Edie Amelia and the Monkey Shoe Mystery, by Sophie Lee

There was no doubt at all that Edie Amelia Sparks was in possession of a fine talent for keeping things ordered when all around her was in chaos.
Edie and her parents lived in a house called ‘The Pride of the Green’, which wasn’t proud and wasn’t in a green at all, but in a busy street with other people’s houses on either side. It had a purple front door, a lopsided roof and creaky window shutters that looed as if they might well blow off in the next big wind.
Inside it was strewn with detritus (which is just a fancy word for mess) and looked like a rubbish tip.

It is clear from the outset that Edie Amelia is an unusual girl who lives an unusual life in an unusual family. Her father is an out-of-work inventor and her mother writes popular macrobiotic cookbooks. Both her parents are occupied with the challenges of their own lives and Edie Amelia is frustrated by their ability – or lack thereof – to maintain any sort of order or neatness in the house. She retreats to her own haven in her bedroom where everything is in its right place. Her ninth birthday is approaching and Edie Amelia checks on her outfit and is horrified to discover one of her favourite shoes is missing. She determines to solve the mystery of the missing shoe, with or without the help of Cheesy Chompster and her dog Mr Pants. There are twists and turns before the mystery is solved. Along the way Edie Amelia learns a thing or two about some of the other characters of her world. Jonathon Oxlade’s black and white illustrations in each chapter provide extra humour.

Edie Amelia and the Monkey Shoe Mystery introduces the reader to a determined young girl. Independence and following your own passion are hallmarks of this quirky family. Each is very competent, indeed gifted, but not in perhaps the most conventional ways. Edie is not particularly tolerant of Cheesy initially but during the course of the mystery, discovers that Cheesy has talents of her own and the uneasy alliance shifts to become a real friendship. There are many characters introduced in Edie Amelia and the Monkey Shoe Mystery leading to speculation that it may be the first in a series. The language is very rich, with some definitions supplied immediately, but other words offered without definition. This is a book for confident readers or those keen to extend their vocabulary. Although Edie Amelia is nine years old, she’s an old nine year-old and readers older than her will still find plenty of fun and adventure to follow. Recommended for mid-primary readers and beyond.

Edie Amelia and the Monkey Shoe Mystery, Sophie Lee ill Jonathon Oxlade
Pan, 2009

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

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

Children's Book Review: Dragon Blood Pirates Series Three, by Dan Jerris

‘We should get going,’ said Al. ‘We need to get to Sabre Island so we can find the magical words to the Dragon Blood Sabre.’
He unlocked the sea trunk, climbed inside and studied a map of islands drawn on the bottom.
‘Sabre Island, here we come!’ he cried as Snakeboot leapt into the trunk with him. The pair shimmered like a flash of sunlight for a second, then faded and disappeared from number five Drake Drive and the twenty-first century.

Al and Owen are able to travel from the current day to Dragon Blood Islands by donning pirate clothes and jumping into a pirate chest in the attic. There on the islands – and on the high seas – the boys, and their cat Snakeboot, find themselves caught up in death-defying adventures with pirates good and bad.

This is the third series in the Dragon Blood Pirates series, including books thirteen through eighteen. For those who have not read the earlier instalments there are some things to catch up on, but there is enough action, as well as a front of book character list, to draw a new reader in. Each title is 88 pages long, with black and white illustrations, fluorescent flourishes to the covers, and a puzzle for readers to solve.

Arrr. An exciting series.

Dragon Blood Pirates: Slitgut and the Emerald Eyes, Dead Man’s Whirlpool, Voodoo City, Graveyard Diamonds, Ransom, The Power of the Sabre
All by Dan Jerris
Lothian, 2009

Big Book of Verse for Aussie Kids, edited by Jim Haynes

Kids love verse, and the Big Book of Verse for Aussie Kidsis, as the title suggests, packed full of verse. There are poems short and long, chosen especially for the Australian audience.

Selected by poet and entertainer Jim Haynes, the collection includes poems from Australia and around the world on topics ranging from the serious to the downright silly. What is common is the use of rhyme and rhythm, and the aim of the selector to appeal to Aussie kids.

