Police at the Station and They Don’t Look Friendly, by Adrian Mckinty

The wood is an ancient one, a relic of the vast Holocene forest that once covered all of Ireland but which now has almost completely gone. Huge oaks half a millennium old; tangled, many-limbed  hawthorns; red-barked horse chestnuts.
“i don’t like it,” the man behind the man with the gun says.
“Just put up with it, my feet are getting wet too,” the man with the gun replies.
“It’s not just that. It’s those bloody trees. I can hardly see any-thing. i don’t like it. It’s spooky,
so it is.”
“Ach, ya great girl ya, pull yourself together.”

It’s 1988 and Belfast is besieged by troubles. So on one is surprised when a drug dealer is murdered, and once the initial interest has passed, no one would be surprised if it was never solved. But Detective Inspector Sean Duffy isn’t one to give up. There is something about this case that means he just can’t let it go – even when he finds his career, his marriage and, finally, his life threatened.

Police at the Station and They Don’t Look Friendly is the seventh title featuring Sean Duffy, a stubborn detective who works hard, but also drinks before lunchtime, smokes at every opportunity, and isn’t afraid to break the rules in the quest for right. The setting of the stories – in a Belfast in the midst of ‘the troubles‘ – is both interesting and increases the drama, with physical threat an ever-present reality for a policeman, especially a Catholic one such as Duffy.

Acton packed, with a touch of humour.

Police at the Station and They Don’t Look Friendly, by Adrian McKinty
Serpent’s Tail, 2017
ISBN 9781781256923

The Mother’s Promise, by Sally Hepworth

If she’d felt a jolt earlier, this was a canon, blowing a giant hole right through her. Cancer. Had they used that word earlier? She didn’t remember it.
Apparently appeased by her expression – finally the reaction they’d been waiting for – the doctor began to explain it all again, a third or maybe fourth time. Once again, Alice zoned out. because she couldn’t have cancer. She was barely forty, she ate well, exercised occasionally. More importantly, she couldn’t have cancer. She had Zoe.

Since Zoe was born, it has always been just her and Alice. And that’s the way they have both preferred it. Alice has never shared the story of Zoe’s conception, sure that she is enough for Zoe. And for Zoe, who lives with crippling social anxiety, Alice is enough for her. So, when Alice is told she has cancer, her first thought is for Zoe. Who will be there for her daughter? With her parents both dead, and her only remaining relative, her brother, a hopeless alcoholic, Alice reaches out to women newly in her life – her oncology nurse, Kate, and her social worker, Sonja. the three women have more in common than they could ever realise.

The Mother’s Promise is a moving story of strength, friendship and love. While Alice deals with her own battle, each of her two unlikely new friends also has her own private battle to face. At the same time her daughter, Zoe, must deal both with her mother’s illness and with her anxiety and its consequences.

Though the subject matter could make this grim, the story is both warmly and compellingly told.

The Mother’s Promise, by Sally Hepworth
Pan Macmillan, 2017
ISBN 9781925479959

How to Bee, by Bren MacDibble

Sometimes bees get too big to be up in the branches. Sometimes they fall and break their bones. This week both happened, and foreman said, ‘Tomorrow we’ll find two new bees.”

With real bees extinct, Peony wants nothing more than to be one of the human bees – children who climb the trees in the orchard and pollinate the flowers by hand, so that the rich people in the city can eat fruit. It’s not an easy life, scratching out a living on the farm, with her sister and grandfather, but at least the foreman makes sure they have food, and Gramps makes sure they have love.  But Peony’s ma wants her to come and live in the city, and won’t take no for an answer.

How to Bee is a moving novel set in a dystopian near-future of haves and have-nots impacted by the extinction of bees and other changes. Peony is feisty, an intriguing blend of innocence and worldliness. Good-hearted, she is torn by loyalty to her mother and the new friend she makes in the city, and her love of the rest of her family and of life in the country.

The premise is both intriguing and important – with the world’s bees declining in numbers – and readers will cheer for Peony as she makes her way through some really difficult times, helping others along the way.

How to Bee, by Bren MacDibble
Allen & Unwin, 2017
ISBN 9781760294335

Trouble and the New Kid, by Cate Whittle, illustrated by Stephen Michael King

Apparently, dragons don’t exist.
Apparently, dragons are all in my imagination.
That’s what Nina Willis said, anyway, on the Monday before the Monday before last.

