Vampires, by Tony Thompson

It glowed in the dark. In 1975, there was a minor rage in my neighbourhood for small plastic models of classic horror characters.
They came in lavishly illustrated boxes and stood about 20 centimetres high. My first was Dracula. I put the model together and spent a lot of time staring at it.
I remember that I was interested in his clothes; the cape in particular inspired me to wander around the house with an orange blanket on my shoulders.

Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight series has introduced a new generation of readers to vampires, but vampires are anything but new. In ‘Vampires’, Tony Thompson trawls through history in search of literary (and later other media) references to vampires. As far back as the twelfth century, vampires were described, and they were not pretty. Or nice. More like ‘giant leeches’ engorged with blood. Hmm. History is divided on the actual existence of vampires, most dismissing them as fantasy, but others suggesting that there is too much written about them for there not to be some truth. Many writers, comic-book makers and filmmakers have described vampires and vampire personalities and motivations are as varied as the stories. Evil, horrific, romantic, tortured – vampires have been portrayed as all of these.

Vampires introduces the reader to many vampires, but also to the very many story traditions around some of the more famous vampires. Thompson looks at the origins of some of the more famous ways to overcome vampires and also where they developed their dress sense. Vampires is a very readable ‘un-history’. The tone is conversational and engaging. Readers fascinated by the literary genre of vampires will find information about many classic texts. Those who prefer to see the movie can do that too, with links to well-known and lesser-known films and television series. Comic-book fans can also search out stories told in this form. However you like your vampires – from romantic through comedic to horrific – you’ll learn more about them here. Recommended for all vampire fans.

Vampires, Tony Thompson
Black Dog Books 2010
ISBN: 9781742031316

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

Mademoiselle Lisa, by Delphine Perret

Leonardo da Vinci’s portrait known as Mona Lisa is one of the most famous paintings in the world. It lives in the Louvre in Paris and is visited by millions of people. But what if Lisa was bored? What if she was sick of being looked at and having to stay still all the time? ‘Mademoiselle Lisa’ asks that question and then follows Lisa as she takes some time out. Initially her post-frame plans are modest, but flushed with success, she sets her sights overseas. She finds happiness and contentment in a new world. Illustrations are a mix of Mona Lisa’s face and loose line drawings set in an abundance of white space. Endpapers reflect formal wallpaper patterns featuring a number of still life configurations.

Mademoiselle Lisa takes the story of The Prince and the Pauper and reshapes it as a both modern and ageless fable. ‘Lisa’ is sick of just being an object of adoration, sick of the endless staring. She just wants a normal life, doing normal things. One day she decides that rather than sitting around, she needs to go out and seek this life she desires. Mademoiselle Lisa is both absurd and serious, suggesting that the world is there for the taking, no matter who you are. You just have to go out and get it. A small hardback, ‘Mademoiselle Lisa’ has wide appeal. Younger readers will enjoy the absurdity, while older readers will enjoy the reminder that anything is possible, if you will it so.

Mademoiselle Lisa, Delphine Perret
Black Dog Books 2010
ISBN: 9781742031620

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

Australian and World Records 2011

Australia has a great tradition of ‘big things’ by the roadside: large sculptures or statues that serve as advertising or structures in their own right. Many were designed as, or have evolved into tourist attractions. There are more than 150 ‘big things’ in Australia. Here are some from all around the country. The Big Blue Heeler
This 2.4 metre dog lives at Muswellbrook and was created with many in the community playing a role. Weighing over 150 kg, and made from fibreglass and steel, local artist Charlotte Drake-Brockman painted the heeler modelled on her own dog, ALF.

Ever wondered what the world’s fastest flying insect is? Or where the wind blows fastest? What about which country drinks the most juice? Well, wonder no more. That information and much more is here in the Australian and World Records 2011. You can also plan your trip around Australia to visit every one of the ‘big things’. There’s the big mozzie (not sure that’s a great advert for your town) and the Big Redback Spider. Blitz your next trivia event with the depth of your random knowledge. You will know which country recycles the most steel and which whale dives deepest. So much information, presented in a large novel-size paperback, divided into subject headings and featuring colour photos on every page. Also included are the four ‘runners-up’ in each category.

