The Tomorrow Book, by Jackie French & Sue Degennaro

That’s REAL LIFE, your royal highness,’ said the butler kindly.
‘Well…’ said the little prince. “I think real life could be improved.’

The little prince loves reading the books in the palace library, but somehow the real world never seems as good as he imagines. So, when his parents leave him in charge, he and his friends start to change the world using the ideas from the books in the palace library. Together, they believe, the world can be perfect –

The Tomorrow Book is a wonderful tale of one child’s quest to make the world a better place by reducing pollution, recycling and using solar power. The use of a fairy tale structure is cute, giving a gentle message about the difference that could be made to our world by action towards positive transformation. Printed on paper from sustainable plantations, and with the art using recycled materials for collage, this is a gorgeous book with an important message.

The Tomorrow Book

The Tomorrow Book, by Jackie French and Sue Degennaro
Angus & Robertson, 2010
ISBN 9780732289393

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

The Complete Adventures of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie, by May Gibbs

One very hot night, when the Cicadas were singing so loudly that Snugglepot couldn’t hear his father snoring, he and Cuddlepie crept out of bed and out of the house.
“Where are you going?” asked Cuddlepie.
“To see the Humans,” said Snugglepot.
“Only in the distance,” pleaded Cuddlepie. Then they began their journey.

Since their first appearance in 1918, the adventures of gumnut babies Snugglepot and Cuddlepie have delighted readers of all ages. Images of the pair have also been widely loved.

This new edition brings all three volumes of their adventures together in one volume, with the original illustrations. Collectors and adults who have loved the tales in the past will be delighted to have them anew, and younger readers may enjoy the chance to discover them for the first time.

In paperback format, this would make a great gift for a young Aussie reader.

The Complete Adventures of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie

The Complete Adventures of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie, by May Gibbs
This edition Angus & Robertson, 2010

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

Horse Mad Whispers, by Kathy Helidoniotis

‘Mum. Mum!’
I sat bold upright in bed, the sound of my own voice echoing in my room. I was breathing hard. There was sweat on my forehead and my favourite nightie, the one that said I heart horses, stuck damply to my chest.
I’d had it again. The nightmare.
It was always the same but never any less frightening. The black horse would scream, his hard body would lash and twist and his silver shoes would flash like a spotlight in my face, blinding me. I’d feel the terror and then the pain and then I’d be ripped from sleep in a tangle of sheets and sticky hair.

Horse Mad Whispers opens at night, with Ashleigh Miller experiencing what has become a familiar nightmare. But even awake, she struggles to find a way through the accident that left her injured and a horse in danger of being put down. Worse still, she’s scared she may never be able to ride a horse again. Not just because of her injuries, but because she’s lost her nerve. All she ever wanted to do was go to Linley, where horseriding is part of the curriculum. Now she’s there and it’s not quite the dream she thought it would be. It’s hard being away from home and her friends, Becky and Pree, even though she’s making new friends at boarding school. There are bullies there, just like there were at home. She’s not ridden Honey for weeks and not everyone has forgiven her for the accident.

Ashleigh is now in Year 7 and is boarding at a school where horses board too. Horse skills are taught as part of the curriculum as well as being extracurricular. Ashleigh has to recover from her injuries, adjust to the new school and it’s particular challenges, deal with a hated and hating roommate and more. She’s discovered that getting what you most wanted, isn’t always quite the dream she imagined it would be. She also begins to see the world a little though the eyes of others, moving beyond the egocentricity of childhood. Learning more about horses in general, and her horse Honey in particular, helps her to also learn more about the people around her. She learns to look behind their words, to see where they’re coming from. There are plenty of horsey details for the horse-mad reader, but plenty also for those interested in realistic fiction for the transitioning-to-teen agegroup. Recommended for upper-primary readers.

Horse Mad Whispers (Horse Mad S.)

Horse Mad Whispers , Kathy Helidoniotis
Angus & Robertson 2010
ISBN: 9780732289997

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

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

Howzat! by Brett Lee & Michael Panckridge

‘Hey!’ Georgie waved to me from across the quadrangle after school. I was heading out to the oval for our first cricket practice for the season. ‘Have you heard yet?’ she yelled.
I knew what she was talking about. The MCG cricket camp. The letters were being sent out this week. Every day I’d raced home to check the letter box but there’d been nothing. Jimbo hadn’t got anything either, which made me feel slightly better. I wondered about Scott Craven, but I wasn’t going to ask him. Besides, as long as I didn’t know the letters had arrived, there was a chance that mine was still coming.

