Deadly D & Justice Jones: Rising Star (Book 2) – David Hartley and Scott Prince


Deadly D & Justice Jones: Rising Star – David Hartley and Scott Prince

Magabala Books

September 2014

ISBN: 9781922142504

Paperback 192 p.

Middle Primary

RRP $12.99


Deadly D and his friend Justice Jones are back again in another deadly adventure – this time not only with the footy flavour but an alien angle as well. David Hartley and Scott Prince have teamed up once more to provide Middle to Upper primary students, particularly boys but also all NRL lovers, another terrifically engaging read.

Deadly D has a curse, secret to everyone except his mum and his best bro, Justice. When he gets angry he turns into a huge hulking man with great physical strength and skills. That’s how he came to be playing for the Broncos alongside his heroes like Jonathan Thurston and Ben Barba.  Ordinarily just eleven year old Dylan, recently relocated to Brisbane with his mum, going to school and mucking around with his mate,  on weekends Dylan becomes Deadly D, a fast-rising top league player attracting much attention from fans and media. One particularly unsavoury newspaper reporter however seems to know more than others, and is continually harassing Deadly. Fortunately, he meets with a very satisfying end after some threatening moments.

Meanwhile, Deadly and Justice are less than enthused when their rather eccentric and footy mad teacher ,Mr B, sets a group task of making a billy cart and puts the two boys with new girl Taylor Niela. Both boys find her pretty but standoff-ish and snooty, though remarkably knowledgeable about physics and the scientific way to design the fastest billy cart ever.

They temporarily forget their chagrin over this however, and the whole class is ecstatic when they win the school attendance prize – a day trip to Dreamworld with the Queensland State of Origin team. The day starts off with a greeting at the Indigenous centre, followed by some huge fun in the waterpark – with the two authors making the most of opportunities to poke some gentle fun at some of the Origin heroes. Who would have thought that big Sam Thaiday would be afraid of heights and almost chicken out of going down the Wedgie waterslide, whimpering for his mum?  Sam’s resulting comical wedgie of his canary yellow speedos will give many readers a good chuckle.

In the midst of all the excitement, Deadly and Justice see stuck-up Taylor sneaking into the dingo enclosure to disappear underground mysteriously. When they follow her, they find out why she seems so different, how it connects with Deadly and his curse and how Deadly can help others in a really significant way, albeit at a cost to himself.

As with the first book, this is an easy to read and fun book which will engage many reluctant readers from around 9 years upwards. Hartley and Prince are onto a winning formula here and hopefully, we can expect to see more from them.

The One and Only Jack Chant – Rosie Borella


The One and Only Jack Chant – Rosie Borella



Australian Pub.:

March 2014


Allen & Unwin


A & U Children


Young adult fiction

Suitable for ages:


RRP $15.99

The One and Only Jack Chant

Amber has finished school and her friends have all left town – scattered to universities and other places but somehow Amber is just not sure what she wants to do or where she wants to go. Biding time and wanting to earn some money while she decides, Amber does a three month training as a carer for the elderly and is able to secure a job in the local nursing home. Tranquil Banks (or Tranquil Blanks to locals) has only been open for a year and so the facility has been a welcome addition to the community and people are happy knowing their elderly residents are being cared for by professionals.

However, Amber shortly realises that the philosophy of the facility’s owner/manager Mrs Ingersoll is not always aligned to the best interests of her senior citizen residents – nor is she supportive or even appreciative of her hard-working staff.

Amber enjoys the work and is very capable and compassionate with her charges but is baffled by both their references to a mysterious ‘Jack’ and then her own meeting with this strange boy who looks like he’s from another place and time. As is revealed, Jack is indeed from another time, having suffered at a tragic accident at the very same location of the new Tranquil Banks over eighty years previously.

When Amber’s much-loved elderly neighbour Vera is unwillingly forced into the nursing home by her family, it is Amber and Jack who join forces to support her in her final requests. Jack’s mysterious calling to this place and connection with the residents is revealed in the process.

Curiously, this is another recently received review book which has resonated on a personal level for me given my mother’s situation in a very similar nursing home and at times, this made me feel like slapping Mrs Ingersoll, the owner, sharply :-) –  I was heartily pleased to see her outcome and the initiative shown by Amber to take the nursing home to a new and improved future.

As Rosie Borella’s first novel this is both competently and engagingly written with deft touches of humour as well as pathos. Described as a ‘coming-of-age- story, it is that and more as Amber discovers more about herself, the elderly and others as well as her path in life. It is certainly insightful into a sadly too common treatment of our elderly by some, and the saving compassion of others to provide our older people with a dignified, comfortable and happy twilight. The sweet romance between Amber and the enigmatic Jack is delightful and readers will relish the interaction between the two.  Readers will also no doubt empathise with Amber’s somewhat turbulent relationship with her parents – a common theme for sixteen year olds everywhere.

