunt Lyn though offers Jake access to all that his imagination can dream up to list, and then some more. ‘Jake’s Gigantic List’ is written in third person, allowing easy access to the story for new readers. Boys, particularly those who find books daunting, will enjoy this book. So will every reader who likes lists and birthdays! Recommended for newly independent readers transitioning from picture books to chapter books.

Jake's Gigantic List

Jake’s Gigantic List, Ken Spillman ill Chris Nixon
Fremantle Press 2009
ISBN: 9781921361715

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

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

Third Transmission, by Jack Heath

Agent Six of Hearts braced his hands against the hot walls of his steel coffin. The rubber pillow under his head barely lessened the shuddering against his skull as his tiny vessel blasted through the ocean. The web of safety straps around his torso hummed like high-voltage power cables.
He checked the flickering screen above his head. Altitude: 28 metres below sea level. Speed: 150 kilometres per hour. Distance from target: 5.9 kilometres. A little over two minutes to go, he calculated.

Six is back in his fourth adventure and the stakes are the highest yet. The action begins with Six being propelled in a modified torpedo through the ocean towards a large battleship. His mission is to prevent ChaoSonic releasing their latest weapon, a deadly virus designed to wipe out resistance in the South Side of the City. Despite the challenges, this is a relatively routine mission, he thinks. But nothing can prepare Six for the challenges he will encounter, the first of them within minutes of boarding the battleship. Each skirmish he faces adds to his mystery and confusion. Nothing is as he expects. Who is calling the shots? There are several contenders: a villain he’s battled before; the man responsible for his existence: and a scientist and her invention. His people are threatened, danger is everywhere, and time is short.

Third Transmission is an adventure in time and place. Set in a future world there is enough familiar to ground the reader but enough technology to make almost anything possible, it’s a wild ride. The City is controlled (mostly) by ChaoSonic and the sea is held back by a Sea Wall. Current environmental predictions have proved true and rising seas, pollution and acid rain are all part of Six’s world. Heath embraces scientific technology fact and theory and uses his hero’s speculations and discoveries to allow the reader access to the wildest of possibilities. Six is chronologically an adolescent but mostly he performs as a highly trained operative. In this instalment of Six’s adventures, Heath has allowed his character to show some emotional development appropriate to his age. Recommended for futuristic adventure lovers 13+.

Third Transmission (Six of Hearts)

Third Transmission, Jack Heath
Pan Macmillan
ISBN: 9780330425100

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

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

Mariella and the Stars, by Selena Hanet-Hutchins

Reviewed by Dale Harcombe

In a story vaguely reminiscent of Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are, Mariella is sent to her room because of misbehaviour.
The night the stars fell from the sky
Mariella had gone too far.
(She knew she had, right before Mum said so.)

Having been told she is not allowed to read, Mariella feels sorry for her behaviour. In the dark room she feelssmall and lost and afraid. That is, until she goes to the window and sees the shooting stars shining and twinkling as they fall from the sky. The stars give Mariella an idea. She attaches the glittery, fallen stars to her slippers. This turns them into tap shoes and she starts to dance to the music inside her. But then Mariella comes to realise it’s not fair to keep the starlight magic to herself.

This is a gentle and delightful story about creative use of imagination as Mariella deals with the consequences of her behaviour and learns to think of others. The text is made more attractive by the whimsical illustrations and brilliant use of colour. The starlit night scenes are particularly attractive and effectively convey the magic of the night.

Mariella and the Stars

Mariella and the Stars, Selena Hanet-Hutchins, Illustrated by Michelle Pike
ABC books, 2009
Hardcover $24.99
Age guide 3+

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

Hopscotch – Mudsa's Stone, by Ian Trevaskis

Reviewed by Dale Harcombe

An ancient scroll, a rhyme, a game of hopscotch and a quest are the key elements in Hopscotch: Medusa Stone, an intriguing book from Ian Trevaskis and another of the great books coming out of Walker Books.

The opening plunges the reader right back into the Trojan War. It then moves back to the present, to Hannah’s move to Pelican Bay, before leading the reader to want to learn how she ended up back in the ancient time. It’s all because of Jake Peters, a boy from her school. It also raises questions about how Kostas the giant of Pelcan Bay fits into what happens.

The humour in the story works well and sounds so typical of the age group. Hannah and Jake are in year nine. According to Jake, Adam Price, the local heartthrob with the girls is ‘a legend in his own lunch box.’