Howzat! is two books in one: Book 4: Toby Jones and the Timeless Cricket Match and Book 5: Toby Jones and the Clash with Father Time. Each is an instalment in the Toby Jones series. Toby Jones is a mad keen cricketer. He’s also a soak for cricketing facts. But more than that, he’s discovered that he’s a time traveller and can travel to any cricket game recorded in Wisden’s Cricketers’ Almanack. Time travel is awesome, allowing Toby to travel to some of the most famous cricket games in history. But there are others who also want to travel, and not all of them are respectful of the rules of time travel. In ‘Toby Jones and the Timeless Cricket Match’ Toby travels backwards and forwards, including to a cricket game that he could never have imagined. In ‘Toby Jones and The Clash with Father Time’, Toby’s troubles only get worse. Everything he does seems to have consequences for those close to him. His mentor Jim tries to help him, but sometimes Jim’s help is not enough. Toby is on his own.

Howzat! (Toby Jones) is a wild ride. On one level there’s the adventure that every aspiring cricketer experiences as they improve in skills. New opportunities present themselves. Cricket is a cruel game, where a momentary lapse in concentration or a single ill-timed shot can see a batter fail. Bowlers have similar challenges, they are only as good as their last ball. Howzat! (Toby Jones) is full of cricketing facts and figures, terms and stories. Even as the story of Toby’s cricket progresses, a wilder adventure is evolving. The threads run parallel, both requiring Toby to grow and develop as both a player and a person. In any team there are times when there are rules to be followed and times when instinct and self-knowledge take over. Recommended for cricket-lovers and for those enjoying a wild adventure through time.

Howzat! , Brett Lee and Michael Panckridge
Angus & Robertson 2009
ISBN: 9780732288389

Howzat! (Toby Jones)

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

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

The Whisperer, by Fiona McIntosh

He sighed. ‘I heard him again.’
‘The Whisperer…I’ve got to help him.’
‘What?’ Tess exclaimed. ‘You don’t even know who he is. Or where he is!’ She put a hand on his arm. ‘Griff, you don’t even know if this is something in your imagination.’

Griff has long had a special, secret ability: he can hear what other people are thinking. But now this ability is taking a strange turn, with Griff hearing cries for help, and even holding conversations, with someone he has never seen or met. Griff knows he must find and help the Whisperer, even though he has problems of his own.

Griff and his friend Tess, and her collection of magical creatures, are on the run from a greedy circus master who wants to use them both for money making schemes. If they stop to help the stranger who whispers in Griff’s head, they risk their freedom, even their lives. But Griff feels he has no choice.

Meanwhile Lute, the Crown Prince of the realm, is under attack from his Uncle Janko, who wants to seize the throne by murdering both the King, Lute’s father, and Lute himself. Lute is on the run, in the company of bandits. When Lute and Griff meet, both their lives will change forever.

The Whisperer is a wonderful fantasy read set in a realm sprinkled with magical creatures and magical forces, where unlikely heroes come together to ensure the triumph of good over evil. There is plenty of action, with both Lute and Griff, and their respective companions, on the run and in danger for most of the book.

Suited for readers aged 9 to 12, and perhaps a little older, this is a riveting fantasy read.

The Whisperer

The Whisperer, by Fiona McIntosh
Angus & Robertson, and imprint of Harper Collins, 2009

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

The Donkey Who Carried the Wounded, by Jackie French

For a moment he thought he had been hit himself. In the head maybe, that would be it. For there it was, chomping the grass like its life depended on it.
A flaming donkey.

When Jack Simpson lands at Gallipoli, his job is to carry the wounded away from the battle with his fellow stretcher bearers. But when both stretchers and bearers are scarce, Jack wishes he had a donkey to carry the wounded. When he does find a scared, scrawny donkey, who he names Duffy, Simmo sets to work, carrying the wounded to safety. The partnership of man and donkey starts as a practical way to help the wounded, but it is soon also a deep bond between the two, and a pairing which will become a part of Australian history.