Highly recommended for Upper Primary/Lower Secondary with particular appeal to girls.

Emilio: Through My Eyes – Sophie Masson


Emilio: Through My Eyes – Sophie Masson



Australian Pub.:

June 2014


Allen & Unwin


A & U Children


Children’s fiction

Suitable for ages:


 RRP $15.99

Emilio: Through My Eyes

Sophie Masson continues the excellent work in this series by providing readers with an action-packed and vivid account of one boy’s experience in Mexico City. Emilio Lopez lives with his mother, a moderately successful businesswoman, in one of the world’s most dangerous cities. Rife with crime, conflict and ongoing raging drug wars, Mexico City is a place of stark contrasts between the have’s and have-not’s, the criminals and the law-abiding citizens and the guilty and the innocent.

Kidnapping for ransom is an increasingly used tactic by drug gangs particularly in this city. When Emilio’s mother is kidnapped purely on the basis of her upcoming partnership with an American company, their family is plunged into intense despair and a frightening nightmare. Working closely with the family, the police and a sympathetic liaison officer, support the family as they work against the clock to save their loved one.

Emilio is an engaging character with a strength and determination that is both mature and admirable. The warmth of his family is a bulwark to his distress in this awful episode of his young life.

Not so graphic nor confronting as to be disturbing, but realistic enough to impress on young readers the dangers faced by other children in less fortunate circumstances, this novel would shape the reader’s understanding of the conflicts experienced in other countries. Further, there will be some students who have come from similar situations for whom this novel will resonate. Caution would be advised before sharing this with some who may find it too strikingly traumatic in an echo of their own personal experiences.

Additionally, readers are introduced to the vibrant and colourful Mexican culture and traditions, enhancing their world view (connecting to the Australian Curriculum in the Literature strand as well as Geography).

Allen & Unwin have provided excellent teaching notes here and a book trailer here. There is also a video interview with Sophie Masson here.

This is #4 in the ‘Through My Eyes’ series conceived by Lyn White and a portion of the proceeds goes to UNICEF. While I have not read others in the series, if they are of this calibre, I believe they would all be a very worthy addition to your shelves for Upper Primary to Lower Secondary.

Celia and Nonna – Victoria Lane/Kayleen West


Celia and Nonna – Victoria Lane/Kayleen West

ISBN 978925000603 (hardback) 978192000601 (paperback)

September 2014

Ford St Publishing

RRP $24.95/$14.95

Ages 4+


Some very apt books have come my way in the last week or so and this is one of them. This gentle and loving story of a little girl and her much-loved Nonna, and the changes that occur when Nonna’s memory starts to fail is so very pertinent to our family at the present time.

It is difficult for little ones to understand that aging family members cannot always remember things, or indeed that they may change where they live. On Friday we celebrated my mother’s 88th birthday and at times it is tricky for the two youngest great-grandchildren to understand why Nanny now lives in the place she does, or why she doesn’t remember everything.

Celia loves sleeping over at her Nonna’s place. She always has a fuss made of her and she and Nonna cook together and play special games, but when Nonna starts to forget things, locks herself out of the house and so on, Nonna moves to a special place where people can help to keep her safe. There is no room for Celia to sleep over any more and nowhere to cook – but there is room to put lots of drawings up on walls of the fun things that are special memories. In just the same way, Miss Just-Turned-Five spends much time creating beautiful artwork for her great-grandmother, just to make sure Nanny knows how much she is loved.

It was difficult for me to read this without emotion because of the intensely personal circumstances but this is a superb book to share with little people who are facing changes in their family due to aging, dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.

The text and illustrations are simple, gentle and suitably engaging for a young audience – the endpapers are truly gorgeous (many of my friends and students know about my rapture over endpapers!).

Highly recommended for home and library shelves for sharing with small people from around 4 and up.


Check out Kayleen’s website and Victoria’s here.

Mr Chicken Lands on London – Leigh Hobbs


Mr Chicken Lands on London – Leigh Hobbs



Australian Pub.:

July 2014


Allen & Unwin


A & U Children


Picture books

Suitable for ages:

4-8 (or 80!)


Forget Michael Palin or any other famous world-tripper for your armchair travels! Mr Chicken is back and after his famous trip to Paris, is ready to take readers on a new and thrilling encounter with his favourite city of all – London.  His exciting landing on London brought to mind that wonderful episode of ‘the Queen’ parachuting into the Olympics.

