Australian & World Records 2010

What is the world’s deadliest snake?

What country eats the most ice-cream?
Who is the most downloaded recording artist?
Who has scored the most A-league goals?

Find out the answers to these questions and more in Australian and World Records 2010

Australian and World Records 2010 contains lists of Australian achievements and a total of over 250 amazing records. It has helpful pictures and shows graphs for a better understanding.

An interesting, factual book for everyone.

Australian and World Records 2010

Australian and World Records 2010, by Jennifer Corr Morse and David G Harris
Scholastic, 2009
ISBN 9781741696011

The Visconti House, by Elsbeth Edgar

The first time Laura saw the house she thought it was enchanted. Looking up at the long elegant windows, with their small balconies and intricate wrought-iron decoration, she thought she had never seen anything so beautiful. She couldn’t believe that they were going to live in such a beautiful fairytale world.

The kids at school say that the Visconti house, where Laura lives, is haunted. They say that it’s creepy. But Laura loves the house, and the memories with which it is filled. The house is the only good thing about the family’s move to the country. Laura hates her new town – and especially going to school, where she feels like an outsider. And, when a strange new boy comes to town, Laura is determined not to have anything to do with him, worried that any association would make her seem even more strange.

But when Laura unearths a mystery about Mr Visconti, the man who built the house, it is Leon who helps her and as their friendship grows, Laura discovers they have more in common than she thought. Exploring Mr Visconti’s sad history also helps both children to put their own lives into perspective.

The Visconti House is a tale of friendship, family and mystery, set in the present day. Laura and Leon experience problems which many readers will relate to, particularly the struggle to fit in and to be comfortable with self-identity, as well as bigger issues including the loss of a parent. At the same time, they work together to piece together the history of the previous owner of Laura’s house, a process which will absorb young readers.

Suitable for upper primary aged readers, The Visconti House will especially appeal to girls.

The Visconti House

The Visconti House, by Elsbeth Edgar
Walker Books, 2009

This book is available online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

Captain Congo and the Maharaja’s Monkey, by Ruth Starke

‘Glad to see you’ve regained your appetite, my friend.
It hasn’t been the same since Africa.’
‘Have more crème caramel, Monsieur Pug, to build up your strength. Who knows when you and the Captain will be off again.’
‘Soon, I hope’ There’s nothing like the call to adventure, eh Pug?’

Captain Congo, with the help of his not-quite-so-intrepid offsider Pug, solves mysteries. Their first adventure was set in Africa and this new call takes the pair to India. They have been asked to investigate the sudden death of the Maharaja. Plans are already underway for the installing of his successor. Although the Maharaja had left information about his successor, not everyone is happy with his choice. Rumours abound. Meanwhile, Captain Congo and Pug (now cunningly – if reluctantly – disguised as a woman) are to infiltrate the palace and see if they can discover what happened to the old Maharaja. They will also investigate the rumours surrounding the succession. Captain Congo and the Maharaja’s Monkey is a large format, hard back, full colour graphic novel in the style of ‘Asterix’ and ‘Tintin’.

Captain Congo and the Maharaja’s Monkeyis an adventure in grand style. Only Captain Congo, a gorilla, Pug, a penguin, and Captain Congo’s housekeeper are anthropomorphic, with the rest of the ‘cast’ taking human form. The humans accept Captain Congo as equals, with the deputy chief minister being beguiled by the in-disguise Pug. There is plenty of humour here, along with the cracking-pace adventure. Captain Congo plays it straight, although if 2D eyes could twinkle, his would! He is very worldly, has many friends and connections and speaks many unexpected languages. Pug is the reluctant sidekick, compelled to shine in roles he would not choose. Their combination of detective work, costumery and luck win the day so Captain Congo and Pug can return to their island home. Recommended for mid-primary and beyond.

