The Easter Bunny’s Helpers by Anne Mangan

Published: 1st March 2013Goodreads badge
Publisher:
 HarperCollins Australia
Illustrator: Tamsin Ainslie
Pages: 32
Format: Picture Book
★   ★   ★  – 3 Stars

From the author of TRUE BLUE SANTA and THE GREATEST MOTHER’S DAY OF ALL, comes a delightful Australian book for Easter.

The Easter Bunny needs help delivering the Easter eggs this year and who better to help him than some Australian animals?

This story puts an Australian touch to Easter and highlights all the wonderful things you can do during Easter time. The Easter Bunny is looking for helpers and each of the Australian animals do their best to try and impress.

The narrative is told in basic rhyme, easy to pick up the rhythm and keep it going, even if you pause to look at the fantastic illustrations from Ainslie. It is a bit wordy but nothing too complicated. I think the rhyme might have benefited from better formatting because some lines felt a bit long.

Each animal uses their skills to help the bunny. I found it so adorable than both koala and kangaroo use their pouches to carry eggs. It is expected of a kangaroo in pop culture but I was impressed Ainslie included koala’s as well.

The illustrations are lovely oil paintings, cute representations of our national animals. There is a lot of detail in the scenes but it’s also focused enough on the story that there are no extra, unnecessary distractions.

The story is sweet and the wonderful message about helping out is clear but not openly directed to the reader. It’s a cute book for the holiday with a great Australian focus that can show off our unique wildlife.

You can purchase The Easter Bunny’s Helpers via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust

I Wanted a Giant Chocolate Egg but all I Got Was this Stupid Book by Merv Lamington

Published: February 2018Goodreads badge
Publisher:
 Affirm Press
Illustrator: Makoto Koji
Pages: 32
Format: Picture Book
★   ★   ★  – 3 Stars

I wanted a giant chocolate egg but all I got was this stupid book. You too? I know just who’s to blame for this outrage. Come on, let’s go find the Easter Bunny…

Join an Easter egg hunt of a different kind in this journey from disappointment to elation. The perfect (non-edible*) gift for any kid who’s ever felt that the Easter Bunny could have done better.

*Note: this book is not made of chocolate. Sorry.

With an author named Merv Lamington I don’t know how much more Australian he could be. The story is good, funny, interactive, and a decent plot. It wasn’t quite what I was expecting but it was fun. It would certainly entertain children with the humour and antics, not to mention the hunt for the Easter Bunny.

The narrator addresses the reader originally, or some off page character who provides hints and clues for the search for the elusive bunny. The hunt then starts all over town looking at clues the Easter bunny has left behind, running into friends who are enjoying their chocolate eggs to varying degrees of success.

I enjoyed the inception Koji creates with his book within a book, the illustrations matching their larger counterparts. The colours are vibrant and the focus is on the key characters, the background getting generic attention if any. The thick bold outlines and humorous expressions bring the story to life and give the narrative an additional layer beyond childish complaints.

This is the ideal book for kids who are unable to have chocolate or who didn’t get any Easter eggs and feel hard done by. It also helps explain rules about chocolate and dogs and with a few punny jokes in there you can’t help but laugh at.

You can purchase I Wanted a Giant Chocolate Egg but all I Got Was this Stupid Book via the following

Booktopia | Dymocks | Fishpond

The Great Garden Mystery by Renee Treml

Published: 1st September 2014 by Random House AustraliaGoodreads badge
Publisher:
 Random House Australia
Illustrator: Renee Treml
Pages: 32
Format: Paperback Picture Book
★   ★  ★  – 3 Stars

Someone is stealing the beetroots, who could that somebody be? Join us in the garden and we’ll unravel this mystery. A mix of clever Australian animals examine the clues, but can they catch the thief before he strikes again?

Filled with a great range of native Australian animals, as well as a few introduced ones, this story explores the great mystery that has come to the garden. The rabbit and the fox mingle with the koala and the possum over who has eaten all the beetroot. What I thought was creative was how Treml has made it entertaining as well as educational, each animal using their natural abilities or features as a means to exonerate themselves.

The story is told in rhyme, but not such intense rhyme that you sing it, it reads like a regular story with casual rhymes to finish off the page. Treml’s illustrations are vibrant on different coloured backgrounds with beautifully realistic sketches of the animals in and around the garden.

In the end I found it a bit harsh that the suspect is chosen because she ran away. This doesn’t get resolved so I’m hoping there is an unwritten sequel where the poor creature isn’t accused anymore, forced to flee her home at being accused of a crime she didn’t commit. The true culprit is revealed only to the reader and it does make for a cheeky ending I’ll admit.

You can purchase The Great Garden Mystery via the following

QBD

Obernewtyn by Isobelle Carmody

Published: 17th February 2003Goodreads badge
Publisher: 
Starscape
Pages: 246
Format: Sci Fi/Fantasy
★   ★   ★  – 3 Stars

For Elspeth Gordie freedom is-like so much else after the Great White-a memory. 

