Posted in Competitions

Get your name in print … as a casualty!

So who’s a fan of the Illuminae trilogy by Jay Kristoff and Amie Kaufman? There are two books out so far, with the third, Obsidio, due out in March 2018. (Going to be a long year, chums!)

If you haven’t read Illuminae and Gemina, the best-selling, award-winning young adult sci fi books, do yourself a favour and track them down. I’m not a fan of science fiction at all, but these books are amazing. If the story itself doesn’t draw you in, the intriguing format of the books will!

And that brings me to the point of this post, given the formatting I so adore includes the odd story interruption by way of a list of casualties. (It is a file you’re reading after all.)  It is pretty damn hilarious seeing just who the authors kill off in their books. Jay even killed himself off in the first book. And now, he’s running a competition.

So … want to appear as a casualty in the final book?? Get your name in print by following these steps:


You’ll find the permission text, and all other details, at Jay’s page here:

You’ll need to hurry though!

Entries must be in by: 12 NOON, 1st MAY 2017 (PACIFIC STANDARD TIME)



“You don’t come up with ideas, you grow ideas. They are not wild animals that you hunt. You cultivate them.”

(Mo Willems, on writing children’s fiction)

Posted in Early Readers

Because ‘crook’ rhymes with ‘book’

‘The sun did not shine

It was too wet to play …’

And they’re sick! So there’s no

school or kinder today.

Fortunately (for me), on this dismally cold Melbourne day, we were not paid a visit by a troublesome cat in a hat. We did read a book that, incidentally, won the Theodor Seuss Geisel Award back in 2008 though. It’s a Mo Willems book called There is a Bird on Your Head! and it got the thumbs up from my 4yo, my 6yo … and me! (Generated a couple of elephant noises from my 2yo – we’ll call that a win, yes?)


The text is very basic – fantastic for kids who are just beginning to read and recognise sight words. For example:

‘There is a bird on your head.’

‘There is a bird on my head?’

Kids who read at higher levels are still likely to enjoy this amusing story … they might also like to practice their reading expression by keeping a close eye on the punctuation marks (as in the text above). The font is large and accompanied by a comical, colour picture on every page. The story is told entirely in speech-bubble dialogue. It’s one of 25 books in the much-loved ‘Elephant & Piggie’ series.

(There’s a new spin-off series called ‘Elephant & Piggie Like Reading’, which also targets early readers. There’s a bit of conflicting info online as to whether this series targets a slightly older age group – might have to source one of the books for myself and take a look!)

Posted in Junior Fiction

Book Review: Diary of a 6th Grade Ninja 5 – Terror at the Talent Show

Diary of a 6th Grade Ninja 5: Terror at the Talent Show

By Marcus Emerson (Allen and Unwin)
PB RRP $12.99     ISBN 9781760295592

Reviewed by Daniela Andrews

It’s another crazy week at Buchanan School in this, the fifth installment in the bestselling Diary of a 6th Grade Ninja series. Chase Cooper’s multi-talented cousin, Zoe, is busy organising a school talent show. She is stressed about her to-do list, and asks Chase for some weekend help to set up the school cafeteria for rehearsals. His response? ‘Yeeeeeah, that’s actually right in the middle of my nap, so I’m gonna have to say no.’

Uh oh. As per previous novels, Chase has once again let Zoe down, breaking an unspoken ninja code to do ‘the honourable thing … to help family’. When a strange kid in a hockey mask ruins the rehearsal by setting a penguin loose in the school and destroying part of the unfinished stage, Zoe thinks Chase is partly to blame. If he had’ve helped, the stage would have been properly attached. It’s up to Chase to make it up to Zoe by using his ninja skills to find the culprit, find that penguin and save the talent show.

In each novel, Emerson cleverly builds on the growing list of Chase’s enemies to make it difficult to identify the culprit. In this novel, Jake (a popular, quarterback football player) is less than impressed with Chase’s decision to change the mascot to a moose. Jake joins Wyatt, Carlisle, Olivia and Sebastian as possible suspects in the talent show disaster.

There are some loose ends in the novel that will no doubt leave fans wanting to read the rest of the series. There’s a mysterious ‘white ninja’ character, a noticeable shift in numbers between Chase and Wyatt’s ninja clans, and a foreboding promotion for Wyatt to ‘Vice President of Buchanan School’.

The novel follows the same style as the others, featuring plenty of realistic banter between the students as well as over-the-top humour. The stories require a slight suspension of disbelief on the reader’s part, which won’t be a problem for the target age group of 7–12. In addition to the missing penguin, there is also a delightful group of ‘library zombies’ in this one – a tongue-in-cheek observation by the author on the growing (over)use of smartphones! (‘Waaaaaaatch this cuuuuuute videeeeeeoooooo’!)

This review was originally published on the Buzz Words website:

Posted in Young Adult Fiction

Book Review: Trouble Tomorrow

Trouble Tomorrow

By Terry Whitebeach and Sarafino Enadio (Allen and Unwin)
PB RRP $16.99     ISBN 9781760291464

Reviewed by Daniela Andrews

‘Remember, if you want a door to open, education is the key.’

When you’re 15 years old, though, trying to find your next meal, self-improvement takes a significant back-step to self-survival.

Obelujo, whose name means ‘trouble tomorrow’, is a Ma’di boy living in South Sudan, not at all interested in joining the Rebel army. The first time they raid his village, he and his family hide. The second time, they are forced to flee in different directions. Obelujo’s father secures a place for him in a good boarding school before he leaves. ‘It is very important not to break your education,’ he tells Obelujo, who respects ‘his father’s wishes’ as ‘law’, despite his feeling of dread at leaving his family.