Australian and World Records 2011 brings the weird and wonderful to young readers. There are records for popular culture, with most played songs and Xbox games. There are sports records and movie records. In short there is something for everyone. There’s even a record for the amusement park with the most rides. Readers will enjoy the range of records portrayed here. Comparisons will be made with other well-known record books, but the strong Australian presence here will appeal. This is a book ideal for dipping (made easy by the colour-coded chapter page edges), but others will find it addictive and have to read right through! Recommended for readers who love facts and trivia.

Australian and World Records 2011, Jennifer Corr Morse & David G Harris
Scholastic 2011
ISBN: 9781741698121

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

Tomato Sauce, of Course, by Moya Simons

I stood on the kitchen chair with the pantry door wide open. I shoved cans of tuna and soup to one side.
No, I couldn’t see what I wanted anywhere.
My mother walked into the kitchen. She said, ‘I’ve already told you, Tammy. That brand of tomato sauce isn’t available any more.’
‘But, but, but…’ I said.

Tammy loves tomato sauce, but not just any tomato sauce. She loves Aussie Tomato Sauce. She eats it with every meal, even occasionally with dessert! But the Aussie Tomato Sauce company has gone broke and now Tammy is in a desperate search to find the last bottle. She reasons there must be one somewhere. And she does find a last lonely bottle of her favourite sauce in the shop on the way to the beach. But that’s just the beginning of her adventure. Things get very tomato-coloured after that. Coloured illustrations appear on every opening and Tammy swims to safety across the ocean border at the bottom of (almost) every page.

The Mates series from Omnibus continues to produce great Aussie yarns. These tall tales are designed for newly independent readers. Potentially challenging words (or even just words for emphasis) are in different fonts. Chapters are short and the action bounces along. Tammy has a supportive, if long-suffering, family and an understanding best friend. Her school assignment knowledge comes in handy at the end of the story and helps get her out of trouble. Recommended for mid-primary readers. Great fun.

Tomato Sauce, Of Course! Moya Simons, Jim Grimwade
Omnibus Books 2010
ISBN: 9781862918801

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

Lucy Zeezou’s Glamour Game, by Liz Deep-Jones

A barrage of lights flashed in our faces, blinding us, while relentless clicking and snapping sounds polluted the air.
The reporter at the fron of the pack shouted questions at my father. ‘Paulo, Italy’s leading actress, Loretta Sophirelli, has revealed your secret to the world. AC Milan’s new signing is Tommaso Sophirelli – or should that be Tommaso Zoffi? What’s your response?’
Pins and needles travelled along my body. What were they saying?
‘Your son is being touted as Italian football’s new hope, “Tommy the Tiger”. What do you think his chances are for a spot in the World Cup squad?’
‘How have your kept your son a secret for so long?’

Lucy Zoffi is the daughter of a world-class soccer player and a famous model, recently moved to Sydney to be near Lucy’s grandparents. They are rich as well as famous and their every move is watched by paparazzi. Lucy is mad keen to play soccer and appears to have inherited some of her father’s talent. Her mother thinks that she’d be much better to pursue modelling, particularly in support of the family fashion line ‘Love Lucy’. When Lucy hears rumours of an older half-brother, her world threatens to explode. Her mother and father aren’t speaking, her friend Max has done a runner, and her best friend Bella seems to be angry with her almost all the time. It seems that no matter how she tries, she gets it all wrong.

Lucy’s life is a privileged one, travelling by private jet between Australia and Milan, Italy, but that doesn’t make it a simple one. She wants to play soccer. Her mother doesn’t want her too. Her father has secrets which may tear the family apart. Her friend who should be settled in a new home is struggling against unaccustomed supervision. At school, people think she’s a spoilt princess. Lucy is emerging from childhood and discovering that the life she thought was just about perfect, is not quite as she thought. She’s learning that her parents are individuals as well as part of a family. As is she. She is also a teenager and trying to navigate her way through dreams, friendship and a potential first relationship. As far as her friend Bella is concerned, Lucy has it all and she should just enjoy it. It’s certainly a life Bella would love. There are themes around family, friendship, secrets. Recommended for early secondary readers, particularly girls who love soccer or fashion or both!

