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Tohby Riddle

Allen & Unwin (2012)

ISBN: 978-1-74237-9722

Reviewed by Ross Murray

Unforgotten is Tohby Riddle’s latest book, following My Uncle’s Donkey (2010) and Nobody Owns the Moon (2008). However, his impressive catalogue of publications (including collaborations) goes back to 1989 and includes books for pre-schoolers, cartoon collections, graphic novels, non-fiction, and a novel, The Lucky Ones (2009).

Down from the heavens arrive angels, sweeping through cities all over the earth. They travel so fast their presence is hardly perceived. On train stations, in traffic tunnels, on the top of buildings, they flicker in and out of sight. These angels come “to watch over, and to warm, and to mend”. Read the rest of this entry »

Edited by Paul Collins

Ford Street Publishing (2012)

ISBN: 978-1-921665-58-5

Reviewed by Tehani Wessely

Trust Me Too is the second of the Ford Street cross-genre short story anthologies for young people. Featuring around fifty stories (and some poems and graphica), this is a pretty hefty book, but as almost all the pieces are quite short, it’s not too much to handle.

For the most part, I enjoyed almost every story in this quite long collection. Having said that, this is not an adult-aimed short story collection, and interestingly, I think it doesn’t actually target a particular age group exactly. It doesn’t quite fit as middle grade, as some of the material is quite mature, but for the opposite reason, I wouldn’t put it as straight YA either. Instead, it very much straddles upper primary into secondary, which is clever marketing if the publisher is targeting school libraries!

There are a number of “tie-in” short stories here – I caught works that match the novel worlds of Isobelle Carmody, Sean Williams, Paul Collins and George Ivanoff, although there may have been others. None of these would require prior knowledge of the worlds the stories spring from, but this did add an extra fillip of fun to discovery.

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Jen Banyard

Fremantle Press (2009)

ISBN: 9781921361517

Reviewed by Tehani Wessely (this review was first published in April 2009)

Western Australian publisher Fremantle Press – who brought us Kate McCaffrey’s eloquent young adult novels Destroying Avalon and In Ecstasy, and the excellent science fiction action comedy that is the Hal Spacejock series (by Simon Haynes) – have done it again, this time with a book for a younger audience. Spider Lies is a fantastic little read, with enough to amuse an adult while still being fully accessible and entertaining for a younger reader.

Jen Banyard takes inspiration from a true life experiment by NASA, looking at spiders in space, and twists it just left of centre. Connor is a fan of arachnids, and gets his science class involved in collecting spider colonies for the NASA space project. When the colony goes into space, Connor discovers one spider of the family left behind, so keeps him as a pet. Somehow, Connor also manages to finagle being home alone for the first time ever around the time of the space launch, and this means there’s no one to help when he starts to have strange feelings about being watched, and his elderly neighbour, Millie, begins to see things – enormous bug things… Read the rest of this entry »

Isobelle Carmody

The Legend of Little Fur, book 1

Penguin Books Australia (2005)

ISBN: 9780670040933

Reviewed by Rachel Holkner (this review was first published in February 2008)

The first thing you notice on picking up the first of Isobelle Carmody’s Little Fur series is that it’s fuzzy! The small, hardcover book is bound in a soft velvety cloth which is warm to the feel. The entire book is a delight to touch and read, being small enough to hold in one hand, heavy and solid, and within, superbly laid out. In fact it won an Australian Publishers Association Book Design Award in 2006.

What’s more the contents of the book hold up to this seeming extravagance. Little Fur: The Legend Begins introduces us to the half troll, half elf creature who lives in a magically protected forest close to a city. Little Fur is a healer and uses her skills to cure animals which come to her injured or in sickness. But she has never left her forest, until the day she must seek help across the city to stop humans from burning down trees. Read the rest of this entry »

Kate Forsyth

Pan Macmillan (2005)

ISBN:9780330421935

Reviewed by Rachel Holkner (this review was first published in July 2007)

Kate Forsyth’s Dragon Gold is a novel for younger readers that takes most of the staples of fantasy writing (dragons, princesses, pirates, flying carpets) and smooshes them into a plot that, if nothing else, will prepare the audience for Harry Potter.

Ben wishes for a dog more than anything in the world. After a long and convoluted argument, in which the focus changes from wanting a pet to wanting money, he figures that what he really needs to realise his wish are wizardly powers. A run in with a talking cat enables him, and Ben, younger brother Tim and best friend James, set out to find some dragon’s gold. The plot twist here hinges on a grammatical error that may be missed by young readers. Ben inadvertently wishes for dragon gold, whereby one appears and whisks away James’ younger sister. Read the rest of this entry »

Rowena Cory Daniells

The Lost Shimmaron, book 3

ABC Books (2008)

ISBN: 9780733320286

Reviewed by Lorraine Cormack (the review was first published in February 2008)

The Evil Overlord is volume three in a seven volume series of children’s novels. Each novel is written by a different, well known Australian author, and each novel tells a different story of a Shimmaron’s search for rescue. The Shimmaron are energy beings who crash landed on Earth a long time ago. The force of the crash scattered them through time and across different worlds. Disguised in different forms, they call to the children of Amethyst to help them reunite in Lake Shimmer. Only when enough of the Shimmaron have gathered there will they be able to rebuild their ship and escape Earth.

