Louie the Pirate Chef, by Simon Mitchell & Ben Wood

Louie didn’t want to be a pirate.
He wanted to be a chef.

When Louie’s parents sign him up for Captain Blackheart’s crew, Louie has trouble listening to the Captain and joining in the crew’s escapades – because he is too busy dreaming of cooking delicious dishes. The other pirates laugh at Louie’s dreams, but when their ship leaves them stranded on an island, with nothing to eat, it is Louie who comes to the rescue.

Louie the Pirate Chef is a light hearted story about following your dreams. With lots of pirate silliness, brought to life in the watercolour and ink illustrations of Ben Wood, this is a title which will make kids giggle.


Louie the Pirate Chef

Louie the Pirate Chef, by Simon Mitchell & Ben Wood
Working Title, 2010
ISBN 9781921504051

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

An ABC of Pirates, by Caroline Stills & Heath McKenzie

is for adventure
on an azure-coloured sea.
Hoist the anchor, maties,
’tis a pirate’s life for me.

Whilst there are plenty of ABC books on the market, the simple reason or this is that they are popular with parents and educators as an early-learning tool. An ABC of Pirates is likely to be also popular with young readers, offering, in addition to an exposure to the letters of the alphabet, an exciting pirate adventure. Each letter shows pirate characters in a range of exiting adventure situations. With the entry for each letter written in rhyming verse, the letter is used to begin several words in the entry, which are highlighted in bold font. The illustrations, by Heath McKenzie show the things mentioned int he text, as well as other items which start with that letter. For example, the ‘A’ entry has an astronaut, an alligator and an abacus in the illustration.

Easy to read aloud and fun to explore visually, this is a swashbuckling, fun-filled offering.

An ABC of Pirates

An ABC of Pirates, by Caroline Stills and Heath McKenzie
Little Hare, 2010
ISBN 9781921272776

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

Monster Book of Drawing, by Marc McBride

If there is a budding artist at your house, especially one with a love of fantasy, the Monster Book of Drawingis well worth a look.

Combining three previous how to draw titles – Monster Battles, Dangerous Beasts and Mythical Creatures in one spiral bound hardcover volume, there are dozens of real animals, and fantastical creatures and monsters, to be drawn by following step by step instructions.

Creator Marc McBride has illustrated a range of children’s books, including the Deltora Quest series, and whilst youngsters may not be able to perfectly replicate the beasts on offer, they’ll have fun trying and will learn illustrative techniques along the way.

Monster Book of Drawing, by Marc McBride
Scholastic, 2010
ISBN 9781741696967

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

World Cricket Records 2011

Who is the only batsman to make three double centuries in a single test series?
Who holds the record for the most test wickets in a calendar year?
Against which opponents did Australia complete the largest victory by runs in the ICC Cricket World Cup?

In the midst of the cricket season and with the World Cup looming, World Cricket Records 2011 is sure to be devoured by young cricket mad readers. Packed with the answers to the above questions and hundreds of other facts and records, the book focuses on all aspects of cricket, including bowling batting and fielding records, and the different forms of the game from twenty-twenty matches to five day tests.

As well as tables of facts, there are text boxes recounting the events of specific games, and hundreds of photographs of cricket stars, both contemporary and historical.

Especially likely to appeal to upper primary aged boys, particularly those with a fascination for cricket.

World Cricket Records 2011

World Cricket Records 2011
Scholastic, 2010

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

The 4 Powers of Daren Saner, by Michael Oehley

‘Well, here we are, I suppose.’
‘I guess this is it.’
‘Should we even be doing this?’ My heart was thumping in my chest as I approached the silver door on corridor 12K. My two friends were trembling beside me. In Sela’s case, it was from excitement, while Boron was just plain nervous. we were on a forbidden corridor, about to break into a forbidden room. I knew what we were doing was wrong, but it didn’t feel as if we had a choice.

Daren lives on a spaceship which left the home planet, Osheanus, over 900 years earlier in search of another inhabitable planet. The spaceship has a definable caste system and Daren is the product of a union that should never have happened. This makes him something of an outcast. He has one friend, Sela who is also an outcast and a hanger-on called Boron. They accept a dare to venture into a forbidden part of the ship, and set in motion events that may be the end of their world. As if that’s not enough for Daren to comprehend, it seems his actions have connected him with the past, with Periapoli, an ancient city back on Osheanus. But he is not without resources. If only he can learn to marshal and control his powers in time.

What do you do if you really want to write about the future, but you also love the past? Put them both in the same novel! That’s what Michael Oehley has done in The Four Powers of Daren Saner. The past and future are at once very different and very similar. There are good people and there are foolish people. There are impossible situations and outlandish beliefs. Daren’s navigation through both worlds is also a journey of self-discovery as he grows beyond the labels he has been given. Daren speaks in his own voice, first person, in chapters where he is Daren Saner of the future, and also when he is Daren Saredes, living in Periapoli. There are themes of friendship, self-belief, belief systems, trust, growth, all wrapped in a inter-era adventure. Recommended for upper-primary, early-secondary readers.