Only the suave and sartorially elegant Mr Chicken would be capable of upstaging H.M. Queen Elizabeth, being more a drawcard in the Tate Gallery than the exhibited artwork and causing passersby in Trafalgar Square to look upwards wondering ‘Who’s that guy up there with Mr Chicken?’.

Leigh Hobbs is consistently an unequalled hit with his audience, no matter which of his characters, and there is something particularly endearing about Mr Chicken with his ineffable ability to blend in effortlessly in any company, whether distinguished or lowly. He so completely sets the tone for all that is deemed elegant and socially desirable.

For young readers this is a terrific way to show them vicariously the highlights of that great metropolis which is London with its long history and famous icons.  The vibrant colours and superb facial expressions of Mr Chicken as well as his adoring public are just as engaging as in  the previous trip to Paris.

I have been a chicken devotee for many years and admit that all my chookies have had fantastic personalities but none that could hold a candle to the inimitable Mr Chicken.

Highly recommended for readers 3 and up – who will no doubt look forward to the next exciting adventure!  There is so much to envy in someone whose talent extends not only to the writing of engaging stories but also the outstanding illustrations – brilliant Mr Hobbs!

Visit Leigh Hobb’s website here and stay posted for an upcoming blog interview with Leigh Hobbs soon!


Sexts, Texts & Selfies: how to keep your children safe in the digital space – Susan McLean


Sexts, Texts & Selfies: how to keep your children safe in the digital space – Susan McLean

Penguin Australia

May 2014

ISBN 9780670077885



Digital Citizenship is a particular topic for me at present so this book came along in a very timely space.

Easy to read with sensible straightforward advice for parents of children from pre-schoolers to teens, the contents cover all aspects from cyber safety to addiction.

Should parents be not very ‘tech’ minded there are useful explanations of various programs, apps and digital spaces as well as an extensive glossary.  A final chapter of websites for additional information and advice is also a practical and useful extension to the commonsense approach throughout the book. Chapters include:  Your Child’s Digital Reputation, What are Children Doing Online?, Cyberbullying – the Survival Guide and  Sexts & Selfies – What Will They Think of Next?

Recently ACMA (Australian Media and Communications Authority) published its most recent snapshot of young people online, stating that the the numbers of young people online has doubled since 2009 and offers many strategies for managing your children’s digital citizenship. Read more here.

This book strongly advocates parents to take charge of their children’s digital well-being – just as they do with their physical and emotional care. In my opinion, this is a book for you to promote heavily to your parent community and make available in your Parent Resource collection.  Susan McLean began her journey into Digital Citizenship as a member of the Victoria Police Department and an investigation into cyber bullying back in 1994. Since then she has worked diligently to educate both kids and adults in this increasingly more complex cyberspace.

“The perceived anonymity of the internet gives many young people a sense of bravado, allowing them to engage in behaviours that they would not consider in the real world. Most kids think they know it all..that they won’t make a poor choice and they will be able to sort out the good from the bad. Kids don’t always realise that making a poor choice online can be catastrophic, that they can’t undo what they did, nor can they erase it. They do not understand that once you press the button to send, enter or upload, it is almost impossible to erase. There is no ‘undo’ button in cyberspace.”

Highly Recommended for both parents and teachers.

Man Made Boy – Jon Skovron



Man Made Boy – Jon Skovron


Australian Pub.:November 2013

Publisher:Allen & Unwin

Imprint:A & U Children

RRP $19.99



This is a coming-of-age novel with a difference, described as ‘hilarious, romantic and wildly imaginative’ and it is all that indeed.

Boy is the son of Frankenstein’s Monster and his Bride and as you can imagine this is not a family that could easily fit into a normal human suburban life. Instead they live in a community of magical creatures in a labyrinth underneath a Broadway theatre which continually runs a magical show featuring all the assorted societal misfits of the commune – the Diva (Medusa), troll dancers, Charon the ferryman who acts as stage hand, the Siren whose act befuddles every adult audience and led by the redoubtable undead Ruthven.

Boy’s only interaction with the world of humans is through the internet where he hangs out with other geeks and pursues his passion for creating coding.  Like all teenagers he chafes at the restrictions of his life and yearns to escape the rigidity of his confined existence.  When conflict with his parents escalates Boy takes off and attempts to fit into the human world, banking on his newly created super code to fund his adventure. But something goes seriously wrong. His code evolves itself into a powerful Artificial Intelligence which begins to stalk him with disastrous results.

As Boy attempts to dodge and destroy VI (Virtual Intelligence), his own creation, he is led to other magical enclaves where he meets up with more mythical misfits and embarks on a bizarre road trip with the granddaughter/s of infamous Dr Jekyll/Mr Hyde. Their cross country trek introduces Boy to country diners, shopping malls, undisguised curiosity by strangers, danger, love and heartbreak.