It is while playing a game of Hopscotch that Jake disappears and becomes trapped in another time. Only Hannah has a clue of how to find Jake. Hannah meets the Game Lord and is required to test out and play his new game to rescue Jake. In doing so she has three different adventures based on Greek myths and even travels with Odysseus.

She also has to bring back three items from these adventures. In the course of these adventures, Hannah decides being involved in violence for real is a lot different and more scary and gruesome than just watching it on TV. She wants out of the whole situation but knows without her there is no way for Jake to return home. So she agrees to play again in an effort beat the giant Cyclops and to rescue Jake.

The story is full of action and clever in the way it integrates the mythical characters into the story. It sets up a great contrast with the present day and Pelican Bay.

At the end of the novel are some author’s notes which give further information about the ancient Greek civilization and the characters and gods of Greek Myth. This could be just the sort of book that will cause a young person to further investigate Greek Myths. After reading Hopscotch: Medusa Stone, my guess is readers from 11-14 will be eagerly awaiting the next instalment, Hopscotch: Golden Scarab.

Hopscotch: Medusa Stone


Hopscotch: Medusa Stone, by Ian Trevaskis
Walker Books, 2009
RRP PB $16.95

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

Tracey Binns is Lost, by Sherryl Clark

‘Why does Mr Poplat think we’re all fat?’ He looked around at all of us. ‘I don’t think we are.’ We all nodded.
‘It’s not just about weight issues,’ she said, in a way that told me she was trying very hard to avoid the fat word. ‘It’s about being healthy…’

Tracey Binns is not happy when the school gets funding for a new healthy eating and exercise program. Although she eats lots of vegetables and loves playing netball, Tracey is not a good runner, and the PE teacher Mr (aka Sergeant) Gunning expects her to be able to run five laps. Added to that, the school camp has been changed to a survival camp. Tracey is sure she’ll hate it.

Tracey Binns is Lost, a sequel to the popular Tracey Binns is Trouble, sees Tracey face plenty of new challenges. First, there’s her need to get fit – aided by her Dad, who not only wants to run with her, but also to share all his Boy Scout experiences. Then, there’s the camp, where Tracey and her group find themselves lost in the bush. It is up to Tracey (and her Dad’s compass) to get them out of trouble.

Exploring the issues of childhood fitness and obesity from the side of the child who is perhaps not overweight but also not super fit, as well as other issues of friendship, bullying and bravery, this is a tale with much to offer middle primary aged readers.

Tracey Binns is Lost

Tracey Binns is Lost, by Sherryl Clark
UQP, 2009

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

Sarindi and the Lucky Buddha, by Janine Fraser

When Sarindi finds his very own lucky marble in the seed-bin at the bird market, he thinks he will never be unlucky again. And for a time, it really does seem as though he has luck in his pocket, because he wins the lucky gold-streaked marble of his best friend Jaya – and a whole other pocketful of marbles besides. It seems as though Sarindi cannot lose at marbles now he has Jaya’s lucky marble, and he thinks he is the luckiest boy in the world.

Sarindi is convinced that luck keeps his world, the world of his family, turning right. His mother says that their luck is due to hard work and good thinking. But when his mother falls ill, Sarindi is sure that luck has deserted him. He tries all manner of things to change the family’s luck and to make his mother well, but nothing seems to be working. He visits many places of worship and prays in them all. His last stop is a Buddhist temple and there at last it seems his luck may have returned.

Sarindi and the Lucky Buddha is set in Indonesia. Though their possessions are few, they consider themselves wealthy. His father works hard pedalling a becak each day for tourists. Sarindi is convinced that luck can be managed and that it is luck that controls their fortunes. His mother is more sceptical and more inclined to be practical. It is his mother who is central to their lives. She fixed the becak so his father can ride it. She made it look like new so all want to ride in it. So when his mother is ill, Sarindi is very concerned. But unlike many children of his age, Sarindi takes a very active role in trying to make sure she gets well again. Sarindi and the Lucky Buddha is a story of love and luck. Recommended for 7-9 year-olds.