The over 600 poems included in the volume are organised into 20 categories, or chapters, including poems about creatures, about childhood, and about places, or poetic forms including the limerick and the epitaph. Poets represented are well known, including Banjo Patterson, Edward Lear and TS Elliot, or lesser known, modern or historic. Some poems will be familiar to readers, others will be new. All have the potential to touch the reader and stay with them afterwards.

This is a wonderful offering for kids and adults, for home, school or library.

Big Book of Verse for Aussie Kids

Big Book of Verse for Aussie Kids, edited by Jim Haynes
Allen & Unwin, 2009

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

Sarah's Heavy Heart, by Peter Carnavas

Sarah knew the heavy heart would always be hers to carry.
She wished it wasn’t so heavy.

Sarah has a heavy heart, so heavy that doing everyday things like sleeping or going to school is really difficult. But one day she meets a boy whose heart is too light, and Sarah comes up with a solution that will help both of them live better lives.

Sarah’s Heavy Heart is a touching tale of friendship and love, told with minimal text and whimsical illustrations. Sarah’s heart dwarfs her in every illustration, but by the end of the story moving it has become easier thanks to her teamwork with her new friend. His light heart, which floats like a balloon, is likewise helped by being tethered to Sarah’s heavy one. the message, though, is not purely whimsical – text and illustration together give a simple yet important message about the magic of friendship.


Sarah's Heavy Heart

Sarah’s Heavy Heart, by Peter Carnavas
New Frontier, 2009

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

Schumann the Shoeman, by John & Stella Danalis

One grey, wintery morning, a shoe factory opened in the town. Before long, everyone was wearing the shoes that spilled from its conveyor belts. The shoes came in just one style – sensible. They came in just one colour – salmon. And they wore out after just one season.

Schumann the shoemaker makes whimsical shoes that are not only works of art, but are also comfortable and long lasting. His customers love him and the shoes he makes. But when a shoe factory opens in town, Schumann’s world changes. Suddenly, everyone is wearing the sensible shoes produced by the factory.

When Schumann leaves the town he moves to a forgotten forest, where his skills are soon once again in demand – making shoes for the animals. He makes shoes for rabbits, flamingos and even elephants – but it is an order from a centipede that really tests his craft.

Schumann the Shoeman is a beautifully wrought fable which contrasts traditional workmanship with modern production and throw-away culture. Schumann’s tale is poignant, blending the humour of his whimsical shoes of all shapes and sizes with the sorrow of the loss of his craft and the silliness of the ironic ending.

Author John Danalis’ clever text is perfectly teamed with illustrations by Stella Danalis, in a collage technique which embodies the book’s message about workmanship.

A lovely offering which will speak to readers of all ages.

Schumann the Shoeman

Schumann the Shoeman, by John & Stella Danalis
UQP, 2009

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

Hostage, by Karen Tayleur

The thing I remember is that the chemist floor had a large black scuff near the counter.
I don’t remember the knife.
I remember something cold on my neck, which could have been a knife, or could just have been his long cold fingers pressing in to me.
But it was the scuff I remember best.
I was thinking, ‘Someone should really clean that.’
And then we were in the car.
And then we were gone.

Tully has a knack for being in the wrong place at the wrong time – and that is never truer than on Christmas Eve when she is at the pharmacy counter at the same time as a thief, wanting to hold the place up. Suddenly Tully is a hostage, a knife at her throat, thrust into the getaway car for a wild ride. But as the ride continues, Tully befriends the driver, Griffin, who she has known in passing previously, and confronts her troubled childhood.

Hostage is a face-paced psychological and physical journey, taking place in the space of a day as Tully and Griffin revisit the settings of Tully’s childhood, and the reader is privy to the tumultuous events of that childhood. With the past – both more distant and recent – revealed in enticing slivers, and through a mix of first person reporting, third person narrative and snippets from Tully’s ‘memory tin’, the reader is carried briskly through the story needing to keep turning pages and find out what has happened – and what will happen.



Hostage, by Karen Tayleur
black dog, 2009

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

Hairy Maclary, Shoo, by Lynley Dodd

STOP this shemozzle,
this hullabaloo!

Hairy Maclary is enjoying some quiet time with his friends until a delivery van pulls up – and the van door is left often for a moment. Soon Hairy Maclary finds himself far from home, exploring shops, schools and gardens, creating chaos wherever he goes. All he wants is for someone to show him the way home – and, lucky for him, he is found by Miss Plum.

