Dim’s Christmas Crackers List # 3 – Junior Novels

Do you have an emerging confident reader keen to fill their newly acquired ravenous literary appetite? Youngsters between 5 – 9 years are discovering at this age that stories can occur in the most wildly absurd wonderful places and that junior novels, like these, are their invitations to new words and new adventures. By feeding them regular healthy doses of junior fiction, you will nourish their love for reading and keep them satisfied well into the holidays. Here are some suggestions:

Younger Junior Novels 5 – 7 years

D-Bot Squad Series by Mac Park and James Hunt

Bold, bright and busting with high-action adventure, this series is brilliant for early readers. Controlled use of vocabulary, illustrations and diagrams all contribute to wicked reads with Books 1 – 6 released this year and more to follow in 2018. Kids will love following Hunter Marks on his dino hunting missions after he wins a computer game and becomes a member of D-Bot Squad. High-energy fun.

Allen & Unwin July 2107

Sally Rippin presents…Super Moopers Series by Fiona Harris and Scott Edgar

This whacky series is decidedly visual with full colour illustrations dominating each page. Text is minimal but enhanced with varying font sizes for emphasis and wow factor. Each book examines a particular Mooper character of Moopertown, the first being Dramatic Dom. The stories encourage kids to get to know each individual better and appreciate their strengths and weaknesses. The notion that everyone is special in his or her own special way is the theme that meanders throughout this collection.

Five Mile Bonnier Publishing 2017

Stinky Spike the Pirate Dog by Peter Meisel and Paul Meisel

This jolly attractive little hardcover book is part of the Read & Bloom Books series, which invite youngsters on wondrous adventures with lovable wily characters, like Stinky Spike, using mindfully sparse narrative and beguiling illustrations. Colourful and merry, these are the type of stories that really do plant the love of reading!

Bloomsbury Children’s Books March 2017

Junior Novels 6 – 9 years

Little Paws Series by Jess Black and Gabriel Evans

Who could resist a golden puffball of fluff with a tail? This heart-warming series is about puppies that train to become Guide Dogs. Each story is about a puppy, like Harley in the first book, and the families that train them. Lightly illustrated with Evan’s charming drawings and full of puppy pranks and incidents, this series is sure to sate your cuteness quota.  Buying these books also helps puppies like Harley become fully fledged Guide Dogs. Win win!

Penguin Random House 2017

Sage Cookson’s Series by Sally Murphy and Celeste Hulme

I love this quirky cooking orientated series about 10-year-old Sage, daughter of celebrity chef parents with an insatiable passion for…wait for it…food! Together they travel the globe encountering more than their fair share of not so nice-tasting situations and characters. Murphy cleverly combines every day normal with generous dollops of extraordinary. The latest titles include a sojourn to Singapore and a Literary Launch for this delectable character.  Delicious fun for girls and culinary creators alike. And the best bit? A recipe in each book. Winner winner, chicken dinner!

New Frontier Publishing 2016 – 2017

Squishy Taylor Series by Ailsa Wild and Ben Wood

Squishy is the instantly likeable, utterly loveable heroine of this spirited series about dysfunctional blended families and all the glorious ‘normal’ zany events that occur within their orbits. Fast paced, age-clinching narrative is interspersed with illustrations that induce drama and humour.  The first book, Bonus Sisters, introduces us to Squishy’s family members and her unquenchable need to question – everything! Creative, curious, charmingly optimistic and just a touch naive, Squishy is just the type of hero little girls will love to emulate.

HGE February 2016

Saurus Street Series by Nick Falk and Tony Flowers

I’m not sure what the scientific explanation is for the fascination kids of this age possess for all things dinosaurs but my little miss did, too. Palaeophiliacs (lovers of dinosaurs and pre-historic thingies) will revel in this series, a few years old now but young in comparison to a Diplodocus, when you think about it. Stomping-mad fun made all the more believable by Flowers’ hilarious illustrations. Pletosaurauses in the bathtub, Diplodocuses in the tepees – Jack and Toby have all these and heaps more dino dilemmas to cope with on Saurus Street. It’s like the age of the dinosaurs never ended.

Random House September 2013

Ella Diaries Series by Meredith Costain and Danielle McDonald

Definitely one for the girls, this series is Tom Gates meets Dork Diaries for young girls. Interwoven with themes of friendship, teamwork, ponies, dancing, fashion, bullies and a whole year of diaries’ worth more, these stories will appeal to girls and their BFFs. Ella is utterly addictive thanks McDonald’s fantastic illustrations, just the sort of wiggles and pics and notations young girls are wont to scribble alongside their deepest most inner thoughts.  Fun, airy and tots on the money. Highly recommended.

