Friday, October 20, 2023

Some Great New Books from Newer Publishers

 1. 'Riz Chester: The Fingerprint CODE' by R.A. Stephen and illustrated by Em Hammond

I'm pleased to be able to review some books from Wombat Books a new Australian children's book publisher. 'The Fingerprint Code' is a fascinating little short chapter book for young readers (aged 8-10) just beginning to embrace longer 'chapter books' as many children call them.

The main characters are 'Lachie A', Lachie B' and 'Lachie C'. Yes, they all have the same first names. As well, we meet other friends along the way including 'Sabrina', 'Lizzie' and a key character 'Riz'.

Riz and her friends have successfully led a Counterfeit Bust, and discovers she has a passion for forensic science. One day she has the opportunity to use a new forensics kit to solve a mystery. On her way to school with her friends they notice a commotion outside the music room. Something has been stolen! Riz’s notices the principal, deputy, office staff, and their music teacher speaking with removalists outside the classroom window. Riz tries to lipread their conversation and deciphers it at break with the help of her friends and Peiter from Grade 6. Some Instruments had been stolen from the music room during renovations! They need some fingerprints. Riz and her friends sneak in to collect them.They need to find a match...

This is a delightful book of 89 pages with relatively large text that will engage many readers. It's delightful.

2. 'Pepper Masalah and the Giant Bird' by Rosanne Hawke & illustrated by Jasmine Berry

Pepper Masalah and the Flying Carpet by Rosanne Hawke is a series of five or more chapter story books featuring an adventurous black cat called Pepper Masalah, and her nine-year-old friend, Zamir. Pepper Masalah lives with Zamir and his family on an olive farm in Australia. Zam’s grandmother is from the old country (Kashmir) and she brought with her an ancient carpet. She believes the carpet can fly, and that it will try to find its previous master in Kashmir. 

It hasn’t flown for hundreds of years so it is shaky at first, and can’t find its bearings. It lands in many countries on the way to Kashmir, where Pepper Masalah and Zamir have dangerous but exciting adventures. In the 3rd book in this series, Pepper Masalah and the Giant Bird, the ancient carpet is closer to finding Kashmir and flies over Afghanistan. A huge bird (the Simurgh from Persian folklore) whisks Pepper off the carpet and up to her nest of eggs, high on a mountain. The carpet is disorientated without Pepper and disappears after Zam falls off. Zam makes the long climb to save Pepper before she becomes food for the bird’s huge chicks. 

Pepper makes a friend in the nest, a girl called Dana. When a cobra comes to eat the eggs, Pepper manages to save the chicks by telling the cobra riddles. But Pepper and Zam still need to find the carpet in order to get home to Australia. But will they make it?!

3. 'Butterfly Girl' by Ashling Kwok & illustrated by Arielle LI

Olivia lives in the country with her Mother and enjoys time in their garden; a special garden where butterflies become her friends. She spends many hours in the garden until one day her mother decides to move to an apartment in the city. Olivia is heartbroken.

On her balcony in the city she waits for the butterflies to come and visit, but they didn't. She tried everything. She danced, sang out to the butterflies, and then filled the balcony with pot plants and many flowers that she knew were their favourite things. Then one day, an old lady begins to plant things on her balcony and then other children, until one... then two... then rainbows of butterflies danced across the sky. "Olivia now had more friends than she could ever have imagined."

4. 'Giovanni' by Crystal Corocher & Illustrated by Margeaux Davis 

This delightful picture book is based upon the true story of a four year old boy named Giovanni who left Veneto in Italy with his family in 1880 to seek a new life. They were promised 'paradise' by a corrupt people smuggler. But instead of disaster, with the help of Sir Henry Parkes, the Premier at the time, they were to find safety and a new life.

Combining extensive research, family anecdotes and gentle narrative prose, his Great Great Granddaughter Crystal Corocher, shares this true story of resilience and courage. This is a story that resonates with anyone whose ancestors came from another land. And other than our Indigenous first people, that's all of us!

The wonderful watercolour drawings of Margeaux Davis help to bring the story to life.

5. 'Xander and the Pen' by David Lawrence & illustrated by Cherie Dignam

 Xander is a small 12 year old boy with bushy hair and a special sense of humour. He wishes he could be brave like many super heroes but he's a wimp. But one day, he buys a pen that gives him special powers to change his family's fortunes. But there is also a key lesson, having special powers can also bring problems.

He uses his powers for the good of the people around him like his family and friends. But as his secret is slowly revealed and he is trapped in the need to keep using his powers, he faces many problems and dilemmas.

This is a clever idea for a book has many connections to bullying, family dynamics, disability and the environment. While I felt, it took a little long (it has 267 pages) to reach a  resolution and it felt (for me), just a little contrived, I think readers aged 10-12 will find it enjoyable. The many wonderful illustrations of Cherie Digman add much life and interest to support the story.