The Four Powers of Daren Saner

The Four Powers of Daren Saner, Michael Oehley,
Scholastic NZ 2010
ISBN: 9781869439453

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.

The Phar Lap Mystery, by Sophie Masson

April 3, 1931
It’s funny how some days that start of well can end up really badly. Today, my eleventh birthday, was just like that. It was bright and sunny when I woke up, and Dad sang happy birthday to me at breakfast and gave me a new set of pencils and this diary. he knows how much I love writing, and that I want to be a writer when I grow up. So he picked out a really nice one for me, it’s even got a tiny key so you can lock it up and no-one can poke their nose into what you’ve written! He said, ‘This is for you to practise, sweetheart, because all famous writers have to start somewhere!’

It’s the 1930s in Australia – Depression time – and Sally and Dad are doing it tough. Dad’s a private detective, but he hasn’t worked for months. Then he gets a call about investigating attacks on Phar Lap, the most famous horse in Australia. It pays well and Sally begins to see her old happy Dad, not the grump he’s been lately. It’s just Sally and Dad since Mum’s death, so Sally travels with Dad to Melbourne to begin the investigation. She keeps track of what’s going on in her diary, seeing it as practice for her future career as a mystery writer. But it’s all very exciting too, as she gets to meet Phar Lap and the people who look after him. Fact blends with fiction as Sally and her dad follow Phar Lap’s fortunes and fame across the ocean to America and Mexico. And throughout, Sally maintains her diary, documenting her own life, as well as Phar Lap’s.

Phar Lap is well-known now to most Australians, but what was it like to be around when he was actually winning races? Sophie Masson takes the reader back in time to show them what it was like to be living alongside a legend. What Australians remember now is a fast, good-looking horse, universally loved. But of course nothing is ever that simple. A horse that wins every race is no good to bookies who make their money on the chance that a horse will win, not the certainty. Sally is exposed to the romance of the unbeatable Phar Lap but also the criminal elements of the racing world. Sally’s diary spans a year from her eleventh to her twelfth birthday. As well as recording the excitement of the Phar Lap story, she documents the evolution of her ‘family’ from just Dad, to include friends new and old, locally, interstate and internationally. Recommended for upper primary readers.

The Phar Lap Mystery (My Australian Story)

The Phar Lap Mystery, Sophie Masson
Scholastic Press 2010
ISBN: 9781741697278

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.

Paladin, by Dave Luckett

Sam finished up at nine. He put his hoodie on and came out of the back entrance of the Little Burger Hut in the Warramar Mall. Finny was waiting for him. So they walked home together. Sort of together, but apart.
‘You going to get into trouble, coming home late?’ Same asked, after half a block or so. Finny didn’t even bother to shrug. ‘Trouble? No. the later the better. It’s payday. He’ll probably be pissed.’
‘That’s good? Isn’t he worse when he is?’
‘Maybe. Now way to know.’
She went back to staring at the footpath.

Sam and Finny are school outcasts both. Sam plays football, and works at the Little Burger Hut, so despite not being super-popular, he gets along. Finny is different, tall and skinny with dark hair, she shuns sympathy and shrugs off high school bitching. Her stepfather is a drunk and very free with his fists. She and Sam are friends, although Sam’s not quite sure what sort of friends. Then Sam interrupts a mugging in the park on their way home from work and their whole world changes. Literally. It seems that Finny and Sam both have skills that are needed in a land at war. One of Sam’s strengths is an ability to know, wholeheartedly, what is right. It’s a skill he will have great need of as he and Finny journey through the strange land they find themselves in.

Paladin is a story for all teenagers who know they have a place but just can’t seem to find it. It is there. A Paladin is not a place but a calling. Paladins are what in medieval times were called Knights. They have bravery and physical prowess, but they have more. And it would seem they are born, not trained. Sam moves between the two worlds, struggling to understand just where he fits. Truth and justice are strong themes as Sam undertakes the rites of passage. Sam is caught between two worlds, neither of which is perfect, as he tries to make sense of what is right and what is other. Fantasy worlds are often created to sustain a series, but Paladin is complete in and of itself. Which is not to say there’s not enough material for sequels… Recommended for lower- to mid-secondary readers.


Paladin, Dave Lucket
Omnibus Books 2010
ISBN: 9781862918672

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.

The Heart of the Forest, by Barry Jonsberg

Personally, I blame Granddad.
Mum and Dad walked a hundred metres ahead. I trailed behind them. Aaron trailed behind me. Words floated back, like leaves spinning in the air.
‘…staying a month?’ yelled Mum.
Her hands fluttered. Not a good sign.
‘…can’t stand it …moans all the time …mutters constantly.’
Dad’s hands entered the battle.
‘…is my father, after all…not his fault…old…’
I lagged further behind.

Twins are supposed to have a special bond, but Keely has some reservations about that theory. But she’s not really thinking about that when the family travel to the Blue Mountains to take a walk. She’s thinking about surprising Mum and Dad and making them smile for once. There haven’t been that many smiles lately. But her plan is turned upside down when she becomes lost off the path. Now she can’t see or hear her parents. Aaron is there, but as the older (by two minutes) twin, Keely is not listening to what he says. She’s sure she knows best.