Scholastic Australia 2015

Jake in Space Series by Candice Lemon-Scott and Celeste Hulme

Stunning spacey foil covers give way to equally scintillating storylines centring on space probing, Jake and his whacky team of mates and robots.

This series features galaxies of intergalactic fun sporting space-aged adventures mid-primary school kids can really get carried away with – providing they have their space suits on. There are six in the series, which gives young readers plenty of time and incentive to explore the entire universe! Did I mention the covers are truly out of this world!

New Frontier Publishing September 2014

Junior Novels Advanced Readers 8 years +

Countdown to Danger You Choose the Path To Survive! Series by Jack Heath

I LOVE an exciting pick-a-path-you-choose-the-path story! Having written one myself, I know how tricky it can be producing a convincing multi-ending story. It can also be colossal fun! Heath’s series adds a new dimension to 30 possible adventure storylines – a countdown. YOU the reader only have 30 minutes to choose the right path to survive. These stories are humming with danger, ethical decisions, survival dilemmas and plenty of problem solving, ideal for the inquisitive, questing mind.  Written in second person, as most choose your own adventure stories are, this series plants you smack bang in the middle of the action and you only have yourself to blame if things go horribly wrong. What’s not to love! Highly recommended for grip-the-edge-of-your-seat reading.

Scholastic Australia February 2016

You Choose… Series by George Ivanoff and James Hart

This expansive series is another choose your own adventure styled collection, which I just can’t get enough of. Ivanoff has created an amazing array of stories, each pulsing with high levels of interactivity. Again, YOU the reader must decide which options to take when faced with a dizzying selection of alternatives. Despite the choice, each chapter is concise enough to follow and complete within a relatively short timeframe, or even, to read aloud without confusion. Coupled with Hart’s explosive illustrations, it’s all very brilliant and, at times, just a little on the dark scary side. Pack some in your Christmas stockings this season – there’s a new release nearly every month!

Random House May 2014 – 2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Getting Serious About Series – Junior Novels for Little Misses

When it comes to captivating reads that snag interest and capture long-term readership, serial stories take the cake. Relatable incidents, swift moving plot lines and plenty of reasons to hang out with characters who become as close as real life friends all add up to serious series appeal. This winning combination works just as well for readers new to chapter books, too. Here are a few junior novels for younger children, chapter books if you will that are sure to tantalise.

Ginger Green Playdate Queen by Kim Kane and Jon Davis

Ginger Green is a foxy little minx in her first years of primary school. The thing she is most adept at this age is throwing playdates. Her winsome and extrovert personality allows her to make friends easily although not every person she tries to befriend has similar virtues.

Continue reading Getting Serious About Series – Junior Novels for Little Misses

Hippity Hoppity – Easter’s on its way!

You may be surprised as I to learn that Easter is just two and a half weeks away. Well, maybe not with all those buns and eggs on the shop shelves to remind you. If filling your Easter break with more than just chocolate and egg hunts and spiritual appreciation is important to you, then perhaps these new picture book releases will appease the persnickety Peter Rabbit within (and entertain your younglings to boot!)

We're Going on an Egg Hunt Laura HugesWe’re going on an Egg Hunt, by Laura Hughes amply satisfies young tastes with easy-to-read, boldly laid out text that echoes the perennial favourite, We’re Going on a Bear Hunt verse. Being instantly recognisable means small eyes can concentrate on Hughes’ foxy little illustrations, only there is not a fox in sight, thank goodness. The Bunny Family are the ones on the hunt…for eggs naturally, and they are super excited about it, too.

As they traverse their way through woods and across farmyards, they encounter obstacles at every twist and bend. Armed with nothing more than an egg-swiping net and a barrow-load of perseverance, they figure out the best course of action until they hit the jackpot and a whole lot of trouble. Did I mention there were no foxes?! Perfect Easter action-based fun for pre-schoolers demonstrating positive rewards follow tenacious effort with dinky flaps to lift and treasures to accumulate.

Bloomsbury Children’s Books March 2016

The Wonderful Habits of RabbitsEver wondered what rabbits get up to when they are not fighting off wolves and hunting for eggs? Well, wonder no more for The Wonderful Habits of Rabbits will delight every lover of lapins and addresses all those tricky rabbit questions. Written in gently loping verse, author, Douglas Florian invites us to spend a day with a colony of rabbits (otherwise known as a fluffle) as they leap and laze The Wonderful Habits of Rabbits illos spreadabout the meadows. Actually, life with this family of cottontails stretches poetically across several seasons until it’s time to snuggle down with a goodnight kiss. Sonia Sanchez’s winsome pencil line drawings bound with colour and charm depicting the energetic spirit of bunny in the most Watership Down-dream-like way. The end papers are particularly appealing, especially for kids who love to quantify and establish ownership (of things) with plenty of rabbits to choose a favourite from. The Wonderful Habits of Rabbits is a fetching addition to your Easter reading.