Sarindi and the Lucky Buddha

Sarindi and the Lucky Buddha , Janine Fraser ill Elise Hurst
HarperCollins Publishers 2009
ISBN: 9780732287757

Also by Janine Fraser
Sarindi and the Lucky Bird
Abdullah’s Butterfly

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

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

Clearheart, by Edrei Cullen

Don’t jump, Ella! Don’t jump, you silly lump!’ the pixie kicked his way through the undergrowth, past the invisible oak tree in the red poppy field across the vegetable gardens and towards the abandoned outhouse, far beyond the main building of Hedgeberry School of Flitterwiggery. His big, blue, watery eyes streamed as his striped red top and green hat bounced up and down through the grass like a pepper pot in fancy dress. As the pixie came in sight of the outhouse, he spotted her. He stopped still and smacked his hands across his face.

‘Oh no! Blow. Helooo,’ he squealed, wrestling himself to the ground. For there was Ella, her green eyes flashing, her long, honey-coloured hair flaring wildly about her pale face to reveal her perfectly sculpted and finely pointed ears. She had her scruffy dungarees hitched up to free her feet and her T-shirt pulled back to leave room for her yet-to-be-unfurled wings. As he had expected, she was dangling over the edge of the roof of the abandoned building, preparing to jump.

Ella is a Flitterwig, a human with magical blood. In the first Flitterwig adventure, Ella discovered why she’d always been different. As Clearheart opens, she has come to Hedgeberry, a Flitterwig school where she can begin to learn how to master her magic skills. But Ella is no ordinary Flitterwig. She is the Clearheart, and she can do magic impossible for other Flitterwigs. Hedgeberry is Ella’s first school and like most students there are some classes more fun than others. Here Ella also makes some new friends, to add to the two (Dixon and Charlie) she met in her first adventure. Again like all schools, there are rivalries and Gloria seems determined to dislike Ella. Beyond the school, there is a much greater trouble brewing with the fragile new alliance between Flitterwigs and Magicals threatened by the ambitions of the disgraced Duke. Ella and her friends are drawn into a battle fought across oceans and deserts, far, far from Hedgeberry.

‘Flitterwig’, which precedes Clearheart introduced Ella and the world of magic she belongs to. But Clearheartworks well as a stand-alone novel. Ella is a character edging towards the end of primary school age who can see a new world opening in front of her. It is both scary and exciting and she is developing her own instincts about who she should trust, and also about learning to trust herself. She is perceived by some as a saviour and others as a threat and it is this that drives the adventure. Many seek to protect her, while others plot to control her. Ella is an innocent, a ‘clear heart’ who is motivated by protecting her friends and caring for her newly-discovered world. Edrei Cullen takes Ella, her friends and the reader on a wild ride through the waterways to Spain, then on to outback Australia and Antarctica. Recommended for mid- to upper-primary readers.


Clearheart, Edrei Cullen ill Gregory Rogers
Scholastic 2009
ISBN: 9781741694673

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

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

The Silence, by Bruce Mutard

Choosy McBride is an art gallery manager and her partner, Dimitri, is an artist struggling to find meaning in his work. In the midst of a torrid summer, the opportunity to travel to Far North Queensland seems wonderful. Choosy is working, Dimitri is along for the ride. Choosy has to meet with Fred, an artist who hasn’t exhibited for 20 years but has agreed to a show in her Melbourne gallery. She hopes Dimitri will find inspiration, Dimitri is not sure. They are also on the track of an unknown artist whose work Choosy happens upon while assessing another collection. This compelling but unknown artist exhibits in a remote building called the ‘prayer house’ set high on a hill deep in the country. There is no curator, no staff at all. The paintings are stunning and apparently free to those who see them. Choosy and Dimitri are struggling in their relationship and nothing on the Queensland trip seems to make things easier.

The Silence is a black and white graphic novel set in black pages. The cover is black, white and orange, with the black a large block between the two main characters. Between them is an house full of art that each of them perceive differently. The story takes them on a physical journey but also highlights the emotional and philosophical distance between them. The Silence examines different perspectives on art, from the viewpoint of several stakeholders. The young emerging artist, the gallery manager, the older tired artist and the artist’s wife – each view art differently. The text is sparing – only direct speech – with the images carrying the bulk of the story. Emotion is conveyed in body language and facial expression, much as it would be in film. There is ample silence for the reader to bring their own experience to the reading. Recommended for lovers of art and artists.

The Silence

The Silence, Bruce Mutard
Allen & Unwin 2009
ISBN: 9781741751761

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

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author