The Mates series from Omnibus are short punchy, illustrated stories, un-ashamedly Aussie-Australian. They often involve the unique environment that is part of the lives of most Australians (even if it’s only on holidays for city-dwellers). Like all good stories, there’s often a twist in the tail, and The Heart of the Forest sure has one of those! It differs from many of the other titles in this series in that it has less humour, but don’t be put off by that. It’s a lost-in-the-bush story with its own special magic. Granddad, who gets the blame

for the whole sorry mess, is nowhere to be seen/heard. The Heart of the Forest has short chapters, illustrations on each page and words highlighted (some challenging, others confidence-building). Recommended for newly independent readers.

The Heart of the Forest , Barry Jonsberg Omnibus Books 2010
ISBN: 9781862918139

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.

Merrow, by Ananda Braxton-Smith

Auntie Ushag said I wasn’t fit to be around. She said it was beyond her how a body could be so prickly and dark. She said it gave her the Screaming Purples just to look at me, always lying about looking sideways at her like a reptile on a hot rock. That if I couldn’t raise myself on my hind legs and help, the least I could do was Go Away and leave her to it.
Honour Bright, all I said was I wished she’d open her mind a bit and that she didn’t know all about everything. I said she couldn’t prove that our Marrey great-grandmother wasn’t a merrow. she couldn’t swear that Mam had run away after Pa drowned, now could she? All I said was perhaps Mam had actually just gone home to her people under the sea, and that she could come back to us one day, if she wanted to. I only said it was possible.

Neen is growing up in a remote part of a small island, surrounded by ocean and the myths the sea generates. Neen’s father died near her birth, and her mother disappeared about a year later. Neen has been raised by her aunt, Ushag, her mother’s younger sister. They struggle to survive and there’s little Ushag finds joyful. Neen is endlessly curious, about life in general and about her mother in particular. Stories from the town come via Ma, a neighbour and her blind fiddle-playing son, Scully. There has long been talk that the Marreys have merrow (mermaid) blood. The more Neen thinks about it, and the more she explores the shores, the more she is sure that her mother is still alive. Neen is convinced that her mother has returned to her home under the sea, to be with her husband, Neen’s father. Nothing Ushag says will convince her otherwise.

At once ancient and modern, Neen’s is a search for identity. Most teens reach a point when they begin their future by seeking to understand their past. For most that’s a matter of asking the questions. But when the answers are not available, or buried in mystery, it’s more complicated. Neen has no ability to see beyond her aunt’s gruffness or reticence. She can only believe what she wants to believe. Time and the truth bring her to understanding slowly and she discovers that nothing is as simple as it seems, nor as complex. Neen tells her story in first person, and the reader shares her thoughts and frustrations as well as the limitations her youth and experience impose. The power, turmoil, and the secrets of the sea provide a rich backdrop to Neen’s growing maturity. Revel too in the stories of the merrows themselves. Recommended for mid-secondary readers.


Merrow, Ananda Braxton-Smith
Black Dog Books 2010
ISBN: 9781742031361

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.

Book of Lost Threads, by Tess Evans

‘Hello. Does Michael Clancy Live here?’
Silence. The door between them remained shut.
‘Michael Clancy. Michael Finbar Clancy?’
‘Who’s asking?’
‘Moss- Miranda. Miranda Sinclair.’
Moss wasn’t a spiteful person in general, but in later moments of honest self-appraisal, she had to admit that spite was one of the less savoury elements in her decision to seek our Michael Clancy. she had nurtured this ignoble spite for months. It had walked with her up the path to his house, stuck like some disgusting mess to her shoe. And it was directed at Linsey. Linsey, who loved her. Amy’s softness offered not resistance and Moss needed hard edges on which to hone this uncharacteristic desire for revenge.

Moss has travelled to Opportunity to meet Michael Clancy, a man she has never met. She is running away from Melbourne, away from her mother, away from uncomfortable truths. She has no plans, no expectations beyond finding this man. But she can have no way of knowing the impact she will have on him and his community. The ripples from her arrival spread wide and far. Through Michael-known-as-Finn she meets an elderly woman who lives next door and knits tea cosies for the United Nations, and a man who wants to build a ‘Great Galah’. Each has secrets, as big as the one Moss brings with her. Each affects Moss as much as they affect her and her sense of self, her sense of direction.

Most novels have one or two main characters, but like a theatre performance, Book of Lost Threads is an ensemble piece, or a garment of disparate colours. Every character has their own story and thread by thread they are unravelled and knitted anew like the patterns in Mrs Pargetter’s tea cosies. Moss is the connector, the catalyst for change but Finn, Mrs Pargetter and Sandy all struggle with their present too. Incidents in their past trap them and hold them tight. From the strength that these new friendships provide, each begins to unsnag their history and let it ease gently into the past where it belongs. Then they can again begin to properly live. Families come in all shapes and sizes, and follow their own rules. This rag-tag ‘family’ is finally finding its way. Book of Lost Threads is funny and surprising and a ripper read.

Book of Lost Threads

Book of Lost Threads, Tess Evans
Allen & Unwin 2010
ISBN: 9781742372334

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.