Captain Crabclaw's Crew, by Frances Watts and David Legge Reviewed by Sally Murphy

‘Shivering shellfish,’ Captain Crablcalw said proudly, as he admired his brand-new pirate ship, the Speedy Squid.
‘Now all I need is a crew and I can sail the seven seas in search of some treasure to fill these empty chests.’

Captain Crabclaw can’t wait to set sail in his new ship, but when he advertises for a fearsome crew, he gets a crew that might be fearsome, but is also unusual, as first a duck, then an elephant, giraffe, cow and chicken, all come looking for work. When they set off on their adventure, they are laughed at – ‘that’s not a crew – that’s a zoo!’. Captain Crabclaw is upset, but his crew come up with a great idea – the first ever pirate zoo. When every visitor pays a gold coin, the Captain is convinced.

Captain Crabclaw’s Crew is a bright picture book with a whimsical story line and gorgeous digital art, sure to appeal to youngsters, and to adult readers.

From the pairing of author Frances Watts and illustrator David Legge, who also worked together on Kisses for Daddy and Parsley Rabbit’s Book About Books, this third collaboration is delightful.

Captain Crabclaw's Crew

Captain Crabclaw’s Crew, by Frances Watts and David Legge
ABC Books, 2009

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

The ABC Book of Dinosaurs, by Helen Martin and Judith Simpson

The ABC Book of Dinosaurs is a sturdy board book introducing dinosaurs to small children. The text is sparing and the illustrations gentle. Size comparisons are demonstrated very clearly in illustrations where the text indicates ‘small’ and ‘tall’ etc. Accurate names are used, but so too are descriptors like ‘spiky tail’ for the Kentrosaurus and ‘three sharp horns for Triceratops. The narrative text is rhyming, and different font sizes are used to help differentiate between the narrative text and labels and the like. Illustrations are pastel coloured with plenty of white space to allow close examination of each of these remarkable creatures.

Dinosaurs continue to entrance generation after generation of young children. The ABC Book of Dinosaurs is a new title for the very young in a series that includes the beautiful ‘Animals’. The ABC Book of Dinosaurs offers accurate information in a very simple style without overwhelming the illustrations or ‘dumbing down’. Danny Snell’s illustrations have smiling faces…even the big-toothed Tyrannosaurus Rex appears almost friendly. A beautiful book. Recommended for toddlers and dinosaur fans.

The ABC Book of Dinosaurs [Board book]

The ABC Book of Dinosaurs , Helen Martin and Judith Simpson, ill Danny Snell
ABC Books Harper Collins 2009
ISBN: 9780733324796

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

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

The ABC Book of Christmas

And there in the stable the stable this special baby was born, just as the angel Gabriel had said.

Here is a Christmas picture book with a difference. The story is the real Christmas story of the nativity, retold by Mark Macleod in straightforward, yet lyrical text, at a level accessible for young readers. What makes this version a little different is not the text but the illustrations. Each spread is brought to life by the work of a different illustrator, meaning that each turn of the page brings a fresh perspective and a different illustrative technique. Lovers of Australian picture books will recognise the work of favourite illustrators, including Ann James, Stephen Michael King and Wayne Harris. Back of the book biographies of each illustrator are provided.

A collector’s item which will delight adult lovers of the picture book form, this will equally be enjoyed by children, who will like seeing the different styles of the illustrators’ work. An excellent Christmas gift.

The ABC Book of Christmas

The ABC Book of Christmas, by Mark Macleod
ABC Books, 2009

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

The Wiggles Go Bananas!

The Wiggles Go Bananas! is a collection of Wiggles songs about animals. Some, like ‘Cock-a-doodle-do’ are traditional songs given a wiggly workover, but others are original Wiggle songs. There are songs about monkeys, lions, crocodiles and even Wags the Dog. An extra feature on each opening is a fact box, with information about animals or about the origins of the song. Illustrations are photos on brightly coloured backgrounds. Wiggles members feature ears and noses to match each song. The Wiggles Go Bananas!is a mid-sized robust paperback with glossy cover and pages.

