My Dad's a Wrestler, by Matt Zurbo

My dad’s a wrestler!
Not the famous kind, though…

My Dad’s a Wrestler! is a paperback picture book. A small boy describes his father and his father’s wrestling career. Dad is not the most successful wrestler in wrestling history but he perseveres and his son is enormously proud. The text is deadpan and delivered in a plain font at the bottom of each page. In contrast, the images are full of energy as the reader is introduced to Dad and the challenges he faces. No matter how down Dad gets about his lack of success, his son is there to cheer him on.

My Dad’s a Wrestler! is a humorous look at the relationship between a father and son. Even when Dad wins at his wrestling matches, and that isn’t often, people ‘boo’ because he’s supposed to be the baddie. Dad works hard and wrestles in the evening. His son knows Dad’s wins are few and far between, but he’s in the stands anyway cheering loudly. The boy, telling the story in first person, clearly has an incurable case of hero worship. The illustrations show an enormous Dad barely contained by his wrestling suit. His face stubble is anything but stylish and his permanently battered body seems about to fall apart. Illustration colours are often almost sepia as if looking back at old photos. The final image, depicting the depth of the son’s hero-worship is the brightest of all. A funny offbeat story, recommended for those looking for a less twee Father’s Day book.

My Dad's a Wrestler!

My Dad’s a Wrestler!, Matt Zurbo Ill Dean Gorissen
Lothian Books 2009
ISBN: 9780734411136

This book can be purchased online at Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews. review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

Bush Secrets, by Tjalaminu and Jessica Lister

I’ve got a secret and I’m so excited!
Actually, I’ve got two secrets and that makes me feel really happy inside.
‘What are you grinning at, Debbie?’ my brother Billy asks.
‘Nothing.’ I don’t want him guessing my secrets.
‘You’ve got a secret, haven’t you?’
‘No I haven’t.’
‘Yes you have! I can tell! What is it, Debbie?’
‘I’m not telling you, Billy!’

Debbie is excited that she has two secrets but she doesn’t want to tell her younger brother Billy, because he’s too young to understand how important secrets can be. When Dada Keen comes to visit, he understands. He and Debbie go into the bush for a day, and he shares secrets of his own. There are black and white illustrations scattered throughout. The cover is bright and enticing and suggests but doesn’t reveal the secrets.

Bush Secrets is a title in a new series from Fremantle Press. They are early chapter books written by indigenous writers bringing new stories to all. For indigenous people they are stories that continue a long history of oral storytelling. For non indigenous people these stories provide access to a rich storytelling practice. Bush Secrets is a marriage of traditional style and modern stories. It is written by grandmother and granddaughter team, Tjalaminu Mia and Jessica Lister, giving new interpretation to the storysharing tradition. Chapters are short and accessible to the newly independent reader. Recommended for 6-8 year olds.

Bush Secrets (Waarda, Nyungar)

Bush Secrets, Tjalaminu and Jessica Lister
Fremantle Press 2009
ISBN: 9781921361593

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

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

The Puzzle Ring, by Kate Forsyth

Hannah Rose Brown was not quite thirteen years old when she discovered her family was cursed.
The day she first heard about the curse of Wintersloe Castle was the day her life was slashed in two, as if by a silver sword. Behind her was an ordinary life, just like any other girl’s. Ahead was a life shadowed with mystery and menace and magic.

Hannah has never met her father, who disappeared the day after she was born. So, when a letter comes from her great-grandmother asking her and her mother to come to Scotland, Hannah is determined to go.

In Scotland Hannah discovers that not only is she the heir to a castle, but that her family has been suffering a mysterious curse for over four hundred years. Only the person who finds and solves the puzzle ring can lift the curse. Hannah is determined that she will be the one.

The Puzzle Ring is a wonderful time-travel fantasy, taking readers from Australia to Scotland, then back in time to the days of Mary, Queen of Scots. Hannah befriends three children her own age (all born in the same Scottish town as Hannah within days of each other) and the four work together to find the pieces of the puzzle ring, save Hannah’s father and restore the family’s good fortune.