The Five Mile Press February 2016

George BilbyIf Easter equals a chance to chillax with your loved ones and whip up a few dozen hot cross buns as it can for me, then you’ll appreciate George, the Bilby Chef and his insatiable quest to cook. This sweet new character hailing from the pens and paintbrushes of Jedda Robaard features in the first of a new picture book series about enterprising epicurean marsupial, George and because bilbies like George are Australia’s preferred kind of egg-delivering icon, he fits snuggly into any Easter basket. In this debut instalment, The Raspberry Surprise, George is intent on surprising his best friend, Betty Echidna on her birthday with a special sweet treat. Raspberry muffinsGeorge Bilby illos spread are his dessert of choice but locating and then harvesting said raspberries proves to be near impossible until George enlists the services of some of his very obliging and thoughtful friends. By the time Betty arrives, the cakes have been baked and readers are gently aware of the benefits of working together towards a shared goal. Robaard’s soft easy to digest illustrations compensate for a slightly longer text but one that young readers will enthuse over thanks to the lovely sense of expectation and logical explanation. Best of all; a handy Bilby Chef Recipe card is included to keep and use. I wonder what other scrumdelicious adventures George will encounter. Ideal for three-year-olds and above and budding junior Masterchefs everywhere.

The Five Mile Press February 2016

Dance Bilby DanceFor many, Easter is a time of reflection, renewed hope and of life moving forward. For most of us, dreams represent the impetus to continue. In Tricia Oktober’s latest picture book, Dance, Bilby, Dance, our favourite Easter marsupial, Bilby is no different; ‘he wishes he could dance.’ In what appears to initially be a one-man show, Bilby is surrounded by white space, alone with his desires while all those in the world around him appear to revel in what he regards is unobtainable, until one day, after closely observing his dancing shadow, his innermost yearnings leap into existence. But, has Bilby unleashed a passion too big and scary to control? Oktober’s bright expressive illustrations are king in a quietly impressive picture book that imaginatively introduces readers five years old and above to some curious critters, stirring language, and the possibilities that can lead to new friendships. I especially appreciated the gentle notion that overcoming ones fears can free one for moments of ecstatic expression and reward; an approach to life that should never be underestimated. And perhaps one of the soundest Easter messages of all.

Ford Street Publishing March 2016

Aussie Easter Hat ParadeNow it just wouldn’t be a notable time of year without a cheer-filled, colourful contribution by Colin Buchanan and Simon Williams, and if you have primary aged children you will instantly sympathise with the Easter Hat Parade tradition performed at many schools. What I love about Aussie Easter Hat Parade is the outrageous tribute to not only a swag of Aussie creatures but also the brilliant flora that constitutes their homeland (and ours). From the bright red desert pea that Billy Bullant crowns himself with to Wombat’s Gymea lily lid, each little mate adorns themselves with feathers, flowers, gum nuts and more resulting in a fantastic Easter bonnet brouhaha and the very first Aussie Easter Hat parade (just in case you were wondering how all this craziness started). Sensational fun, bewitching illustrations and a singalong CD to boot, with a neat little ending reminding us that sometimes the biggest brightest ideas can originate from the most minute situations…or ants.

Scholastic Australia March 2016

 

 

Courtyard Kitchen

Courtyard KitchenIncreasing numbers of Australians are living in apartments and fewer and fewer of us have yards in which to grow vegies or herbs. Worse, most of us have lost or never known produce-growing know-how.

I comprehensively count myself in the latter group. I never learnt the basics of growing things—soil prep, climate suitability, seasonal produce stuff, and more—and I make growing anything far, far harder than it should be. I also realise buying things like herbs, which can be grown in small spaces, is a giant waste of money.

Released on 1 May (just in time for Mother’s Day), Courtyard Kitchen contains growing tips for herbs and potted fruits, then segue into recipes to use that produce. That is, the kind of fundamentals for people like me.

Written by photographer Natalie Boog, whose experience spans working for various Fairfax publications such as Sunday Life and Spectrum and Pacific Magazines publications including New Idea and Better Homes & Gardens, Courtyard Kitchen of course contains beautiful images.

That’s both beautiful as in the shots but also their styling. They’re the kind of pics that encourage even the blackest thumbs of us to give growing herbs one more go and inspire us to whip up some delicious meals once those herbs have grown.

Containing tips about such things as preparing soil, planting, watering, managing pests and disease, which pots to plant in, and how to go about sterilising bottles and jars for things like pestos, the book contains plenty of information that, while practical and basic, is perfect for those of us needing to start from scratch. (The also layout comes complete with super-cute callout circles with handy hints inside them.)