When a new kid named Nina arrives at school, Georgia soon learns that Nina doesn’t believe in dragons. Which makes Georgia sad, and a little bit cross, because her friend, Trouble is a dragon. Worse, though, when Trouble finds out someone doesn’t believe in him, he starts to change. Georgia needs to find a way to get Nina to believe.

Trouble and the New Kid is the third story featuring trouble and Georgia, but sits well on its own for those new to the series. Georgia is a wonderful heroine, warm hearted, but often in trouble at school. Trouble, too, is fun and the concept behind the series is wonderful.

Illustrated with greay scale illustrations by the whimsical Stephen Michael King, Trouble and the New Kid  will appeal to junior primary aged readers and anyone who loves whimsy.

Trouble and the New Kid, by Cate Whittle
Omnibus, 2017
ISBN 9781742990781

review by Sally Murphy, children’s author, reviewer and poet

Toffee Apple by Peter Combe, ill Danielle McDonald

Toffee Apple, nice and licky,
One for Judy, one for Nicky.
Crunchy munchy,
Very sticky
Don’t forget to clean your teeth!

‘Toffee Apple’ is a collection of three much-loved songs from performer Peter Combe. Here they are illustrated with bright colours, with words in larger fonts and a variety of colours. Animals dance as they eat their toffee apples, read the daily newspaper and imagine what it would be like to have six flies land on your jelly. This sturdy paperback comes with a cd of the three songs so everyone can sing along!

There is so much colour and movement in every page of ‘Toffee Apple’ that it is virtually impossible to sit still while it is read. And that’s probably the plan. Peter Combe’s songs are full of wonderful silliness designed to get children dancing about. The colourful pages and all-over-the-place text contribute to the fun. Sing along! Recommended for pre- and early-schoolers.

Toffee Apple, Peter Combe ill Danielle McDonald
Scholastic Australia 2017 ISBN:
9781760275082

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller
www.clairesaxby.com

The Great Zoo Hullabaloo! by Mark Carthew ill Anil Tortop

When Jess and Jack opened the gates to the Zoo,
it was strangely deserted. Nobody said BOO!
‘Where’s the new roo?’ said Jess, looking round.
‘It’s never this quiet. I can’t hear a sound.’

When Jess and Jack arrive at the zoo to begin their day and to check on their newest animal, they find everything suspiciously quiet. None of the animals are to be seen, but it’s clear where they’ve been. There are open cages, and animal scats and tracks everywhere. They follow the tracks, the scats, the feathers and down. They know their animals love to roam free, but are keen to get them back before night falls. Just when Jess is beginning to worry, she finds Jack and the animals too. Illustrations are full of fun and humour as the animals conduct their big Hullabaloo.

‘The Great Zoo Hullabaloo’ tells a story of disappearing zoo animals, the tracks they leave behind and the reason they have vanished, all in rhyme. Young readers are invited to speculate about where the animals might be, then to join in when they are discovered. Both zookeepers are relieved to find their animals, and to join in the shenanigans. There are plenty of animals to identify, and rhythms to replicate. Recommended for pre-schoolers.

The Great Zoo Hullabaloo!, Mark Carthew ill Anil Tortop New Frontier Publishing 2017 ISBN: 9781925059786

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller
www.clairesaxby.com

Rose’s Red Boots by Maura Finn, ill Karen Erasmus

When Rose and Banjo started out the day was bright and new,
The clouds small puffs of fairy floss against the dazzling blue.
A gentle breeze brushed though the trees and made their branches sway.
And …

Rose and her puppy Banjo are ready for a day flying Rose’s kite. They set off from the house. Along the way there are streams to ford, hills to climb, mud to jump in. At the top, Rose flies her kite until the weather changes and they run away home. The little red boots of the title offer a regular refrain. Illustrations are loose black pencil outline with soft watercolours, a mix of full colour pages and vignettes set in white. This almost square hardback has paw- and boot-prints on front and back, with the title in the red of Rose’s boots. Endpapers show Rose and Banjo and kite-fun.