The Puzzle Ring is an absorbing blend of action, fantasy and mystery, with the different threads coming together in a satisfying resolution. Suitable for upper primary aged readers.

The Puzzle Ring

The Puzzle Ring, by Kate Forsyth
Pan Macmillan, 2009

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

The Shoe Princess's Guide to the Galaxy, by Emma Bowd

Rachel’s suddenly animated.
‘If you’re into blogs, I’ve another that you must try: Now, I know what you’re thinking: every upmarket prostitute worth her salt’s doing a blog these days – it’s all so dotcom passé. But I assure you, she’s divine. Oh, and she’s not a prostitute – well, who cares anyway? Just go see.’
Needless to say, I cannot wait to meet the Shoe Princess when Millie is asleep tomorrow.

Jane is a self-confessed shoe princess. Nothing in her life is more important than beautiful shoes. Well, nothing except her husband, Tim, and their new baby Millie. But Millie’s arrival has changed Jane’s world. Suddenly everything is different – her relationship with Tim, her sense of self, and even her need for good shoes.

As Jane struggles to connect with the outside world, she spends time online following the Shoe Princess blog, and trying not to worry that her work-obsessed husband is never home anymore. She also learns to make shoes herself, and wonders if perhaps a career making mummy-shoes is on the cards. But will her sanity – and her marriage –survive?

The Shoe Princess is a funny, insightful look at the transition from fashion-conscious career girl to first time mother, and the impact it can have on friendships, relationships and self-image. Whilst not every new mother is a shoe princess, all mothers will be able to relate to many of the challenges faced by Jane in the early months of first time motherhood.

The Shoe Princess’s Guide to the Galaxy, by Emma Bowd
Bloomsbury, 2009

Strange Places, by Will Elliott

I’ve been to places that no one else on this planet will ever go. Me, I’ve lived for a short time as a werewolf. As a vampire. As a revolutionary. As a psychic. As a magician. As someone who cannot be hurt by physical force. As someone who can speak to the dead…I have lived as Jesus Christ. I have been he who knows all. You see, all this is true, because, for a while, it was all real.

Will Elliott is a young writer with a big future, having won five literary awards for his debut novel, The Pilo Family Circus . Yet Elliott’s road to publication was even more difficult than that for other debut writers – because at the same time as he developed his writing skills, he was also waging a war with mental illness. In Strange Places Elliott bares all, sharing his very personal tale of struggle with drug dependency, paranoia and psychotic episodes which lead to him ultimately being diagnosed as schizophrenic.

Strange Places is not a light read – the reader is taken inside the author’s mind and life in intimate detail, experiencing his struggles and lows with him – but Elliott’s honesty, humour and chatty first person style make the tale both absorbing and accessible. He does not make excuses for the wrong choices he has made, nor seek either pity or absolution – he simply tells what happened and how it affected him, his family and friends – and where it has left him.

An honest, very readable, book.

Strange Places: A Memoir of Mental Illness

Strange Places: A Memoir of Mental Illness, by Will Elliott
ABC Books, 2009

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

Third Transmission, by Jack Heath

Six of Hearts is sealed inside a torpedo, blasting his way towards a warship at 150 kilometres an hour.

This book is the third and final story in the Six of Hearts series. It starts with Six trying to steal canisters containing a weaponised strain of the SARS virus, and ends before this event. He has to achieve a series of increasingly challenging tasks, and he continues to achieve, with dozens of stunts, assignments, and life-threatening tasks for the Deck throughout. Once the story begins to take off, we discover a time machine, a spy within the Deck, and Six and Kyntak’s assassin sister.

Third Transmission is an exciting, post-apocalypse adventure, the third in this series. A great read for all readers of the first two books. Lots of excitement and gripping tales await the reader of this book.

A great end to the Six of Hearts series.

Third Transmission (Six of Hearts)

Third Transmission (Six of Hearts), by Jack Heath
Pan Macmillan Australia, 2009

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

The Night They Stormed Eureka, by Jackie French

It’s 1854 and, on the Ballarat goldfields, men are willing to risk their lives to find freedom and make their fortunes in the mines.