The Wiggles have been entertaining preschoolers for many years. Their songs and rhymes are designed to be easy to sing along with and include actions to get kids up and moving. This collection of songs includes both familiar and perhaps less familiar songs, and will appeal to Wiggles fans. It’s great to see old traditional tales getting a new life too in the irreverent Irish folk song ‘The Dingle Puck Goat’.

The Wiggles Go Bananas!

The Wiggles Go Bananas! The Wiggles
ABC Books 2009
ISBN: 9780733325762

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

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

40 Super Human Body Tricks, by Ruben Meerman

You are the exclusive owner of a highly advanced, super sophisticated and utterly unique human body. There isn’t, and there never will be, another human body exactly like yours. But while you and I and the other 6.7 billion (6 700 000 000) people on the planet all look noticeably different, we are all, in fact, nearly perfectly identical. We share the same master body plan, the same organs, the same types of cells, the same fundamental needs and the same basic abilities. We are all, by far, much more alike than different underneath our skins.

Ruben Meerman, surfing scientist, is back! This time he’s sharing the magic of the human body, with 40 Superhuman Body Tricks. He promises there’ll be no lecturing on eating well and exercising, although admits that a healthier respect for your body may result after reading. There are 40 experiments, aimed to demonstrate some of the marvels of the human body. Experiments are simple and clever and most can be completed without needing parental supervision. On the opposite page to the experiments is the science underpinning it. Discover the location of your own personal blind spot. Learn how to make sugar sweeter than…sugar!

Most people are aware of the importance of science, but for many, the language of science is as foreign as another country’s language. Ruben Meerman seeks to share the passion he has for science by making it as fascinating and easy to understand as possible. He does this both in the language he uses to describe what’s going on (although he also uses the scientific terms) and also helping children to learn by doing. His experiments are noisy and smelly and visually arresting! Perfect! Very little equipment is required for most of the experiments…all you need is your body! Recommended for mid-primary and beyond…but in fact older and younger readers will also enjoy the experiments and the trivia.

The Surfing Scientist: 40 Superhuman Body Tricks, Ruben Meerman
ABC Books 2009
ISBN: 9780733325694

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

The Surfing Scientist: 40 Superhuman Body Tricks

Whose Footprints? by Jeannette Rowe

Jeanette Rowe’s bright simple books are familiar to many readers and pre-readers. Each explores a very simple concept, using repetition to cue responses from young children. In Whose Footprints? the question is repeated on each opening. Sideways flaps open to reveal the animal responsible. Each page is brightly coloured with text in large black letters. Flap colours contrast. Whose Footprints?is a sturdy paperback, designed to withstand repeated readings.

Whose Footprints? follows many other ‘Whose…’ titles from Jeanette Rowe. There have been noses, ears, tails and bellies to find. Each title asks a question and then invites the reader to guess the answer. The brightly-coloured pages and stylised animals introduce young children to various animal characteristics. There are also opportunities for discussion about colours, similarities, differences and more. Great for reading with a child, or for the child to explore on their own. Recommended for the very young.

Whose Footprints? Jeanette Rowe
ABC Books 2009
ISBN: 9780733322587

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

Fearless, by Colin Thompson & Sarah Davis

When the Claybourne-Willments…got Fearless as a little puppy
it seemed a good name for him.
Except Fearless wasn’t.

Fearless is a bulldog with a problem. He might look fearsome to people who don’t know him, but in reality he is scared of everything. He has a big, loving heart, and is a quivering mess whenever anything frightening happens.

But one night Fearless meets a burglar, trying to steal his mum’s handbag. And Fearless manages to live up to his name – even if it is by accident.

Fearless is a gorgeous, whimsically funny book about names, about love and about courage. The text is delightful and the illustrations, by Chrichton Award winning illustrator Sarah Davis, are absolutely gorgeous. Fearless’ facial expressions are especially endearing, and kids will laugh out loud at his antics.

Suitable for children aged 4 to 8, and likely to withstand repeated readings.