Rose and her puppy have a plan for the day but as so often is the case with small people, the journey is as important as the destination and the activity planned. The refrain will soon have young listeners joining in. Rose’s Red Boots is a celebration of free play and discovery, and the illustrations are delightful. A spread with Rose and Banjo huddled under a tree when lightning strikes offers the opportunity to discuss safe storm havens. Recommended for pre- and early-schoolers.

Rose’s Red Boots, Maura Finn ill Karen Erasmus New Frontier Publishing 2017 ISBN: 9780957988446

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller
www.clairesaxby.com

My Brother is a Beast by Damon Young, ill Peter Carnavas

Some brothers fish in cloaks,
casting off on drizzly docks.
Some brothers climb in kilts,
hiking round the highland rocks.

The narrator of ‘My Brother is a Beast’ is a younger sister. The reader doesn’t meet her until they also meet the ‘beast’ of a brother. First we meet other brothers who do other things. This narrator idolises the brother who spends time with her, does crazy things. She’s not completely sure about his slime monster concoction, but she loves playing with him. Illustrations are both real and fantastical, and text curls around images. End-papers show the beast of a brother at play.

My Brother is a Beast’, a new title in a picture book series about family members. Previous titles include ‘My Sister is a Superhero’ and ‘My Nanna is a Ninja’. ‘My Brother is a Beast’ celebrates the wonderfulness of brothers They might be weird, they might be wild, but they are for loving and for playing with. Young readers may recognise characteristics of their own brothers, or be encouraged to articulate what it is that makes their own brothers wonderful. They may also be encouraged to invent a new brother who is also a beast. Recommended for early-schoolers.

My Brother is a Beast, Damon Young ill Peter Carnavas
UQP 2017 ISBN: 9781702259579

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller
www.clairesaxby.com

I Love You by Xiao Mao ill Tang Yun

Ms Giraffe is Little Badger’s teacher.
She is very kind and very clever.
One day, Ms Giraffe writes some new words on the whiteboard.
Wo ai ni
Ti amo
Je táime
Ich Liebe dich
Te quiero

Little Badger loves school and when her teacher teaches them how to say ‘I love you!’ in multiple languages, she’s very happy to practice. She says ‘I love you!’ all the way home. At home, she continues, practising, practising in different languages all the way through dinner, her bath and to bedtime. Her parents are caught up in her enthusiasm and reaffirm their love in different languages. All characters are represented as animals. Illustrations are stylised, pencil and paint. End-papers reflect some of the elements Little Badger loves.
I Love You’ was originally published in China and the first alt-language offering in this new edition is appropriately in Chinese (both phonetic and in script). Ms Giraffe introduces the idea that all languages express the same emotion, but with different sounds. Little Badger applies her new knowledge generously. This is a lovely book, with friendly illustrations and will be enjoyed at home, in kindergartens and in schools to introduce different languages. Recommended for pre- and early-schoolers.

I Love You, Xiao Mao ill Tang Yun
New Frontier Publishing 2017
ISBN: 9781925059762

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller
www.clairesaxby.com

Great Goal! Marvellous Mark! by Katrina Germein ill Janine Dawson

Aussie Rules is awesome.
I always arrive on time.
Out on the boundary Bailey warms up.
He takes a bounce and boots the ball; a banana kick bends to me.

Great Goal! Marvellous Mark!’ begins with the arrival of players at an AFL football game, continues through the game and ends as the game does. Told from the perspective of one of the players, it is also an alphabet book. As the game progresses, so does the alphabet. Every player has a chance to shine, whether it’s taking marks, making a pass, or kicking a goal. The rain may come down, the grass may turn into mud, but nothing can dampen the enthusiasm of these ball players. Illustrations depict a dull and rainy day with umbrella-wielding parents cheering from the sidelines.

Great Goal! Marvellous Mark!’ celebrates junior AFL football, and all the things it should be about – having fun, having a go, learning teamwork and sliding in the mud. The alphabetic sentences read easily and are full of football-ness. The illustrations are full of extra elements for the reader to find, from the mud following the flight of the ball on the ‘f’ page to the child eating under the watchful eye of a magpie on the ‘v’ page. A broad range of cultures and body types are represented, as is the child who lives, eats, breathes and sleeps football. Recommended for early-schoolers.

Great Goal! Marvellous Mark!, Katrina Germein ill Janine Dawson
Ford Street Publishing 2017
ISBN: 9781925272673

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller
www.clairesaxby.com