Lucy Zeezou’s Glamour Game, Liz Deep-Jones
Random House 2010
ISBN: 9781864719734

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

Cricket Australia’s Ashes Handbook

It was after Australia’s first win on English soil, in 1882, in the ninth meeting between the two countries, that the term ‘the ashes’ was used.
The result of the match was described as the greatest cricketing shock in England’s history. A few days after the match, a ‘fake’ obituary was printed in the Sproting Times, an English newspaper. A footnote at the bottom suggested ‘the body’ of English cricket ‘be cremated and the ashes taken to Australia’.
Before leaving England for the 1882-83 tour to Australia, England’s captain, Ivo Bligh, promised to bring back the ‘Ashes of English cricket’. He repeated his pledge on reaching Australia, and explained it to confused Aussies who had never read the Sporting Times. ‘The Ashes’ became part of the ‘talk’ about the tour.

Cricket Australia’s Ashes Handbook is subtitled ‘The Ultimate Guide for Young Cricketers’. And it’s full of facts and figures, perfect for the young cricket-lover. It begins with a history of the Ashes competition and highlights particularly memorable games. Then there are statistics, a favourite part of cricket. Highest scorers, best bowlers, heroes of the form are mentioned, and there’s plenty of trivia too. Then it’s down to business. Who will be picked in the team for this year? Some of the likely contenders are profiled and the reader is offered the opportunity to do their own selecting. There’s a schedule for all the games, and places to record the outcomes, wickets and scorers. And just to check you’ve been listening/reading, there’s a quiz. How much do you know about the Ashes? Ashes Handbook finishes up with pages to record your own cricketing statistics and resources for discovering more about cricket.

Perfect for cricket fans keen to keep track of the summer’s traditional game. Light enough to carry in your backpack.

Cricket Australia’s Ashes Handbook, John Origlasso,
Scholastic 2010
ISBN: 9781741697810

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

Grim and Grimmer, by Ian Irvine

Why couldn’t Ike have kept his mouth shut?
Things were going to get really bad anyway, about as bad as things can get. But if only he had kept silent, Ike would not have had to poke an imp’s brain back in through its ear hole with his finger.
He would not have gone blind, then been carried by an enraged demon called Spleen, upside down and with his bum hanging out, all the way across Grimmery.
He would not have been turned into a night-gaunt, the creature he feared more than anything in the world. Nor would he – it – have attacked his best friend.
And most definitely, he would not have died.
Oh, yes, Ike dies in this story.
He’s dead as a doughnut at one stage.

Ike and his friend, Mellie, are escorting the rescued Princess Aurora back to Ambra, capital of Grimmery, so she can take her place on the throne and thwart the evil Fey Queen who wants to take over her country. Ike’s feeling good, anticipating their warm reception, and daydreaming about the Princess. Unfortunately the Princess doesn’t share his daydream and a good day suddenly turns very sour. The Princess abandons her escort and a demon appears. Far from being over, their adventure is just beginning. Evil is all around and Ike and Mellie are going to have to travel far and do many brave deeds if they are to help Princess Aurora and their country. They must unite to find the Book of Grimmery. If only they could stop insulting each other.

Grim and Grimmer 2: The Grasping Goblin takes the two reluctant heroes on a very wild ride. As the title suggests, every time it seems things are as grim as they can get, they get grimmer. But not without humour. The Grasping Goblin is very funny too, as well as dangerous, gory and grotty. It makes particularly good use of smell, and makes this reader very glad that the novel is not ‘scratch-and-smell’. Ike and Mellie have to work together to achieve success and their bravery and ingenuity see-saw in their pursuit of secret spells. Allies and foes take all shapes and colours and often it’s hard to tell which is which. Grim and Grimmer 2: The Grasping Goblin is a grand adventure and it’s not over yet. Look out for the next title in this series. Recommended for mid- to upper-primary readers.

