'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Friday, 16 November 2018

Review: The Fates Divide

If you thought Book one of Carve the Mark was a rollercoaster, you're in for a treat. The Fates Divide ups the ante then turns everything upside down.

A barbaric war about to consume every planet when Cyra's murderous father, the Shotet leader who was thought to be long dead, escapes from exile to wreak even greater havoc.

All that seemed sure in Carve the Mark crumbles, piece by piece.

Is it possible to escape your fate? What would be the consequences for the universe if you did? Can anyone overcome Lazmet's unconquerable current gift or is the universe doomed?

Where does all of this leave Akos and Cyra?

Thursday, 15 November 2018

Review: Giraffe Problems

What kind of problems might a giraffe have to deal with?

In Jory John's Giraffe Problems, we hear from a giraffe who has lots of problems, or so he feels.

Giraffe thinks his neck is all wrong and it makes him self conscious. He thinks everyone looks at his neck, and he tries to camouflage it, hide it.

Lane Smith's illustrations show the poor giraffe trying everything he can to manage his neck, including covering it with many different ties.

One day, giraffe meets an animal friend whose neck he admires. The odd thing is, the new friend -- a turtle -- wishes he had a neck like giraffe.

The giraffe and turtle compare necks and in the course of their conversation turtle asks giraffe for help.

Meet the Illustrator: Patricia Ward

Describe your illustration style in ten words or less.
Whimsical, contrasting, equal parts darkness and light, reflective, loose, detailed.

What items are an essential part of your creative space?
My glass desk. My ink wells. My numbered drawers, my trolley on wheels and my stereo.

Wednesday, 14 November 2018

Review: What Will I Do When I Grow Up?

What will I do when I grow up? It's a question children love to ponder — and the answer can change by the week. This week, my five-year-old is dreaming of becoming a duck farmer and a botanist.

In this vibrant and contemporary book, Italian artist Margherita Borin takes a walk down the High Street of a town (or Main Street, as we call it in Australia) to visit five different people doing five very different jobs. There's a chef, a builder, a scientist, a teacher and an artist.

Review: Midnight at the Library

Oh my. This book took my breath away. It is so special and so stunning that I welled up with emotion. I collect old books and I love to imagine the journeys some of my books have undertaken, through history and across the world, to land in my possession in this day and time.

This is a picture book that not only sparks imagination, but makes you consider the path a book might take through history, from humble beginnings, across time, across countries, through wars and conflicts, hidden and protected, as a sacred and special artefact.

Tuesday, 13 November 2018

Review: Amal Unbound

Despite being a girl in a small Pakistani village, Amal dreams of becoming a teacher.

But she finds out the hard way that the smallest of incidents can derail dreams. And that life isn't fair. Especially when the local landlord uses his money and power to suffocate hope.

Amal understands there are rules in her world, but she doesn't always realise the cost she might face if she breaks them. Her belief in her rights leads to misfortune after misfortune.

Even when she recognises the dangers, her wish for freedom and justice push her to act, regardless of the consequences.

Aisha Saeed has created an authentic story about what could still be happening in remote Pakistani villages today.

By doing so, she let me feel the chill of absolute dread when Amal's landlord unleashed.

10 Quirky Questions with author Susannah McFarlane


1.What's your hidden talent? 
 I’m not sure. I fear it’s hidden from me as well …

2.Who is your favourite literary villain and why? 
The Cat in the Hat – came in uninvited, completely trashed the house, traumatised the kids (not to mention the fish) – but with what exuberance and joy! And, to give him his due, he did redeem himself with Thing 1 and Thing 2.

Monday, 12 November 2018

Review: Bruno the Boisterous Blue Dog from the Bush

If you’re a fan of Aussie stories filled with Australian lingo and Aussie settings, Bruno the Boisterous Blue Dog from the Bush is for you.

The story is about Bruno the dog and his best mate Bob (the barefoot bushie). Bruno and Bob share a broken down house in the bush. They go everywhere together. They do everything together. They’re best mates.

When they strike it lucky at the races, they head off to see what the rest of Australia has to offer. They experience new places and enjoy the fancy delights of city living. 

Review: The Mulberry Tree

Ten-year-old Immy and her family have moved from Australia to a tiny village in the English countryside to escape personal problems that threaten their family structure.   

Immy’s dad, a GP, is unemployed and suffering from depression after an incident with one of his patients that leaves him bent under the weight of his guilt and regret. Her mother, a surgeon, has taken a job at the local hospital. Immy is starting a new school which she is looking forward to.

It is Lavender Cottage, the house they have rented for a year that is the problem. To Immy, it is the perfect place. But a mystery surrounds the dark and gnarled Mulberry tree with its claw-like branches in the yard, and has for many decades. 

Sunday, 11 November 2018

Review: Tropical Terry

Welcome to Coral Reef City, home to the flashiest, prettiest tropical fish in the entire ocean and to Terry, the blue fish.

Terry is a blue fish, who along with Cilla, the sea crab and Steve, the sea snail spend their days playing games of dodge a dolphin, hide a fish and shark speed. 

But when he asks the tropical fish if they would like to play with them, they inform Terry that their games are stupid and he is dull and boring.

Saturday, 10 November 2018

Review: There's a Baddie Running Through This Book

The baddie in There's a Baddie Running Through This Book is a raccoon, and he's on the run.

Raccoon is chased through the story, along the street, past cars, up and down ladders ... he's everywhere.

The narrative draws readers in, encouraging them to 'Turn the pages, have a look!' and follow the baddie as he tries to escape.

Other characters are part of the backdrop, and though not named, are made part of the story through the illustrations.

Review: Catching Teller Crow


Beth Teller has hovered near her dad ever since her car accident. She can't bring herself to leave until she knows he is okay.

Her dad is on a new case, one his boss hopes will bring him back from his overwhelming grief, but he needs Beth to help him put the pieces together.

A home for challenging children has burnt down. The kids are all safe but a body is found inside. Isobel Catching might know more than she is letting on but she answers questions by telling made-up stories. Or does she?

This enthralling tale swirls between life and death and the real and what is beyond as it explores innocence betrayed and those who are stuck.

It's creepy at times and borders on terrifying if you can read between the lines.