The Donkey Who Carried the Wounded is a wonderful children’s novel which focuses on a well-known piece of Australian history. The story of Simpson and his Donkey has been retold many times, but this version offers the dual perspectives of both the man and his donkey friend, as well as occasional chapters from the viewpoint of other characters, including several chapters focussing on Richard Henderson, the New Zealand soldier who took over Simpson’s work after he was killed.

This is history which is accessible for young readers, built on a well researched base and fictionalised in an interesting format.

The Donkey Who Carried the Wounded: The Famous Story of Simpson and His Donkey - a True Anzac Legend

The Donkey Who Carried the Wounded, by Jackie French
Angus & Robertson, 2009
ISBN 9780732288396

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

Also by Jackie French

The Camel Who Crossed Australia (2008)
A Rose for the ANZAC Boys (2008)
Macbeth and Son (2006)

Out of the Blue, by Michael Panckridge and Pam Harvey

Sean Williams woke with a start. He sat up quickly and looked around his dark bedroom. There was nothing. The house was quiet. His clock read 1.35am. It was too early for the garbage men or a milk truck or any sort of delivery van, so what had woken him up?

Sean slid out of his bed and padded over to his window, pushing the curtain aside so he could see out. Suddenly, he saw what had made him wake up like that. The sky was lit with flashes as if a whole heap of meteors were cascading to Earth. The bright light must have come through a crack in the curtains and hit him in the face. As Sean watched, half a dozen more flashes shot through the dark and disappeared. The sky returned to normal.

Teasdale is not the sort of place where unusual things happen very often, so there is some excitement when bright lights are sighted in the night sky. The resident eccentric, who claims a previous alien abduction experience is quite excited. But for Sean, his sister and her friends, it is the beginning of a mystery. Each of the characters investigates in a slightly different way, but each piece contributes to solving the puzzle. At the same time there are other puzzles. What’s up with Gabby? Why is she so grumpy? What is the strange object Sean found, and why are the UFOSITE people acting so suspiciously. And then there’s the abandoned shooting range. These holidays are going to be like no other.

Sean is younger brother to Hannah but is also friends with her friends, Gabby, Angus and ED. They have the kind of freedom to explore that is remembered by many adults but often not available to children of today. This freedom allows them to explore and investigate while still retaining the security of their individual families. Michael Panckridge and Pam Harvey keep the families in the background, but ensure that it is clear that the children operate from a safe base. All treat the local eccentric, Byron Watts, with respect, despite some doubts regarding his claims. Sean is the nominal main character, but there are plenty of insights from the other characters. Teasdale, the setting is a small inland town in the bush and it’s easy to imagine it anywhere along the east or south coast. Recommended for mid- upper primary readers, particularly lovers of mystery.

Out of the Blue

Out of the Blue, Michael Panckridge and Pam Harvey
Angus & Robertson 2009
ISBN: 9780207200601

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


review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

Sprite Downberry, by Nette Hilton

Sprite Downberry groaned. She felt an inside sagging, like her stomach had just hitched a ride south.
‘I don’t want to,’ she said.
Her mother held out one lovely, long-fingered, scarlet-tipped hand to show the baby diamond-backed carpet snake that twined, tiny and perfect, around her wrist.
‘Why not?’
‘I don’t think Ms Bloome will like it,’ Sprite said.
She should have said Ms Bloome would definitely not like it and she was sure there were rules about bringing snakes to school. Especially snakes that weren’t in a box or a cage or whatever it was you should take a snake to school in.

Sprite and her family live out of town in a old farmhouse. It’s not fancy, but it’s home. At least it was. Now Dad has gone to the coast and doesn’t look like coming back any time soon. School is horrible. Sprite’s former friend, Katie, has taken up with the intimidating Madeleine and together they are making sure everyone else steers clear of her too. Sunny, Sprite’s mum is sad and unpredictable and her ability to care for Sprite and her little brother, Mozz, is affected. Sprite tries her best to restore her mother to happiness, but it’s a task beyond her. Sunny needs Dad. Mozz needs Dad. Sprite needs Dad, perhaps most of all. Sprite’s troubles escalate as she tries to find Dad, and has to decide who to trust. Along the way, she gains some perspective on the bullies at school.