Primarily a cookbook with some herb-growing tips at the start, Courtyard Kitchen caters mostly to omnivores, but offers a number of vegie options. The recipes are grouped by the herb they most feature. For example, Chocolate Basil Cake and Basil Pizza fall, as the titles suggest, under the Basil section; Rosemary Potato Wedges fall under Rosemary.

The recipes range also from Chili Vegie Tagine to Thyme Dumplings to Celeriac & Potato Soup and Parsley, Chilli & Lemon Spaghetti. All tasty options to experiment with and from which to derive a sense of ‘I grew this, I cooked this’ satisfaction. Not-so-green thumbs up.

Thanks to Murdoch Books for the review opportunity.

Review – A Curry for Murray

A Curry for Murray It is no secret; I am a glutton for a great plate of nosh. I love looking at it. I love preparing it. I love sharing it. And, I love reading about it. This is why I could gobble up A Curry for Murray by sensational new picture book team, Kate Hunter and Lucia Masciullo again and again. It simply is delicious!

Murray, Maureen, and Molly are neighbours. One day, Murray has some bad news. And what does one do when neighbours are in need? Why, they cook for them, of course.

With all the spirit and zeal of a junior Master Chef, Molly cooks up a storm, beginning with a curry for Murray. Her repertoire quickly expands into a mouth-watering menu of kindness with dishes for her best friends, family, pets, and even royalty. Until one day, an accident forces Molly to hang up her apron and accept kindness in return from her neighbours.

Curry for Murray illo spreadA Curry for Murray is a veritable feast for the senses. Clever word play and some incongruous combinations of dishes, exotic locations and occupations, brilliantly blends the concepts of being kind unto others and exercising charity together while introducing young palettes to many varied styles of cuisine. It’s fantastic to see the Toad in the Hole represented alongside Singapore Noodles!

Kate HunterHunter’s luscious and eclectic narrative not only tickles the tastebuds with its cute rhyming rhythm but also takes readers on a gastronomic tour that far exceeds Molly’s neighbourhood. However, we all know, we eat with our eyes, so it’s little wonder that the utterly delectable illustrations of Lucia Masciullo will have you drooling all over the place.

Masciullo’s watercolour and pencilled drawings ingeniously breaks down each concoction into its core components. Children are able to identify each ingredient of the dish and may even be inspired to recreate it themselves. What better way to encourage clean, healthy living.

Lucia Masciullo 2Masciullo defines herself as a ‘visual explorer’. A Curry for Murray takes this description to the nth level of satisfaction for me. Details such as a scattering of herbs, pinches of cayenne pepper and pasta glistening with olive oil are inspired and leave me salivating for more.

Fun, thought provoking and sumptuous. A Curry for Murray is a picture book with three Michelin star appeal.

Consume your copy here!

UQP  April 2015

 

 

Cooking the Books

Use the promo code “cookthebooks” and get FREE postage.
Offer ends 27th October


Plenty More by Yotam Ottolenghi

Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty changed the way people cook and eat. Its focus on vegetable dishes, with the emphasis on flavour, original spicing and freshness of ingredients, caused a revolution not just in this country, but the world over. Plenty More picks up where Plenty left off, with 120 more dazzling vegetable-based dishes.

The New Easy by Donna Hay

Quick and easy tricks, tips and recipes for super easy, super delicious meals. Donna Hay is all about making life easier. With her new book, Donna is all about giving you simple, easy and no-fuss recipes, techniques, tips and tricks to make cooking meals super easy, super delicious and super quick. The New Easy makes cooking fast, fun, easy and enjoyable, and is the perfect companion for every busy cook.

Delicious Love To Eat by Valli Little

There’s no better way to bring fresh inspiration to your everyday cooking than looking beyond your own kitchen. In Love to Eat, you’ll find a feast of 120 new recipes with a global twist, all translated into simple, exceptionally delicious dishes to take you from weeknight dinners to stress-free entertaining.

Jamie’s Comfort Food by Jamie Oliver

Jamie’s new cookbook brings together 100 ultimate comfort food recipes from around the world. Inspired by everything from childhood memories to the changing of the seasons, and taking into account the guilty pleasures and sweet indulgences that everyone enjoys, it’s brimming with exciting recipes you’ll fall in love with.

 

Adam’s Big Pot by Adam Liaw

This is a cookbook for modern families. Adam Liaw takes a practical and creative approach to family cooking, creating new flavours from ingredients you already know, all in just one big wok, pan, dish or pot.

 

The Spice & Herb Bible by Ian Hemphill

 This expanded and completely revised new edition is the culmination of Ian Hemphill’s lifelong experience in the spice industry. It is a fascinating and authoritative guide. Hemphill describes a wide range of global herbs and spices used in modern kitchens either alone or in wonderful blends. He completely demystifies the art of combining herbs and spices and home cooks can meet and enjoy a world of flavours previously found only at internationally inspired restaurants.

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