Grim and Grimmer 2: The Grasping Goblin, Ian Irvine
Omnibus Books 2010
ISBN: 9781862918597

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

Martha Doesn't Share, by Samantha Berger & Bruce Whatley

Martha has learnt a new word and is using it quite a lot. The word is ‘MINE!’ and she’s applying it to everything around her. Her parents and little brother would quite like her to share, but Martha’s having none of it. Until she discovers that having everything isn’t quite all it’s cracked up to be. This is a landscape-format paperback with a mauve and pink cover. Martha and her family are soft anthropomorphised otters. Endpapers show Martha at her non-sharing best. Illustrations depict Martha and her family in soft pastels and include large areas of white space. This is an international edition of the original US edition.

Martha’s parents try all sorts of ways to introduce the concept of sharing to this strong-willed child but with little success. Indeed they almost quake in the force of her ownership bids. They withdraw then and leave Martha with all her things. But Martha discovers this isn’t what she wanted after all. Martha Doesn’t Share sends a very clear message about the value of sharing. But never fear that Martha is completely reformed by her discovery of the up-side of sharing. The final opening shows Martha is still fairly sure that she owns most of the world. Recommended for preschool age children.

Martha Doesn’t Share, Samantha Berger & Bruce Whatley
Hachette 2010
ISBN: 9780316126359

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

Little Red Ute Books, by Mitch Lewis & Nahum Ziersch

Little Red Ute and the Dump Trucks
Little Red Ute is keen and enthusiastic to put in a full day’s work, but he keeps getting in the way of the big dump trucks. He realises they can carry much more than he can. But when the foreman is called out to an accident on the highway, Little Red Ute knows he needs to stay out of the way. But it’s not long before Little Red Ute discovers a way that he too can help.

Little Red Ute Visits the Farm
The Foreman has sent all the carpenters home when there’s a call from Farmer White. His cow shed needs some repairs. Little Red Ute and Wheelbarrow are not needed once they’ve helped deliver all the materials for the shed repairs. So Farmer White takes them on a tour of the farm. They delight in ‘meeting’ other farm machines like the tractor and the harvester. But then they learn that the Foreman is in trouble and needs their help. They rush back in the nick of time and save him. Illustrations are bright, colourful and very engaging.

Little Red Ute and the Dump Trucks and Little Red Ute Visits the Farm are exciting adventures for young children who like cars and trucks and all things motorised. In the tradition of Thomas the Tank Engine and others, Little Red Ute can talk. He’s very keen to work but sometimes is told he’s too small or not needed. By the end of both stories he’s shown that despite his size, he can be very useful. These short and active stories will encourage particularly boys to play act their own Little Red Ute adventures. I can just see the kindergarten corner now! Recommended for preschool aged children, particularly boys.

Little Red Ute and the Dump Trucks, Mitch Lewis & Nahum Ziersch
Omnibus Books 2010
ISBN: 978162918771

Little Red Ute Visits the Farm, Mitch Lewis & Nahum Ziersch
Omnibus Books 2010
ISBN: 9781862918528

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

No more Kisses! by Margaret Wild & Nina Rycroft

With a squeak and a squeal, Baby ran off and away.
“No more kisses!”

Baby has had enough of a game of kisses and cuddles, so he runs away, pursued by his laughing friends, until he turns the game back on them.

With rhythm and repetition, the lively text of this gorgeous offering will delight youngsters, who will join in the repetition and love to experiment with words like roly-poly and wriggle-squiggle. With text by queen of the picture book format, Margaret Wild, complemented by the lively watercolour illustrations by Nina Rycroft, this hard covering offering will appeal to toddlers and the adults who read to them.


No More Kisses!

No More Kisses! by Margaret Wild & Nina Rycroft
Little Hare, 2010
ISBN 9781921541520


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