Captain Congo and the Maharaja's Monkey

Captain Congo and the Maharaja’s Monkey, Ruth Starke ill Greg Holfield
Omnibus Books, 2009
ISBN: 9781921504044

This book is available from online bookstore Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

Pilot and Huxley, by Dan McGuiness

Mum? Dad?
This is weird. It’s eight o’clock in the morning, and my mum isn’t stuffing a delicious waffle into my mouth.
It is Saturday. Maybe they went down to the shops to buy me food.
But My sister and brothers aren’t here either. This is so weird.

Huxley is surprised to wake on Saturday morning in an empty house. There is no indication of the whereabouts of his parents, sister or brother. His friend Pilot calls to share his own discovery. The two boys are fans of a video game they’ve borrowed from the local video shop. Their failure to return it on time has consequences for alien invaders who need the code imbedded in the video to activate their world-destroying ‘weapon of doom’. Little fazes these intrepid albeit inadvertent adventurers as they discover parallel worlds, traverse bee swamps and battle giants. The title characters are big-headed, large-eyed children and the monsters are often unexpected but always wild. The adventure ends with ‘to be continued…’, promising new instalments to follow.

Pilot and Huxley is a full-colour graphic novel. To read it is to feel as if you are eavesdropping on enthusiastic eight-year-old boys who have just finished playing a computer role-playing-game and have decided to make their own adventure. Understatement, exaggeration, techno-speak, pop culture references and wild adventure are all there. Although there are girl characters, Pilot and Huxley is most likely to appeal to young boys and reluctant readers. The author includes the reader in extra ‘insider’ jokes by having the characters aware of the book form, eg Pilot calls Huxley to his place – ‘be here in the next panel’. It’s easy to imagine boys copying the form and drawing their own stories after reading Pilot and Huxley. Recommended for mid-primary aged boys.

Pilot and Huxley, Dan McGuiness
Omnibus Books 2009
ISBN: 9781862918122

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

Dog Squad, by Meredith Costain

“Hey, Face-ache! You call that a pitch?”
Cheezel waves his bat in the direction of the ball I’ve just powered down to him. What does he mean? It was a good pitch. Sweet and true. So what if it veered off to the side a bit at the last moment. How is that my fault?
He retrieves the ball from a bush and lobs it back to me. “My nana could throw straighter than that.”
Cheezel can be very sarcastic at times. The only reason I hang out with him is because he lives next door. Believe me, compared to some of the losers who live in my street, he’s Mr Personality. And it gives me someone to talk to on the way to school.

Jez, Cheezel and Jez’s dog Crunch are playing cricket in the backyard when a bad bounce sends the ball flying through the lounge room window. Crunch squashes the guinea pig cage, and the ball crunches one of Mum’s treasures. Jez is in big trouble. But Jez has a plan. A hasty, almost-complete plan that solves all his problems. All he needs is some help from his friends, a business plan and some cash. Of course nothing is ever that simple and the closer to a solution he comes, the more complications that arise. Jez, Cheezel and Drago navigate their way from vengeful sister to moneylender, from lost dogs to found dogs and more before their adventure ends.

Dog Squad cracks a pace. From the moment the reader meets Jez and Cheezel in Jez’s back yard, it’s apparent that trouble sticks to Jez like burrs to a sock. What begins as an unfortunate accident – or two – is soon a whole raft of trouble. Jez is a quick thinker, but doesn’t always think things through. Cheezel and Drago help to fill in the gaps, providing information and suggestions to flesh out Jez’s plans. Together they are formidable, if wild. Their actions sometimes lead them into more trouble, but eventually also lead them out. Adults are almost invisible in this adventure, with all the action and solutions being provided by the boys themselves. ‘Dog Squad’ is full of the exuberance and enthusiasm that is the pre-teen boy. Recommended for upper-primary readers, particularly boys.

Dog Squad , Meredith Costain
Walker Books 2009
ISBN: 9781921529160

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

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

The Locket of Dreams, by Belinda Murrell

Sophie and Jessica bent over an old photo album looking at faded sepia photographs of bridal veils, orange blossoms, waxed moustaches and babies in christening gowns that swept the floor. Motes of dust danced up from the black pages and floated in the sunlight streaming through the open window.
Jessica wrinkled her nose at the faint smell of aged, dry paper. She brushed her hand over a photo of a young couple laughing up at the camera. The girls’ grandmother, Nonnie, stood beside the antique cedar table pouring tea from a china teapot.