Fans young and old of Hairy Maclary will be delighted to see him in yet another of his trademark adventures, getting into mischief even without trying. As always Lynley Dodd’s rhyming text is seamless, rolling off the tongue, a pleasure both to read and to listen to. Her illustrations, too, bring Hairy to life . Hairy Maclary, Shoo is a treasure.

Hairy Maclary Shoo

Hairy Maclary, Shoo, by Lynley Dodd
ABC books, 2009

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

Possum and Wattle, by Bronwyn Bancroft

Subtitled My Big Book of Australian Words, Possum and Wattleis just that – a big, beautiful book of words from throughout Australia, illustrated in eye-catching colours by talented illustrator Bronwyn Bancroft.

Including words unique to Australia, such as didgeridoo, boomerang and echidna, as well as words for things which come from other parts of the world, but which are found in Australia, and words for things found in other parts of the world, but with special Australian features, the book contains over a hundred words and illustrations, as well as a glossary explaining some of the words, and providing interesting extra information.

With an introduction by author and artist Sally Morgan, Possum and Wattle will delight very young children with its bright colours, but will also prove absorbing for older children and lovers of Australian art, who will appreciate the detail in the illustrations.

A visual delight. First released in hardcover in 2008, Possum and Wattle: My Big Book of Australian Words has now been rereleased in paperback format.

Possum and Wattle: My Big Book of Australian Words

Possum and Wattle: My Big Book of Australian Words, by Bronywn Bancroft
Little Hare, 2008 , this edition 2010

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

Lovesong, by Alex Miller

She said nothing to his earnestness, his desire to impress her with his belief, his urgent need to acknowledge between them a binding commitment. She was thrilled to hear it on his lips. But it was too much. It was too soon. It weighted her down. She wanted to hear it and she didn’t want to hear it. What she wanted was to laugh with him. To run and play and hide with him, the way children play and hide and tease each other.

Sabiha is content working in their small Tunisian cafe in Paris, serving their regular clientele of North African immigrant workers. But when an Australian tourist stumbles upon the cafe, her world begins to change. Soon deeply in love, the pair are married and John becomes part of Sabiha’s world. All that will complete their happiness is for Sabhia to bear the child she has always known she will have. But when the child does not come, a tragic series of events unfolds.

In Australia several years later, an aging writer, Ken, meets the couple and their young daughter at the cafe they open in Carlton. Ken is intrigued by the family, and especially by the sorrow he sees in Sabiha’s eyes, and is drawn into their story when John seeks him out as a confidante.

Lovesong is a beautiful story of love, loss and passion. Interwoven with Sabiha and John’s story are glimpses of Ken’s story, past and present. As the title suggests, the story is a smooth as one of the songs which Sahiba sings to her customers, carrying readers through the years and twists of the story and leaving them thinking long after the final note is sung.


Lovesong, by Alex Miller
Allen & Unwin, 2009

Genius Wars, by Catherine Jinks

‘Back seat,’ Saul instructed.
‘Oh, but-’
‘In the back, please.’
Cadel complied, mutely. He remained silent as Saul slipped behind the wheel, started the engine and pulled away from the kerb. Only when they were heading down Barker Street did Cadel finally remark, ‘You’re not sending me to a safe house, are you?’
‘I’m sorry.’ Saul’s voice was tight. ‘I have to. Prosper’s in Sydney.’
‘In Sydney?’
The news was like a punch. It was hard to absorb.

At last Cadel has a life of near normalcy. He has a family who love him, good friends and is studying at university. He thinks he can put his past behind him. But when prosper English is spotted back in Sydney, Cadel’s newfound peace is threatened. He must find Prosper before Prosper’s net closes on him, and before those he loves most are hurt.

The Genius Wars is the third and final title in the Genius trilogy and, like its predecessors, offers high-interest, high-tech action, aimed especially at tech savvy teens who will love the combination of strong, eclectic characters with at technology rich story line. Cadel and his genius friends offer a view of the world which, whilst removed from the lives of most readers, is at the same time fascinating and unpredictable. At times their insecurities and issues seem run of the mill – but at others, they are anything but.

The Genius Wars is best read by those who have read the previous offerings, Evil Genius and Genius Squad but could also stand alone.

The Genius Wars (Genius Trilogy), by Catherine Jinks
Allen & Unwin, 2009