However, no matter how he tries to escape his own creation, the time comes when he must face it down and rescue his family. A wonderful story of wild adventures, acceptance and tolerance, the importance of family support and being true to oneself.

This was a real page turner and fun to read – both male and female young adults, from around 14 up would find it immensely appealing. Some strong language and sexual references would lead me to suggest that your older readers would be the most suitable audience.

Visit the author’s website here.

Razorhurst – Justine Larbalestier


Razorhurst – Justine Larbalestier  


July 2014

Publisher:Allen & Unwin

Imprint:A & U Children

Suitable for ages: 14-18

RRP $18.99


I quickly put my hand up to review this as this dark period in Sydney’s history fascinated in a ghoulish way as a child growing up in the Harbour City, and since (the only series of ‘Underbelly’ I watched was the “Razor” one).

Imagine my surprise when I realised this version of events had a paranormal edge: a fact which made it all the more intriguing.

Kelpie, is a wild child, growing up an orphan in the dangerous neighbourhoods of 1930s Sydney. She is a small survivor: undernourished, underdeveloped but very intelligent and certainly streetwise. She is careful to keep herself safe and – she sees ghosts. The spectres of so many who have died, either violently in this mayhem of gang rivalry or just those who have passed on, appear to Kelpie usually at the point of their demise.  One such ghost, Miss Lee, laboured to teach Kelpie to read and kept her as safe as a ghost possibly could.

Misled by a mean spirit, Kelpie enters a tatty old boarding house seeking apples, and is confronted by the bloody corpse of Jimmy Palmer, right hand thug of the notorious Glory Nelson. At the same time, Jimmy’s latest girlfriend, Dymphna arrives at the scene. Dymphna is Glory’s best ‘girl’ ( yes, prostitute) and in lightning speed, Kelpie and Dymphna are thrown together to evade police and tread the delicate and potentially disastrous line between rival mob bosses, Glory and Mr Davidson.

The most extraordinary aspect of this uneasy alliance is that Dymphna also sees ghosts – and despite their outward differences in physical appearances with Kelpie as small as an 11 year old and Dymphna as glamourous and grown up as 20 year old  – they realise with a shock that they are both sixteen.  Both girls have a history which makes one empathise with each in their precarious situations.

Razorhurst is vibrant, bloody, gripping and at times shocking. It is an extraordinary take on well known factual history of Sydney’s bloodiest episode in history. 

Although the recommended reading age is 14 up, I would suggest for a school library that you might choose to confine this one to your Senior Students.  It is a great read, but at times graphic and raw.

Author’s website here and teaching notes here.

Hana’s Suitcase (Anniversary Edition): a true story – Karen Levine


Hana’s Suitcase (Anniversary Edition): a true story – Karen Levine

RRP $16.99



Australian Pub.:

February 2014


Allen & Unwin


A & U Children


Children’s non fiction

Suitable for ages:



There would be few people who remain unaware of the poignant story of Hana’s Suitcase and the diligent unravelling that brought a young Holocaust victim back to the living. After the successful radio documentary, numerous awards, film documentary, years of touring and travelling and speaking by the author Karen Levine, the determined Fumiko Ishioka, Hana’s brother Georg as well as his daughter Lara, this tenth anniversary of the book republishes the original text and adds a wealth of updated information and images.

The main participants in sharing Hana’s ill-fated story with modern children, in their stalwart endeavour to spread the message of peace, each add their reflections on the past ten years. There is also much additional material in the messages, images and poetry from children all around the world.

“From little things, big things grow” is very apt in this instance. When Fumiko, curator of the Japanese Holocaust Education Centre, requested a child’s artefact from the Auschwitz Museum, to be the focal point of an educational program and exhibit ‘The Holocaust through the Eyes of a Child’, she little thought that her group of dedicated students would spur her on to uncover the truth about Hana Brady’s fate in the darkest days of human history.  When Hana’s suitcase arrived from Auschwitz, bearing only her name and the information that she was an orphan, there was scant evidence to piece together the rest of the puzzle.  How fortunate that this remarkable young woman refused to be daunted and kept on digging until she was not only able to piece together Hana’s history but become connected with Hana’s brother and in a small way help him heal after sixty long years.

I can only say if you have not yet read this – you must – and share it with all young people who are able to appreciate the enormity of both the atrocity and the challenge to restore Hana to her living family.

Highly recommended for readers 10 and up.

Visit the Brady Family museum here.

See the trailer of “Inside Hana’s Suitcase” here