He immerses himself in his studies, while fighting off visions of his family’s fate. When he awakens to the sound of gunshots one night, he joins the crowd of people running for their lives. What follows is Obelujo’s uplifting, courageous story of survival. It includes a risky trek through a wild jungle, a terrifying capture by the Rebels, and a daring escape. It details his life in two refugee camps, where people’s starvation leads to violence at any cost (even murder). As Obelujo’s own hunger grows, he finds himself struggling to remain true to his Ma’di values. He begins to act aggressively and steal food. When Obelujo takes up an opportunity to study Agriculture, his life begins to change. The basic course leads him to a voluntary teaching position, and (later) a paid one. He joins a church choir where he meets and falls in love with Malia. He completes a Peace Education course, and learns that if he wants to change the world he must start with himself.

This confronting, heartwarming story is the true story of co-author, Sarafino Enadio, who migrated to Australia and is currently studying a Masters in Teaching. Terry Whitebeach is a writer and historian who travelled to South Sudan with Sarafino to witness the effects of the civil war. The novel is aimed at 13–18-year-olds and, given its topics of immigration, refugee camps, peacekeeping and the Sudanese Civil War, would make fantastic classroom reading. Sarafino’s enlightening story will definitely linger in your heart, along with a greater respect for the plight of refugees.

This review was originally published on the Buzz Words website:

Posted in Junior Fiction

Book Review: The Grand, Genius Summer of Henry Hoobler

The Grand, Genius Summer of Henry Hoobler

By Lisa Shanahan (Allen and Unwin)

PB RRP $14.99     ISBN 9781760293017

Reviewed by Daniela Andrews

Henry Hoobler’s mother suggests he make a little room for his worries by acknowledging them. Henry can’t help but wonder, though …‘Couldn’t he be good at making a tiny bit of room for the worry, without giving it the whole house?’

This heartwarming story is about an anxious boy called Henry, aged 8 or 9, whose worries often prevent him from enjoying himself. The upcoming family camping trip at the beach, for instance, terrifies him. Then he makes a friend who shows him what life can be like when you’re open to adventure, and he winds up having a very different summer to the one he expected.

By the end of the summer, Henry will have learnt how to work through some of his niggling anxieties and fears. He’ll realise that oceans don’t always bring tsunamis, that camping trips don’t necessarily include snakebites and that stingrays (barbless ones named Heathcliff, anyway) can be friendly. He’ll learn about self-confidence, especially in the face of older siblings. He’ll learn how to stand up to people who tease him … and forgive them. He will set out on a daring, nightly expedition to rescue a toy pony. He’ll meet a bold, adventurous girl – Cassie – who’ll inadvertently motivate him to find his courage. And he’ll not only learn to ride his bike without training wheels, he will ride it like she does – freely and fearlessly. No wonder it’s a grand, genius summer!

Lisa Shanahan, the award-winning writer of My Big Birkett, has created a touching novel that will appeal to readers aged 7–11 years. Henry’s family members and their camping holiday dynamics are so believable that it might feel as though you’re observing them all from a neighbouring tent! Their alternating feelings of frustration, sadness and support for Henry’s emotions are very realistic. I particularly liked the way Henry’s anxieties crept up on him, rather than being the central focus of every scene.

The book covers themes of family relationships, friendships and anxieties. By the end of the story, armed with a new friend, a powerful bike and a firm sense of adventure, Henry adopts Cassie’s philosophy in life: ‘the best things always happen on the way to somewhere else.’

This review was originally published on the Buzz Words website:

Posted in Junior Fiction

Book Review: Marge and the Pirate Baby

Marge and the Pirate Baby

By Isla Fisher (Allen and Unwin)
PB RRP $14.99     ISBN 9781848125933

Reviewed by Daniela Andrews

‘Did I tell you that our babysitter is only the size of about seven biscuit packets stacked on top of each other?’

Sweet little Marge, whose rainbow-coloured hair and flamboyant behaviour burst from the pages of Isla Fisher’s debut novel (Marge in Charge), is back for a new trio of babysitting adventures. The stories once again star Jemima Button and her little brother Jakeypants, but this time they include their troublesome baby cousin, Zara. (Marge dubs her the ‘pirate baby’ for her love of shiny things, for the way she takes people’s things without asking and because she drinks from bottles all day!)

Each story is narrated from the first-person perspective of Jemima. The first is about Zara’s antics around the house, the second takes place at the local swimming pool, and the third focuses on a family wedding. The stories feature a list of rules from Jemima and Jake’s parents … followed by a funny interpretation from Marge. For example, ‘No rude words’ becomes ‘No rude words, unless we are in battle at sea, or your parrot poops on your shoulder.’ Marge uses her quirky style to get the kids to do exactly what she wants … like tackle a ‘code brown’ nappy situation, or face their fears at the pool. She even naps on the job while the kids madly put the house back together before their parents come home. The children are happy to do whatever it takes to keep Marge’s antics a secret … or else their parents might never call her back. (‘We both love having Marge look after us, even if it means we have to look after her a bit sometimes, too.’)

The three stories average around 55 pages each and are illustrated with Eglantine Ceulemans’ complementary black and white caricatures. The font style throughout the book is playful and varied, featuring lots of breakout lists of ‘handwritten’ rules, song lyrics or thoughts.  The presentation, combined with the story itself, makes the book well suited to the target age group of 7 to 9 year-olds.

This review was originally published on the Buzz Words website: