Holiday Hullabaloo, by Claire Craig

Harriet Bright woke up at 4.56 am.
The curtains were drawn, the room was dark, her eyes were the eyes of a northern-spotted owl – very wide open.
It was Christmas.
Harriet Bright was positively excited. her brain was pinging with happy thoughts. This was the very moment she’d been thinking about for 364 days.
She’d even woken up with a poem fully formed in her head.

Harriet Bright is trying hard to be good. But it’s very difficult to stay in bed on Christmas Day. She employs every strategy she can think of to make the time pass more quickly. But Christmas is full of surprises, and Harriet is about to be surprised. In the second episode of this mini-collection, Harriet decides to invent an invisible friend to cure her loneliness. But this invisible friend seems to have a mind of her own and she is not as willing to do what Harriet wants as Harriet thinks she should be. Things do not end well. In episode three, Pluto is being demoted and it’s up to Harriet and her friends to see if they find a way to reinstate the planet. And in the final episode, Harriet and her friend Melly Fanshawe create the most amazing holiday adventure EVER. Myriad fonts pick out words, phrases and sections to emphasise throughout the text. Even the illustrations scattered throughout make use of fonts.

Welcome into the mind of a nine-year-old girl. And what a mind! Harriet Bright is full of wondering and good ideas. Whether it’s passing the time, or inventing invisible friends Harriet has it covered. Who else would invent a friend like Gracie Marshall. And when it comes to two girls both wanting to be the star of their combined stories, Harriet and Melly have no equal. Their collaborative ‘very best holiday’ is a wild adventure. Harriet’s relationship with her mother is delightful. Holiday Hullabaloo includes subtle messages about rules and breaking them, about self-control and empowerment, but none of these overwhelm the story. Harriet Bright might not always be the easiest girl to have at home/in the classroom, but she’d always be fun. The use of varied fonts and word arrangements breaks up the text and adds interest. The ‘word pictures’ are fantastic! Recommended for junior primary, newly independent readers.

Holiday Hullabaloo (Harriet Bright), Claire Craig ill Melanie Feddersen
Penguin Books 2010
ISBN: 9780143305071

Reviewed by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

This book can be purchased in good bookstores or online at Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

Dog Gone, by Carol Poustie

 couldn’t open the present. Not now, not after hearing the news. And certainly not with Mum and Molly gawking at me. I couldn’t bear the thought of anyone else seeing what he’d chosen for me until I’d seen it myself.
I needed more time to get over the shock. We’d open it later, in my room, Lucky and me. I pushed the pile of presents aside and stood up. ‘I’m going for a walk with Lucky. I’m not in a birthday mood anymore.’

Everything is turned upside-down for Ish. His father has taken a job in Sydney, leaving Ish, his sister Molly and his mother in Melbourne. His grandfather has just died. His mother is travelling to Mongolia with a friend. He and Molly are staying with Gran. As if that wasn’t enough, his dog Lucky has vanished. Ish has always loved staying at Gran’s but this time, everything he does, everywhere he goes is a reminder that Grandpa is no longer there. Molly and Ish both struggle to make sense of their altered world in their own way. Molly lashes out at those closest to her. Ish focuses on finding missing Lucky, his best friend. He writes a poem every day for Lucky. The poems reveal not just Lucky’s adventures but what’s been happening in Ish’s life. Ish also goes fishing with Grandpa’s very special fishing rod. It helps to bring Grandpa close.

There’s a lot going on in Ish’s life. A lot more than any boy and his dog should have to cope with. Death, parents separating, moving house (if only temporarily), bullying and more. At least he has his dog. Until he too disappears. Ish uses his fishing time to think, away from all the ‘noise’ made by Molly, Gran and all her visitors. Ish tells his story in first person. This bring the reader close and allows them to see some things that Ish can’t or won’t. Grandpa was a poet and Ish discovers that he too can capture images in poetry and that this helps him cope while he looks for Lucky. But Grandpa’s influence extends beyond his magic with words. He seems to appear when Ish most needs him. Dog Gone mixes reality with a little magic in a well-paced novel for mid- to upper-primary readers.

Dog Gone Carole Poustie
Avant Press 2010
ISBN: 9780980448450

Reviewed by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

The Vegetable Ark, by Kim Kane & Sue deGennaro

It is not well known that Noah had a brother.
But he did,
and his name was Neil.
Noah and Neil were very different.

The story of Noah and his ark is well known. Less is known of his early life. Kim Kane introduces the reader to Neil, Noah’s vegetarian brother. Both work hard, but they are very different, not just physically. Noah competes successfully at both things, and becomes a ‘fat cat’ wheeling and dealing and living well. Meanwhile Neil is more of a dreamer, happy to spend his days with his plants, smelling the beans. When Noah tells him about the coming rains and invites him to join the Ark, Neil responds, but not quite the way Noah expects. Illustrations in this large landscape format hardback are a mix of collage, pencil and paint. Images are set in white space and often float on the page. Endpapers are a cross between a weather map and endless rain.

If you ever wondered where Noah’s dove discovered the olive branch that she brought back to Noah, then wonder no more. It came from Neil’s tree. Neil, who was quiet and largely unnoticeable in his life, certainly when compared with his corporate brother Noah, triumphs. Where Noah seeks to corner the market in food supplies, Neil’s aim in saving all the vegetables is much simpler. He knows that any post-flood world will need vegetables. Noah wants Neil to come aboard the ark, they are still brothers, but Neil as always is doing things his own quiet way. There are plenty of themes about big issues in The Vegetable Ark but in both text and illustration they are cloaked in off beat humour and delightful quirkiness. Recommended for primary-aged children.

