Dead Giveaway, by Janette Brazel

When Ellie and Zac’s Great Grandma Lola dies, the twins hope that she has left some of her fortune to their parents. Things have been tough for them since their Uncle Bert lost all their money in a failed cane-toad stuffing enterprise.

But the twins and the rest of the Hunter clan are disappointed to find that there is no money in the will – just some wierd and mostly useless gifts and a bizarre riddle which must be solved before the missing money can be found and divided up.The fourteen family members gather in Grandma Lola’s house to follow the clues and try to unravel the mystery.

Zac and Ellie love puzzles, and they lead the way in unravelling this one, in spite of crotchety Uncle Bert who thinks children should be neither seen nor heard, and the tensions between various family members.

When everyone else seems to have given up on solving the mystery, the twins persevere and make the vital breakthrough.

Dead Giveaway is a fun mystery for 10 to 12 year old readers, with plenty of chance to solve the pieces of the puzzle. Author Janette Brazel has a fine sense of humour and a great ability to add just the right balance of the bizarre.

Great readng.

Dead Giveaway, by Janette Brazel
Koala Books, 2004

Colossal Machines, by Nick Hughes and Mini Goss

Many animals work to help human beings – elephants, oxen, horses, even dogs. So if dinosaurs were still alive, would they help out too?

Colossal Machines explores this question, in a fun lift the flap format. Each double page spread, with flap, compares the work done by contemporary machinery, with what could be contributed by different dinosaurs. For example, a wrecking-ball’s work could be equally as well done by the bulbous tail of an Ankylosaur.

Combining two favourite subjects with youngsters (especially preschool boys) – dinosaurs and machines – and superbly illustrated by the talented Mini Goss, this clever book is sure to delight three to five year old readers.

Colossal Machines, by Nick Hughes, illustrated by Mini Goss
Koala Books, 2004

Knight Triumphant, by Sally Odgers

Last time he was in Braveria, Simon made a promise to Peggy, the pearly dragon. He vowed to help her find Rifer, the lost Prince of the Dragons. So, instead of helping his stepmother with the spring cleaning, he decides it’s time to head back to Braveria.

Once back in Braveria, however, Simon wonders whether it was such a good idea. Finding Prince Rifer is not easy and devious villain Nasty Nix will stop at nothing to prevent Simon from fulfilling his promise.

The third in the Reluctant Knight Trilogy, Knight Triumphant includes all the favourite characters from the earlier books – Bookerstaff, Princess Becca, Michael the dragonet and Peggy – as well as some new ones. Although fans of the first two books will welcome the publication of the final installment, the book also stands alone, so is fine for those who have not read the first two.

Sally Odgers never fails to deliver great reading. Knight Triumphant is no exception.

Knight Triumphant, by Sally Odgers
Koala Books, 2004

When's My Turn? by Hayley Smithers

Every day when Dad gets home from work, he takes his son to the park to play cricket. And that should be a good thing. Except that every day Dad gets to bat and his son gets to bowl and field.

After a whole week of not getting a turn of batting, the young narrator decides enough is enough. If Dad won’t give him a turn, he won’t go to the park any more.

When’s It My Turn is a delightful new picture book from Koala Books. The concepts of turn taking and father/son bonding are explored in a humorous way, with the first person narration giving a child’s eye view. The bright and comic illustrations of John Yayeh are a perfect complement to to the text of Hayley Smithers.

Great for sharing, When’s My Turn is also suitable for beginning readers, with repetitive text making it easily accessible.

Good fun.

When’s My Turn, by Hayley Smithers, illustrated by John Yahyeh
Koala, 2003

Hair of the Skeleton, by Pamela Freeman

When the residents of Tiger Beach Village claim to be visited by a ghost Jake, Peter and Ruby decide on a stake-out to see if they can catch the ghoul. Their surprise to find that the ‘ghost’ is definitely not dead soon turns to determination to figure out who it is and what they want.

Hair of the Skeleton is the first in the new Network Mysteries series by Pamela Freeman. The young sleuths solve the mysteries they encounter with high technology – robots, biosensors and digital cameras.

With the use of this technology, the stories will appeal to most youngsters, especially gadget-lovers and mystery enthusiasts.

A high-tech, fast paced mystery with a touch of humour.