This was a lively and enthusiastic tale of Lincoln and Sam’s efforts to rescue a Shimmaron from a land controlled by an evil overlord. Lincoln and Sam have just moved to Amethyst, and have barely had time to see their new home before they are swept away to another world on their rescue mission. Sam and Lincoln regularly play “Mage Wars” role playing games and initially think this mission will be little different from those games. Read the rest of this entry »

Margo Lanagan

The Lost Shimmaron, book 2

ABC Books (2007)

ISBN: 978073332079

Reviewed by Lorraine Cormack (this review was first published in January 2008)

The Singing Stones is volume two in a seven volume series of children’s novels. Each novel is written by a different, well-known, Australian author, and each novel tells a different story of a Shimmaron’s search for rescue. The Shimmaron are energy beings who crash landed on Earth a long time ago. The force of the crash scattered them through time and across different worlds. Disguised in different forms, they call to the children of Amethyst to help them reunite in Lake Shimmer. Only when enough of the Shimmaron have gathered there will they be able to rebuild their ship and escape Earth.

In The Singing Stones, Lawrence and Jean are swept away by a willy-willy while fossicking for rocks with their grandfather, and find themselves in the land of Scintillon. The land runs on the power of magical jewels, and parts of it are being devastated by the thefts of jewels by the ruthless Rose twins. Lawrence and Jean slowly come to realise that in order to do what they have been called to Scintillon to do – rescue a Shimmaron who is disguised as a power jewel – they must also defeat the Roses and save Scintillon itself. Read the rest of this entry »

Tansy Rayner Roberts

The Lost Shimmaron, book 1

ABC Books (2007)

ISBN: 9780733320262

Reviewed by Lorraine Cormack (this review was first published in July 2007)

This is a simple and charming children’s book, well pitched for the young readers it’s aimed at. I enjoyed it too, and adults in the mood for a very straightforward story which will only take them a couple of hours to read could do much worse than pick up Seacastle.

Nick has been sent out to find his annoying little brother, Thomas, who’s managed to wander off somewhere just before dinner. Thomas is sitting on the edge of Lake Shimmer, thinking about why he can’t seem to learn to swim well. After Nick finds him, he throws himself into the Lake to test a theory. Nick of course has to leap in to save him, and the next thing the brothers know, they’re in an underwater world. Habitat is plagued by increasingly dangerous seaquakes. Nick and Thomas need both to save Habitat and find a way back to their own world.

This is the first book in a series of (at least) seven, each written by a different Australian author. All are fairly well known in Australia, experienced and talented, and it’s likely the other books in the series will be of similar quality to Seacastle. I suspect each will be a stand-alone story, like this one, tied together by the over-arching theme of the series: when their spaceship crashed on earth, the Shimmaron were thrown into different worlds and times, and were forced to take on different shapes. They’re trying to re-gather in Lake Shimmer, in Australia, as they need to be together to rebuild their spaceship and escape. And only young children can hear their pleas for help. Read the rest of this entry »

Lian Tanner

The Keepers, Book 1

Allen & Unwin (2010)

ISBN: 978-1-74237-157-3

Reviewed by Tehani Wessely

Welcome to the city of Jewel, where children are coddled and overprotected to the point of effective imprisonment. In a place where this has happened for decades, impatience and boldness are considered very wrong, and adults are almost entirely weak and ineffectual. Goldie Roth finds herself in a highly unusual situation when the ruler of the city, the Protector, tries to loosen the ties on the young by releasing them early from the guardchains of childhood, only to have an explosion suddenly destroy the fragile steps she had begun to take. The Fugleman, the city’s spiritual guide and leader of the Blessed Guardians – who ensure the safety of children (whether they need taking care of or not) – has his own agenda, one that is not at all on the same wavelength as the Protector’s.

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Simon Haynes

Bowman Press (2011)

ISBN: 978-1-877034-07-7

Reviewed by Guy Salvidge

Perth writer Simon Haynes has been writing Hal Spacejock novels for years, but this is his first venture into Young Adult territory. Hal Junior: The Secret Signal is a spin-off from the other Spacejock series, featuring an intrepid young adventurer by the name of Hal Junior. The nature of the relationship between Hal Junior and the Hal Spacejock of the earlier novels isn’t specified, but enough hints are dropped that the reader should be able to figure out who Captain Spacejock really is. The Secret Signal is intended for readers in the 9-12 age group, although it reads fine as an adult piece too. The book is a brisk read and I can recommend it wholeheartedly to younger readers.

We open with Hal Junior piloting the spaceship Phantom X1, only the spaceship is really a paper plane. He does live on a space station though, in an unspecified future time where tigers are extinct and paper is a historical oddity. Hal Junior is supposed to be doing an assignment for his robotic teacher, but he ends up in trouble straight away when he almost loses his work (the plane) down the recycling hatch. After some amusing buffoonery, Hal and his friend Stinky retrieve the plane by reversing the space station’s gravity. This is the first in a series of largely self-inflicted trials that Hal Junior undertakes in The Secret Signal, and it’s all good fun.

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