Sprite Downberry paints a picture of a family in crisis. Adults may see the big picture, the long term outcomes, but for children caught in the web of their parents’ distress, their world is much smaller, more immediate. Their world is measured in meals and clean clothes, minutes and days. Mozz is in many ways still a baby, dealing in concrete concepts. Sprite is a responsible big sister, a quiet character, struggling with bullying at school, her father’s inexplicable absence and her mother’s worsening illness. The third person intimate viewpoint brings the reader close to Sprite, while still allowing them to understand more than she does. Sprite manages the only way she can, the way she has done in the past. She is resourceful and adaptive, fallible and naïve. Her physical and emotional journey is exhausting but ultimately liberating. Sunny’s deteriorating mental health is sensitively depicted, and the reactions of outsiders show some of the extra challenges families must face. Recommended for upper primary readers, particularly girls.

Sprite Downberry

Sprite Downberry, Nette Hilton
Angus & Robertson 2008
ISBN: 9780732285487

Pete the Sheep, by Jackie French & Bruce Whatley

‘That sheep-sheep is nothing but a troublemaker!’ yelled Ratso.
‘He has to go!’ cried Big Bob.
‘Too right!’ shouted Bungo, who never said much.
‘If Pete goes, I go!’ said Shaun.
‘That suits us fine!’ yelled the other shearers.

The new shearer, Shaun, doesn’t have a sheepdog, like the other shearers do. Instead he has a sheep-sheep, Pete. And Pete the Sheep is nor ordinary sheep. He wins over the sheep, but not the dogs or the other shearers. And soon Shaun and Pete are out work – until Pete has an idea.

Pete the Sheep is a hilarious book, with a funny storyline and comic illustrations which will have readers of any age giggling. First published in 2004, it has been rereleased in a sturdy hardcover edition.

From the award-winning team who created the bestselling Diary of a Wombat, Pete the Sheep is a must have book.

Pete the Sheep, by Jackie French, illustrated by Bruce Whatley
This edition Angus and Robertson, 2008

The paperback edition of Pete the Sheep is available from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

Hat Trick, by Brett Lee & Michael Panckridge

‘Okay. Here’s the equation. Listen up. Six balls to go. Nine runs to win. Can they do it? Jono, check your field. Toby, are you ready?’ he said to me.
Mr Pasquali was excited. Boy, does he love his cricket. He is our cricket coach, and our class teacher too. Everyone wanted Mr Pasquali as their class teacher. Even the Year 3s were talking about him and hoping that they’d get him when they got to Year 6. And if you were mad about cricket – like I was – then his class was the place to be. Mr Pasquali had a way of bringing cricket into most of the subjects we did.

Toby Jones is cricket mad. Luckily so is his father. And his teacher. Even his little sister, Natalie likes cricket, although she mostly plays sock cricket in the hall. A trip to the MCG introduces Toby and his friends to a little library full of cricketing books, including ‘Wisden Cricketers’ Almanacks’. Toby also meets Jim, a mysterious old man who introduces Toby to the wonders – and dangers – of time travel. With the help of Wisden and an old poem, Toby can travel back to any of the cricket games detailed in the books. As Toby learns more about time travel he and his team, Riverwall, begin the season’s play. Each chapter ends with a cricketing anecdote. While these do not related directly to the chapter they end, each reveals a statistic, a record, or conditions/circumstances of a particular game.

Hat Trick combines the first three Toby Jones time travel adventures into the one book. This makes it about as thick as a Wisden Almanack. Add to that cricketing tips from Brett Lee, Toby’s interview with Andrew Symonds, scorecards from several memorable cricket matches and the Riverwall season, and this is one heck of a book! Toby and his friends are in Year 6 and play in the Under 13 competition for Riverwall. Each title within Hat Trick tells part of Toby’s adventure with time travel. Other themes explored include the changing nature of friendship, competition and sportsmanship. Cricket fans will enjoy the blow-by-blow description of some of the local games and the revisiting of some of cricket’s most famous matches. The adventure moves quickly and although Toby is clearly the main character, other characters are given important roles to play and are fully realised. The three novels included here were initially released as individual titles: Toby Jones and the Magic Cricket Almanack (2003), Toby Jones and the Secret of the Missing Scorecard (2004), and Toby Jones and the Mystery of the Time-Travel Tour’(2005). There are two further titles in the Toby Jones series: Toby Jones and the Timeless Cricket Match, and Toby Jones and the Clash with Father Time.’ Recommended for mid- to upper-primary readers, particularly cricket fans.

Hat Trick, Brett Lee & Michael Panckridge
Angus & Robertson 2008
ISBN: 9780732288372