Fearless, by Colin Thompson & Sarah Davis
ABC Books, 2009

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

All the Colours of Paradise, by Glenda Millard

Griffin came to the Silk family after the Rainbow Girls: Scarlet, Indigo, Violet, Amber and Saffron, and before Tishkin. And then came Layla, who was not born a Silk, but was sent to comfort them after Tishkin went away.
Perry Angel came last of all. He arrived on the ten-thirty express with a small and shabby suitcase embossed with five gold letters.

Since he came to the Kingdom of Silk, Perry has learned lots of things about life and about friendship, but mostly about love. The various members of the Silk family – Annie and Ben, their children Griffin and the rainbow girls, as well as Nell and Layla – and various friends from around the town, have all shown Perry that he is loved and wanted, and that it’s okay if he doesn’t always want to talk.

One thing Perry does do well is to express his feelings through drawing. So when something terrible happens, and Perry stops drawing, his friends are worried that he might never draw again. One friend in particular, Mr Kadri from the Colour Patch Cafe, understands that sometimes art can do what words can’t. So he presents Perry with all the colours of Paradise, to use as he needs.

All the Colours of Paradise is the fourth book in the award-winning Kingdom of Silk series, and continues the series with the same beauty and poignancy readers have come to expect. Whilst most of the characters are familiar, and the message of unconditional love repeated, the story is not formulaic or predictable, and there are surprises and new elements in this ongoing tale of a special family.

All the Colours of Paradise is a delightful, feel good book with gentle action and real warmth.

Very satisfying.

All the Colours of Paradise (Kingdom of Silk)

All the Colours of Paradise , by Glenda Millard, ill by Stephen Michael King
ABC Books, 2009

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

Mariella and the Stars, by Selena Hanet-Hutchins

Reviewed by Dale Harcombe

In a story vaguely reminiscent of Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are, Mariella is sent to her room because of misbehaviour.
The night the stars fell from the sky
Mariella had gone too far.
(She knew she had, right before Mum said so.)

Having been told she is not allowed to read, Mariella feels sorry for her behaviour. In the dark room she feelssmall and lost and afraid. That is, until she goes to the window and sees the shooting stars shining and twinkling as they fall from the sky. The stars give Mariella an idea. She attaches the glittery, fallen stars to her slippers. This turns them into tap shoes and she starts to dance to the music inside her. But then Mariella comes to realise it’s not fair to keep the starlight magic to herself.

This is a gentle and delightful story about creative use of imagination as Mariella deals with the consequences of her behaviour and learns to think of others. The text is made more attractive by the whimsical illustrations and brilliant use of colour. The starlit night scenes are particularly attractive and effectively convey the magic of the night.

Mariella and the Stars

Mariella and the Stars, Selena Hanet-Hutchins, Illustrated by Michelle Pike
ABC books, 2009
Hardcover $24.99
Age guide 3+

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

Strange Places, by Will Elliott

I’ve been to places that no one else on this planet will ever go. Me, I’ve lived for a short time as a werewolf. As a vampire. As a revolutionary. As a psychic. As a magician. As someone who cannot be hurt by physical force. As someone who can speak to the dead…I have lived as Jesus Christ. I have been he who knows all. You see, all this is true, because, for a while, it was all real.

Will Elliott is a young writer with a big future, having won five literary awards for his debut novel, The Pilo Family Circus . Yet Elliott’s road to publication was even more difficult than that for other debut writers – because at the same time as he developed his writing skills, he was also waging a war with mental illness. In Strange Places Elliott bares all, sharing his very personal tale of struggle with drug dependency, paranoia and psychotic episodes which lead to him ultimately being diagnosed as schizophrenic.

Strange Places is not a light read – the reader is taken inside the author’s mind and life in intimate detail, experiencing his struggles and lows with him – but Elliott’s honesty, humour and chatty first person style make the tale both absorbing and accessible. He does not make excuses for the wrong choices he has made, nor seek either pity or absolution – he simply tells what happened and how it affected him, his family and friends – and where it has left him.

An honest, very readable, book.

Strange Places: A Memoir of Mental Illness

Strange Places: A Memoir of Mental Illness, by Will Elliott
ABC Books, 2009

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