Sophie and her sister, Jessica, are staying with their grandmother, Nonnie, for the school holidays. Their father is out of work and struggling to find another job. Mum’s working more than she wants to and the atmosphere at home has been tense. Nonnie shows them photos of her youth and of their forebears. Charlotte’s story is shrouded in mystery. She came to Australia as a 12 year old, with her sister Nell, apparently cheated of the family wealth in Scotland. Nonnie has inherited a special box with some of Charlotte’s keepsakes, including a heavy gold locket. Sophie is particularly taken with the story and with the gold locket. When she puts it on at night, she seems to slip back in time to 1850’s Scotland, where she hovers over her ancestors and witnesses the changes in their lives.

The Locket of Dreams is set in modern-day Sydney and 1850s Scotland. Sophie is worried about things changing in her world, but nothing could prepare her for the changes experienced by Charlotte and Nell in Scotland. Sophie is drawn into their story, mostly by curiosity about the mystery that surrounds the reasons for their journey to Australia. There are some parallels between the challenges facing the families and Sophie grows in maturity and understanding as she comes to know Charlotte and Nell. Charlotte, as older sister, has to assume responsibility beyond her years, and Sophie grows in admiration for her as she knows more of her story. In the way of time-travelling, Sophie realises that certain events must happen, because she knows them from her life in the present. The Locket of Dreams uses omniscient viewpoint so the reader can ‘hear’ from each of the main characters. Sophie comes to understand the power of family and about what’s really important in life. An engaging read. Recommended for upper-primary readers.

The Locket of Dreams

The Locket of Dreams, Belinda Murrell
Random House 2009
ISBN: 9781741662917

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

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

By the Picking of My Nose, by Martin Chatterton

Anyone who has ever worn a false beard, especially a big, furry ginger one, will know there’s one thing about them that is rather annoying.
They tickle.
A lot.
Deep in the middle of the audience, eleven-year-old William Shakespeare’s false beard was tickling like crazy.
Willy was wearing it because he was in disguise. And he was in disguise because Sir Victor Vile had ordered that only grown-ups were allowed inside Stratford Theatre for that night’s big show. Which might not have been a problem for Willy…except that the headline act was the Black Skulls, the most exciting travelling theatre group in all of England.

By the Picking of My Nose is the first in a new series from Martin Chatterton about the adventures of William Shakespeare as a child. Willy Waggledagger, as he comes to be known here, is mad keen on the theatre. But it’s a passion not shared by his tanner father. And the theatre owner isn’t that excited by children at the theatre. So Willy pops on his disguise and he’s safe. Or not. His adventures begin with tickling the Queen’s bottom and continue through booger fortune telling by the hags in the kitchen, friendship with yorick, good-luck-charm status with the understudy to a crescendo conclusion. Scattered thickly throughout are references to characters, settings and happenings from Shakespeare’s plays. Each chapter includes a full-page black-and-white illustration.

By the Picking of My Nose takes the reader on a wild romp through Shakespeare’s England. Although very tongue-in-cheek, Chatterton has included some of the sights, smells and culture of the times in his adventure. It’s history, but not as it’s commonly seen. It’s debatable whether the target audience will pick up all the Shakespeare references but it doesn’t really matter. The grand adventure, includes envy, revenge, skulduggery, witchcraft (or is that just the cooking of the time) and nose-picking fortune-telling, as the plot twists and turns and then twists again. Villains are given villainous names but also show their softer side. Seemingly innocuous characters reveal deeper, darker personalities in a fast-moving plot. The font size is large. Recommended for confident mid-primary readers and beyond.

By the Picking of My Nose (Willy Waggledagger)

By the Picking of My Nose, Martin Chatterton ill Gregory Rogers
Little Hare 2009
ISBN: 9781921272837

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

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

I Love My Dad, by Anna Walker

My name is Ollie.
I love my dad.

