Review: The Battle

Edward's battle has begun. He's apprehensive and concerned how the day will unfold so he dons his sturdy suit of armour and helmet and hopes for the best. And although Edward is fond of hunting dragons and chasing ogres in his spare time, he is careful to sit in the back row of knights' school lest he bothers all the other creatures.

The king of knight school generously dispenses kindness and understanding but Edward is wary of the attention so ducks and weaves his way into obscurity, to the furthest side of the playground. It's hard though; there are giants, ogres and dragons everywhere! Despite his best efforts, he is approached by a grinning ogre at lunchtime. She proffers cake...with sprinkles. Is it a trick? He decides to ignore his knight training and accepts her gift. But just as the cracks in his amour begin to widen, in troop the dragons.

The first day of school or even returning to school after a long period of absence just as many children are currently exp…

Review: James Gong: The Big Hit

This is so not my genre but the eye-snagging cover and jazzy back cover blurb hooked me as solidly as a jumping spinning side kick so I found myself spending some unexpected quality time with James Gong, Paul Collin's latest middle grade fiction offering.

It does not take long to settle into James Gong's high energy world. Edgy narrative and vibrant characters are driven by a seemingly implausible story line that evolves into a curiously involved teen tale.

James Gong is a teen on the precipice of stardom. He's OK at school, has a sister whose bestie seems bent on giving him nosebleeds, and two best mates, Jay and Ethan, who keep his fourteen-year-old world balanced. He is also pretty hot at taekwondo despite a slightly goofy veneer and shaved head.

James' prowess on the training floor means he is just a few poomse routines away from earning his black belt, but his reckless and uncontrolled rouge behaviour is not enough to convince Mr Choi, his martial arts instructor…

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Review: Lizzie and Margaret Rose

I often take a ridiculously long time to get around reading something I feel is going to be good. Rather like leaving the roast potatoes (my favourite part) to the very end of a roast dinner. Then suddenly a book will call to me, wanting to be read. I believe this way invites a more organic reading experience. And what a book at such a time!

Lizzie and Margaret Rose is a gripping middle grade novel by accomplished historic children's author, Pamela Rushby set in the early years of World War II. Rushby wastes no words on superlative mundane description rather chisels her supremely defined characters from the world in which they exist. From the shrapnel strewn streets of London to the balmy coastal suburbs of Townsville, Rushby's talent for honing emotion from action allows readers to engage head on with ten-year-old Margaret Rose and her eleven-year-old Australian cousin, at least this reader did in a way that required the occasional swiping away of tears.

When Margaret Rose…

Book Bites: Keep 'Em Counting!

ABCs and 1 2 3s are not only the fundamental building blocks for learning and communicating, they establish connections with ourselves, our cultures and humanity as a whole. These next few picture books are perfect for exploring those connections, introducing sounds, letters and numbers to pre-schoolers whilst providing sound material for ever important reading time, during lockdown time or anytime!

B is For Baby
ABC books come in an infinite number of guises. This one is singularly different because it focuses on just one letter of the alphabet rather than all 26, in this case, the letter B. We begin with the obvious, Baby but as the story evolves, we and baby are introduced to a marvellous collection of other B words: beads, basket for example. But what is in the basket…? Bananas of course! Or is it something more? This spectacularly illustrated non-fiction picture book is really a cyclical visual journey of baby’s unplanned journey from her African village into town where she is reu…

Chocks Away - Paper Plane Making with Pippa!

Cancelled holidays equates to cancelled fun and the destruction of expectations for kids and in this great period of change, represents just another significant adjustment they have been forced, not asked, to endure. Although remaining physically grounded may still be the case for many, it does not imply you can't go on adventures. Kids' authors, like me, take off on a daily basis thanks our imaginations. Imagination is one of the most powerful and sure-fired ways to enjoy the ride. Making stuff is another and together with Pippa as my inspiration for taking flight and getting out there, I've knocked up this little video that allows you to

 Making a Paper Plane!

This is a very simplified version of a basic paper plane but it flies extremely well, long and high! Pippa and I would love for you to experiment and modify your design to see if you can out-fly us. Send us a video or picture of your completed aeronautical master piece and I'll pop it on this blog!

Review: Tomorrow, When The War Began

Admittedly, I'm a little late getting around to this one and although a staunch fan of Marsden, if I had read Tomorrow, When The War Began two decades earlier, the plausibility and impact no doubt would have been far more intense.

Despite that, this remains a telling story of tenacity, teen relationships and ingenuity - the kind kids had before they plugged themselves into mobile phones. Using one's wits under pressure is never a straightforward thing. Survival text books may help but chuck in generous dollops of distress, an alarming lack of adult assistance, huge clods of uncertainty, a ridiculous amount of gun-wielding marksmen and of course no app to advise you what to do or how to think and you've got yourself a situation a lot out of the normal and way out of control.

A handful of Wirrawee's rural youth led by Ellie return from a secluded weekend camping trip to find their world upturned, their town invaded and their families held captive by an unknown foreign f…