Sam is a homeless teenager, who finds herself transported back through time, to 1854, on the Ballarat goldfields. She is taken in by Mr and Mrs Puddleham, who adopt her as their daughter. Throughout the time she spends with them, she learns not only of the difference of the times, but also important life lessons.

Whilst she is on the goldfields, a rebellion evolves, and she soon finds herself embroiled in the excitement of the Eureka stockade. She finds and loses new and old friends, Sam learns about herself, and about life all the while.

The Night They Stormed Eureka is a gripping, time travelling adventure. Lots of excitement and gripping tales await the reader of this book. It is appropriate for mid to late teens, but can be enjoyed by readers of all ages.

A great read from an award-winning author.

The Night They Stormed Eureka

The Night They Stormed Eureka, by Jackie French
Harper Collins, 2009

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

Ramose – Valley of the Tombs, by Carole Wilkinson

Spoilt, selfish Prince Ramose is next in line for the throne. And someone wants him dead.

Ramose is a spoilt young prince, who finds himself the target of a murder plot. For his own safety he is sent to work in the Valley of the Tombs, to work as an apprentice for a scribe. He now has to learn the humble life of a commoner. Along the way he learns much more as he makes new friends and enemies.

Ramose: Valley of the Tombs is a thrilling adventure, set in Ancient Egypt. It can be enjoyed by readers of all ages. Lots of excitement and gripping tales await the reader of this book.

A great read from an award-winning author.

Ramose: Valley of the Tombs (bindup)

Ramose: Valley of the Tombs, by Carole Wilkinson
Black Dog, 2009

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

The Python Problem, by Darrel & Sally Odgers

The snake hissed, hunching and sliding. Now I was looking straight at it, I couldn’t believe I hadn’t noticed it immediately. I bounced back out of range. ‘It’s the escaped python everyone’s been looking for,’ I told Peter Wu. ‘Why didn’t you warn me it was in here?’

When a Python escapes from its tank, the whole neighbourhood is concerned, and Trump must help Dr Jeannie reassure the patients. But on a wet day, Trump finds more than she bargains for when he responds to a distress call from a trapped Siamese cat. She needs to rescue both the cat and the snake.

The Python Problem is the fourth title in the wonderful Pet vet series, featuring Trump, the daughter of Jack Russell, dog detective, from the series of the same name. There are plenty of dog and cat characters in the series, but also the more unusual animal characters such as Diamond, the python. As well as a high-interest story, The Python Problem has elements designed to both appeal to young readers and to enhance their reading – including black and white line illustrations (by Janine Dawson) , definitions of difficult words, and comments on pet care from Trump.

Another great offering in a wonderful series.

The Python Problem (Pet Vet)

The Python Problem (Pet Vet), by Darrel & Sally Odgers
Scholastic, 2009

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

The Wombat and the Grand Poohjam, by Jackie French

The Grand Poohjam giggled. As soon as the kids were married, he’d be able to claim O’Straylia in the Princess’s name. After he killed her father, of course. And then he could get rid of her.
Oh yes, the Grand Poohjam knew exactly how to make kids do as they were told!

The Grand Poohjam has a cunning plan. He will marry his adopted son to a small Princess from O’Straylia and then get rid of her so he can take over her country. But when the Princess arrives she has a present for the Grand Poohjam – a singing wombat. All he has to do is get the wombat to be happy, then it will sing and make him rich.

Putting his original plan aside, the Poohjam does everything the Princess asks to make the wombat happy – from stopping the floggings, to making sure the kingdom’s children have books, to allowing Father Christmas to visit. It seems nothing will make the wombat sing – but the princess and prince get happier every day.

The Wombat and the Grand Poohjam , part of the new Mates series from Omnibus, is lots of fun. Young readers will enjoy seeing the wicked Grand Poohjam being outwitted by a small princess and a cheeky wombat. Like all titles in the Mates series, this one offers short chapters, good sized print and plenty of full colour illustrations, to help readers making the transition to the novel format.

This funny book, by one of Australia’s best loved children’s authors, will be a hit with young readers.

The Wombat and the Grand Poohjam (Mates)

The Wombat and the Grand Poohjam (Mates), by Jackie French and Andrew Marlton
Omnibus, 2009

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