The Vegetable Ark: A Tale of Two Brothers

The Vegetable Ark: A Tale of Two Brothers, Kim Kane Sue deGennaro
Allen & Unwin 2010
ISBN: 9781741759969

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

This book can be purchased in good bookstores or online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

One Funky Monkey, by Stacey McCleary

One funky monkey – as though in a trance.
Moving and grooving, he started to dance.

Late at night, in the quiet of the toyroom, one funky monkey stars to dance. Soon he is joined by two happening hippos, three jazzy giraffes and more and more jiving, boogying and discoing animals in this rhyming, moving counting book.

The illustrations, in the gentle deep blues of night with splashes of colour of the animals illuminated by the monkey’s torch, are perfect for evening reading, and the counting story will encourage children to learn to count from one to ten, and down again from ten to one. The endpapers show the animals stars fast asleep on their shelves, perhaps tired out from all their dancing.

A funky counting book.

One Funky Monkey

One Funky Monkey, by Stacey McCleary & Sue Degennaro
Walker, 2010

This book can be purchased in good bookstores, or online from Fishpond Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

You, by Stephen Michael King

All children, except one, grow up.

This book is for YOU.

There is a magic in the books of Stephen Michael King which is difficult to explain. The minimal text and the minimalist illustrations combine to bring a gentle smile to any reader’s face. You is no exceptiob, This small format hardcover book is pure delight.

The narrative explores the colour, the music and the excitement of the world, but in each instance tells the listener that s/he is the most exciting/most colourful/most musical one of all. The characters in the book are a yellow waggly tailed dog who is speaking to a little bird, but listeners will feel that the narrator, and, in fact, the adult reader, is speaking directly to them.

This is the most adorable bedtime/cuddle time book and would make a perfect gift for a new born or even for an adult friend.

You, by Stephen Michael King
Scholastic, 2010

Peter Pan and Wendy, illustrated by Robert Ingpen

ll children, except one, grow up.

For one hundred years children world wide have been captivated by the tale of the boy who never grew up, and the story of what happens when he flies through the nursery window of the Darling children in search of his lost shadow. To celebrate the 100 year anniversary, Walker Books have rereleased this classic tale, with illustrations by the amazing Australian illustrator Robert Ingpen.

The unabridged text is presented in hardcover format with over 70 colour illustrations, ranging from little cameos to double page spreads. The endpapers show Peter Pan at his impish best in a variety of poses and jacket flaps give a little insight into author JM Barrie. An introduction by the author’s great-great nephew gives further insight.

This gorgeous edition is perfect for collectors but will also be treasured by young readers.

Peter Pan and Wendy, by JM Barrie, illustrated by Robert Ingpen
Walker, 2010

This book is available in all good bookstores, and can also be purchased online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

The Headless Highwayman, by Ian Irvine

If Ike had stayed home from school that Tuesday, he would never have betrayed a princess nor robbed a murderous queen. He would not have been tied to an insane imp that was desperate to eat his liver. He certainly would not have floated across a strange land on an impossible rescue mission, powered by exploding manure.
Nor would he have tried to escape via that disastrous troll-bum door.
But Ike went to school.

Ike is an unpopular kid who doesn’t seem to be able to do anything right, so it is little surprise to him that he has a disastrous day at school. What does surprise him is what happens after he leaves the school, expelled. Suddenly he finds himself in another world, where he accidentally betrays a princess, then sets off on a quest to remedy this by rescuing her from the murderous Fey Queen. Luckily he finds some friends in Mellie, an apprentice thief, and Naggerly, a talking horse. Together the three embark on a seemingly impossible quest tor escue the Princess.

The Headless Highwayman is the first book in the Grim and Grimmer series from fantasy genius Ian Irvine, who manages to create a world which is believable, thrilling and funny all rolled into one. Young fantasy fans, and those new to the genre, will sympathise with Ike and enjoy characters such as Naggerly and Monty, the headless highwayman who talks through his bottom.

Lots of fun.

The Headless Highwayman (Grim and Grimmer)

The Headless Highwayman (Grim and Grimmer), by Ian Irvine
Omnibus, 2010

This book can be purchased in good bookstores, or online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

The Trophy Kid, by Pat Flynn

This is your chance. Take it.
I straighten my strings, blow out a lungful of air, and try to forget the score.
But it’s impossible. The score is all that matters in tennis, the signpost that leads to only one of two destinations.
Winning or losing. Glory or failure.

Marcus is a junior tennis star. He is state champion and dreams of winning Wimbledon. But something is holding him back. It isn’t his backhand, his forehand or even his serve. It’s his mind. At inconvenient times he starts to second guess himself, often with disastrous results. And now he’s in real trouble. He’s convinced that if he doesn’t win the next state title he’ll lose his grandfather. Could it be that his mate Matt, a tuckshop expert, and the girl he has a crush on, Kayla, are the ones who’ll give him the right advice to solve his dilemma – even though neither knows anything about tennis?

The Trophy Kid is a companion novel to The Tuckshop Kid and The Toilet Kid, and readers of the earlier two will enjoy this one too, though it equally stands on its own. Dealing with issues of OCD, competitiveness and friendship it is an entertaining, often funny read for upper primary aged children.

The Trophy Kid

The Trophy Kid, by Pat Flynn
UQP, 2010
ISBN 9780702238406

This book can be purchased in good bookstores or online at Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.