Hair of the Skeleton, by Pamela Freeman
Koala Books, 2003

Gil's Quest, by Damian Morgan

The epic tale of Gilgamesh, dating from around 2000BC, is the earliest known secular epic. Dealing with themes of man and nature, life and death and friendship and combat, it has intrigued listeners and readers since it was first told.

In Gil’s Quest the story of Gilgamesh is retold in a gripping format suitable for younger readers. Told in the first person voice of Gil himself, the story follows his quest for everlasting life, which pits him against Enki the Shag and takes him to the end of the world to seek the survivor of the Great Flood.

Gil’s Quest will appeal to young readers (aged 10 to 14) with an interest in fantasy, history or just gripping narrative. With an excellent blend of mythical writing style and accessibility to contemporray readers, this is a powerful read.

Gil’s Quest, by Damian Morgan
Koala Books, 2003

Muddle in A Puddle,by Belinda Nadin

When the animals decide to leave the zoo and search for a new home, it is giraffe who leads the way, marching proud and strong. Camel brings up the rear, with the other animals calling to him to keep up.

Soon though, giraffe comes across an obstacle. There is a puddle across their path – a deep, wide puddle, that cannot be crossed. First Giraffe, then Rhinoceros, then Hyana and Meerkat fail to cross the puddle. They are in a muddle. Will camel be able to help them out?

Muddle in a Puddle is a cute new picture book by Belinda Nadin. The story is sweet, with a nice message about the unlikeliness of heroes. Although the rhythm in places seems a little strecthed, kids will love the silliness of the story and the outstanding illustrations of Lloyd Foye, who creates adorable characters and expressions.

A fun picture book.

Muddle in a Puddle, by Belinda Nadin, illustrated by Lloyd Foye
Koala Books, 2003

Vampire Slugs On Callisto, by Jackie French

Sam loves living on Callisto. She and her Dad have been there almost a year, leaving behind the discomforts of Earth, where lots of nasty things can happen. On Callisto everyone gets along, there is no crime and there is always plenty of wonderful food to eat.

Then with the annual Harvest Festival approaching, something strange happens. Little slugs appear on the fruit trees. One day they’re tiny, the next they’ve doubled in size. What’s worse, they’re eating everything in sight – all the trees, all the fruit, even Dad’s pineapple pizza.

What worries Sam the most is that no one is doing anything about them. The adults are too busy preparing for the Harvest Festival to do anything about the slugs. It’s up to Sam and her pingleflug step-cousin Broc to do something about them and save Callisto from destruction.

Vampire Slugs on Callisto is the third book about this delightful planet from award-winning author Jackie French. Although they form a series, each book stands alone and is filled with humour, adventure, and yummy food.

The first Callisto title, Cafe on Callisto, won the Aurealis Award in 2001

Vampire Slugs on Callisto, by Jackie French
Koala Books, 2003

The Black House, by Jackie French

When Barney’s Dad gets funding to conduct his special research, it means a move to the country. The house they move to is huge – and comes complete with a high-grade secruity system and a strange caretaker with a propensity to seem like a prison warder.

The new town might be pretty small, but the people are friendly and Barney quickly makes friends. Dad’s pretty happy with the set up for his research project too. So Barney figures he’d better keep quiet about his reservations. He doesn’t know what is going on, but the house is definitely concealing a secret. There are strange shudders at night, slime seeping through the walls, and other goings-on. Barney’s dreams are filled with wild images that seem real. Still, Barney is totally unprepared for what he finds out – and its ramifications for him. He will soon be the boy who talks to the alien.

The Black House, a new title for bestselling author Jackie French, is a lively combination of mystery, adventure and light humour. A Blue level title in Koala’s Tadpoles series, it is suitable for 9 to 12 year old readers.

The Black House, by Jackie French
Koala Books, 2003

Not Nits, by Lucy Treloar

Gus loves insects. He has a whole shelf full of bugs in jars – he feeds them, gives them names and adores them. When anyone accidentally kills or releases one he is devastated.

So, when Gus find a whole colony of bugs living in his hair, he thinks it’s pretty cool. No way is he going to let Mum kill them with nit shampoo. That would be cruel. But just as Gus is determined to save the nits, Mum is determined to beat them. This is a battle of wills that can have only one winner.

Not Nits is a hilarious story about insects and parents. A Red level Tadpole title from Koala Books, this junior novel is suitable for children aged seven and up, but will appeal to older children too, especially those with reading difficulties requiring easier reads.

Not Nits, by Lucy Treloar, illustrated by John Yahyeh
Koala Books, 2003