Baby Animal Farm, by Karen Blair

Let’s go to the baby animal farm!

Follow the adventures of five gorgeous toddlers as they explroe the baby animal farm – feeding lambs, following ducklings, even eating lunch and losing (and, luckily, finding) teddy bears.

Baby Animal Farm is a beautifully simple celebration of baby people and baby animals interacting. The text is simple, inviting toddlers to join in with Quack, quack, quack. Cheep cheep cheep and so on. The illustrations in pastel watercolours with crayon outlines are not too busy, but have enough detail to engage toddlers, who will delight in spotting what happens to teddy early in the story, and how he is found. A really nice touch is the cultural diversity of the five children. The end papers too are special – with the baby animals awake and waiting for visitors at the front of the book and sleeping at dusk in the back.

Suitable for reading to newborns through to preschool age children, Baby Animal Farm would make a wonderful gift.

Baby Animal Farm

Baby Animal Farm, by Karen Blair
Walker Books, 2012
ISBN 9781921720376

This book is available from good bookstores and online from Fishpond.

Trouble Twisters: The Monster, by Garth Nix & Sean WIlliams

Through the predawn silence, something moved in the middle of River Road – something huge and dark and struggling. The length of a bus, but not as high, it propelled itself, awkwardly and with great effort, sideways up the slight slope towards Main Street.

As it grew near the next streetlight, it raised one strange, dark eye – and the light went out. The thing opened its great maw and let out a soft, almost yawning hiss of satisfaction, then dragged itself on, leaving a trail of slime and a line of fizzled-out streetlights behind it.

Everyone in Portland seems to know someone who knows someone who has seen the Monster of Portland – but it seems no one has actually seen it for themselves! It could be scaly, have a shell, or even be hairy like a gorilla, depending who you believe. The twins, Jack and Jaide, are’t sure who to believe, but they are sure something strange is going on in Portland. Every since they defeated The Evil, they haven’t felt quite safe. Now the’re sure that it’s still out there, waiting to strike again. Gradnma X seems to know more than she’s willing to reveal and the cats, their Companions, are also caught up in strange goings on. If only they could bring their newly discovered powers under control and overcome The Evil once and for all.

The Monster is the second in the Trouble Twisters series, a collaboration between Garth Nix and Sean Williams which will appeal to upper primary aged readers. The twins are Trouble Twisters, destined to be Wardens when they finish growing and fine-tuning their magical gifts. Their strange grandmother oversees their training, whilst their father, also a Warden, travels and their mother, who is a regular human, works away.

Continuing from the first book, but largely self contained, the book also sees the introduction of a new character, the twins’ friend, Tara, and some further revelations about their mysterious role, with hints of more to come in future installments.

The Monster (Troubletwisters)

The Monster, by Garth Nix & Sean Williams
Allen & Uniwn, 2012
ISBN 9781742373997

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

The Owl and the Pussycat, illustrated by Robert Ingpen

How pleasant to know Mr. Lear!
Who has written such volumes of stuff!
Some think him ill-tempered and queer,
But a few think him pleasant enough.

For the many readers who have grown up familiar with the work of Edward Lear, this offering is a delightful opportunity to reconnect, and for those who may perhaps not be familiar with his work, this is a chance to rectify that situation. This hardcover collection of some of his nonsense rhymes including the title poem, The Jumblies and Calico Jam, among others, is sumptuously illustrated by amazing Australian illustrator Robert Ingpen. A special bonus is that as well as bringing each poem to life with his illustrations, Ingpen has added information about the mysterious Bong-Tree and the land where it grows, a homage to Lear and a delight for readers.

Adding to Ingpen’s growing series of illustrated classics, (previous titles include A Christmas Carol, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and Peter Pan and Wendy), The Owl and the Pussycat and Other Nonsense Rhymes is appropriate for child readers and adults alike, and a fitting tribute to mark Edward Lear’s two hundredth birthday.

The Owl and the Pussycat and Other Nonsense Rhymes, by Edward Lear, illustrated by Robert Ingpen
Walker Books, 2012
ISBN 9781921977596

This book is available from good bookstores or online from Fishponds. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

Love & Hunger: Thoughts on the Gift of Food, by Charlotte Wood

I began really learning to cook in my mid-twenties, at about the same time as I began really learning to write. I have only recently wondered if there is a link between these two things, other than the circumstances in which I found myself: an idle university student in possession of time for dawdling, some vague creative urges and new friends who inspired me with their own creativity and skill with a pen or a frying pan.

Charlotte Wood’s fiction offerings, including Animal People (2011) and The Children (2007) have attracted critical acclaim, but she is also a successful food writer, with her own blog and numerous magazine features including Gourmet Traveller and Good Weekend. In Love and Hunger Wood shares her love of food in an offering which is part memoir, part recipe book, exploring the shared nature of cooking and eating. With section focussing on learning to cook, practical tips for cooking, philosophical observations about food, and comfort cooking. There are over 75 recipes and, most importantly, a real celebration of the communal, loving nature of food and cooking.