Ollie, who has featured in several titles in the last two years, is back to share the relationship he shares with his dad. Actually, there is no indication of Ollie’s gender and readers can choose whether or not they wish to assign gender. Ollie is a small, striped anthropomorphic zebra who shares his world with the reader. In I Love My Dad Ollie shares the wonderful ordinary elements of a father-child relationship. Ollie and his dad climb trees, make cakes and more. Illustrations are watercolour on mostly white pages. Text is simple and minimal, in a clear handwriting font. I Love My Dad is a small square hardback book with bright yellow endpapers with naïve sketches of tree branches and birds.

Ollie is a loving and very likeable character, a young child clothed in zebra coveralls. His world is simple and defined by the relationships he shares with those around him. There is the overt relationship with Dad but there is also Fred, his dog, a sister and a teddy to take to bed. Walker uses few words and it is the spaces between her words that speak loudest. Her images are deceptively simple too, but pack a full emotional punch. Small children will relate to the action, from the swings in the park to piggyback rides and the cooking with Dad. Recommended for preschool-aged children.

I Love My Dad

I Love My Dad Anna Walker
Scholastic 2009

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

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

Together, by Anna Pignataro

As the sun came down behind
the bramble bushes Oli asked,
‘Mamma, are you there?’
‘I’m right here,’ said Mamma.

Togetherbegins with a child checking that their mother is close by. What follows is an affirmation of mother-child love. The child asks questions, and Mamma tells her that she will always be there. The pair travel from the ‘now’ to the ends of the earth. The ‘now’ of the picture book disappears in Mamma’s reassurance that wherever the child will go, so will she. Illustrations are in pencil and watercolours, gentle and colourful. ‘Together’ is an almost square, small-format hardback. The red cover offers a portal image of Mother and child reading a book together, just as this book is designed to be. Gold embossed lettering of title, author and falling leaves enhance the tactile experience of this book. Endpapers show the journeying child.

Together is a lovely book. The topic is not new, in fact the need for reassurance and affirmation is as old as time. But each new generation needs to learn for themselves what it is to be loved and cherished. The text is very short, with illustrations conveying much of the action. It’s easy to imagine little fingers turning the pages, contributing to the ‘reading’. It is a book to be read and reread for comfort and reassurance. One small quibble is that the child in one spread is pictured holding an attractive-looking but poisonous toadstool (poison to people, if not to teddy bears!) Recommended for preschool-aged children.


Together, Anna Pignataro
Scholastic 2009

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

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

Clem Always Could, by Sarah Watt

Clem can do a lot of things.
Clem can make a bat and ball out of anything.
He has always loved sport.
Clem can dress himself.
He has always had style.

Clem is a small boy who loves his growing independence. There is pride in his achievements and his sense of enthusiasm is palpable. So when Clem finds something he can’t do – swim – he’s sure he’ll never be able to. Mum tries all manner of strategies to convince Clem to get into the swimming pool for his first lesson, but Clem is resolute. They spend the lesson watching the others. In the following days, Mum points out other things Clem had to learn. Clem is convinced that he was always able to drink from a cup, make faces and clean his teeth. She tells him about other things he will learn in the future. Back at the pool the next week, Clem can imagine all sorts of reasons not to get into the pool. Then his friend arrives and invites him in. Illustrations are in watercolour and pencil and include full page illustrations on white paper with ‘photos’ and multi-image spreads.

Clem Always Couldis a large format paperback picture book about the curious mix of confidence and timidity that characterises many children. Using a personal example of a mother and child experience, Sarah Watt first introduces Clem and the many skills he has acquired. Once acquired though, Clem cannot be convinced that there was a time he had to learn these things. And swimming feels like a skill he’ll never acquire when he’s too frightened to get into the water. Over the week in between swimming lessons, Mum does her best to prepare him for the learning, but it is a friend who finally – if inadvertently – helps him take the first steps into the pool. Recommended for preschool and early school-age children, particularly those with a fear of new things.

Clem Always Could...

Clem Always Could, Sarah Watt
Lothian Children’s Books 2009
ISBN: 9780734411150

This book is available online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author