Even for those who are not avid cooks, this is a book which makes the reader want to spend time in the kitchen, creating and sharing and simply enjoying the pleasures of good food. At the same time, the quality of the writing is deeply satisfying, bringing together Woods’ two much-loved art forms in a satisfying whole.

Love and Hunger: Thoughts on the Gift of Food

Love and Hunger: Thoughts on the Gift of Food, by Charlotte Wood
Allen & Unwin, 2012
ISBN 9781742377766

This book is available from good bookstores or online from Fishpond.

Mountain Wolf, by Rosanne Hawke

‘Listen.’ His father coughed, then groaned. ‘Find your Uncle Javaid. Go to Rawalpindi…’
‘…money in my pocket…bus from Oghi…’
The breath in his father’s throat sounded like a snake’s hiss. Razaq had heard that sound before when his grandmother was dying.
‘Ji, Abu.’ Razaq kissed his father’s face. The sound in his father’s throat stopped.

When an earthquake destroys Razaq’s mountain village and kills his family, he is determined to fulfill his father’s dying wish and travel to the city to find his uncle. But Rawalpindi is a big city and Razaq doesn’t know how to find his uncle. When he is sold into slavery it seems he may never belong to a family again. While he makes friends with other children both on the street and in the homes of the wealthy men and women who control him, Razaq has little hope, apart from determination, and memories of his father.Then he is visited by a social worker, posing as a massage customer, and Razaq wonders if perhaps there is a way out.

Mountain Wolf is a powerfully confronting tale of childhood slavery and of social justice. Exploring a seedy world which readers will wish was not real, Hawke offers an insight into life for the poorest, least powerful members of society – orphaned displaced children. Whilst there is nothing uplifting about the scenario, the story manages to offer some hope, both for Razaq himself, but also for humanity in general, through the kindness of strangers and family.

Suitable for highschool aged readers.

Mountain Wolf

Mountain Wolf, by Rosanne Hawke
Harper Collins, 2012
ISBN 9780732293871

his book is available from good bookstores or online from Fishpond.

Morgan's Law, by Karly Lane

As she glanced over at the urn, a smile touched her lips as memories of hot summer afternoons listening to the rumble of thunder on Gran’s back verandah flooded her mind… Tomorrow she would begin searching for the answers she needed. Someone here was bound to know where the wising tree was located, and maybe after she had fulfilled her grandmother’s final request her heavy heart would feel a little lighter.

When Sarah returns to Australia after ten years living in London, it is to fulfil her Grandmother’s dying wish, and to escape a broken heart, before returning to her high paying marketing job. She has no intention of falling in love, and certainly no idea that she will unearth a long lost extended family and forge a connection with outback Nagellan which will be hard to walk awa from.

Morgan’s Law is a moving outback romance, set in a quiet Queensland town and focusing on the story of Sarah, a strong, modern young woman, and on a fictional community facing problems which are only too  real in rural Australia, particularly economic crises, the impacts of droughts, and long term sustainability.

Likely to appeal to lovers of contemporary romance.

Morgan's Law

Morgan’s Law, by Karly Lane
Allen & Uniwn, 2012
ISBN 9781742379104

This book can be purchased from good bookstores or online from Fishpond.

Love Notes from Vinegar House, by Karen Tayleur

There are three things you should know about me if we’re ever going to be friends. The first thing is my name – Freya Jackson Kramer…The second things is that I don’t believe in ghosts – not the scary white sheet, boogie-woogie type of ghost anyway…And the third thing is that I believe in karma.

Freya does not want to spend her school holidays staying with her grandmother at Vinegar House, but her parents need to race off to visit her other grandmother (Nanna) overseas, and they don’t trust her to stay home alone, so Grandma Vinegar’s house it is. At least it will give her a chance to escape the chaos which a compromising photo of her on Facebook has caused. Vinegar House is filled with secrets – and the presence of her annoying cousin Freya, who is also holidaying there. There’s also the presence of Luke Hart, who Freya used to have a huge crush on, until he had a fling with Rumer. But is there another presence? One that might explain the light in the attic and the taps that run late at night?

Love Notes from Vinegar House is part ghost story, part coming of age tale, managing to be funny, touching and scary. Freya is a likable first person narrator, who shares her experiences in a sometimes self-deprecating, chatty manner, so that we are taken on her journey of discovery where she learns more about herself, her cousin and her extended family. The setting, too, will delight – a Gothic-style house perched on cliffs overlooking an Australian beach, with a mix of characters from contemporary teens to a grumpy, mysterious housekeeper.

A compelling young adult novel.

Love Notes from Vinegar House

Love Notes from Vinegar House, by Karen Tayleur
Black Dog Books, 2012
ISBN 9781742032191

This book is available from good bookstores or online from Fispond.