It was a time known as the Age of Chaos. In a final explosive flash everything was destroyed. The few who survived banded together and formed a Council for protection. But people like Elspeth-mysteriously born with powerful mental abilities-are feared by the Council and hunted down like animals…to be destroyed.

Her only hope for survival is to keep her power hidden. But is secrecy enough against the terrible power of the Council?

This is the book which introduces us to Carmody’s world after the Great-White but aside from a brief mention and a few other references you don’t get a great sense of what it is like.

Elspeth is a nice character, sweet, no real substance despite her magic powers and the first person narration. A lot of the characters have little depth but they progress the story and fill a gap. The dialogue is stilted and there is a lot of telling but since the whole book is like this you find yourself just putting up with it and moving on.

The plot itself was interesting, it was just simple and poorly explored. It took a little while to get into the story as Carmody gradually brings us into the world but it was enjoyable in its own way. I didn’t dislike it and there were moments of mystery and intrigue but I wasn’t wowed. But, with seven books in the series it’s obviously going to be a wide world that gets slowly developed. I hope it lives up to my expectations because I want to enjoy it and now that I have finally started, I want it to make me regret not starting it when I was first told about it 20 years ago.

I wasn’t instantly grabbed but I didn’t dislike it enough to make me stop. Based off this first book I will start the second. The narrative picks up further into the book and leaves us with somewhere to go. Even though it isn’t the best, I’m trusting it’s a story that needs unpacking slowly. Just not too slowly.

You can purchase Obernewtyn via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | Angus and Robinson | Fishpond | Wordery

Amazon | Amazon Aust | Audible

The Good Girl Stripped Bare by Tracey Spicer

Published: 24th April 2017 (print)/24th May 2017 (audio) Goodreads badge
Publisher:
 ABC Books AU/Bolinda Audio
Pages: 352/10 hrs and 20 mins
Narrator: Tracey Spicer
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Memoir
★   ★   ★ – 3 Stars

From bogan to boned and beyond – a full-frontal ‘femoir’ by one of Australia’s best-loved journalists

Tracey Spicer was always the good girl. Inspired by Jana Wendt, this bogan from the Brisbane backwaters waded through the ‘cruel and shallow money trench’ of television to land a dream role: national news anchor for a commercial network. But the journalist found that, for women, TV was less about news and more about helmet hair, masses of makeup and fatuous fashion, in an era when bosses told you to ‘stick your tits out’, ‘lose two inches off your arse’, and ‘quit before you’re too long in the tooth’. Still, Tracey plastered on a smile and did what she was told. But when she was sacked by email after having a baby, this good girl turned ‘bad’, taking legal action against the network for pregnancy discrimination. In this frank and funny ‘femoir’ – part memoir, part manifesto – Tracey ‘sheconstructs’ the structural barriers facing women in the workplace and encourages us all to shake off the shackles of the good girl. 

I am a couple years behind the hype with this book but I am glad I finally got to read it. I picked this up because I was intrigued by the controversy Spicer apparently caused and I wanted to see what happens when the good girl said no more. It wasn’t quite the burn down the establishment that I had hoped, but it was an interesting read all the same.

The beginning has a lot of clunky jokes which probably flow better when read to yourself instead of read aloud, but you get through them and it settles into more of a story. Having Spicer read it herself means she gets to include her own inflections and express her humour as she intended which is good because as slightly jarring as it was to hear, I fear it would have been worse having someone else try and do it.

From Spicer’s early life growing up you see the sexism and the abuse that many girls experienced at that age and how overt it was at the time. Spicer’s “bogan” beginnings was a surprise to me and it certainly explains a few things and how she’s written this memoir.

One thing I noticed early on is that Spicer doesn’t seem to know who her audience is. She makes jokes about using encyclopaedias before the internet and explains obvious references in a slightly condescending manner like she is addressing children or teenagers, ignorant teenagers at that, whom I doubt are her main readership. I don’t doubt most of her readership are people over 30 who have enough sense to know that people used encyclopaedias before the internet without needing the patronising explanation. This happens a fair bit as she explains things that while even at my age I might not have been alive to experience, I still understand.

There are themes much like Fight Like A Girl as Spicer takes us on a journey through the decades as a women, a teenager and a girl, exposed to sexism, abuse, and disrespect in her life and workplace. Her own sarcasm and opinions adding some nice flare as she mocks the industry and those in it with humour and disdain.

I waited through the first half of the book, which was not uninteresting, but not entirely engaging either waiting for The Moment. There is a chance this was overhyped in my own head, but I thought that suing for discrimination was going to be a more defining moment, the “good girl turns bad” moment. In the end it comes and goes a little lacklustre and after I was expecting it to be the climax that shifted this story into a fight for equality and the moment Tracey said “no more!”, it kind of wasn’t.

Seeing women take down the patriarchy is my thing and I enjoyed Spicer’s stories, amazed but not shocked at her early life experiences. I waited the whole book though while she kept her temper, held her tongue, but the Event I wanted for is glossed over, wrapped up into barely nothing. I think we got more about her moving house then we did about her confrontation with her network. I understand non-disclosure agreements and terms of settlements, but I still think this could have been explored a little more, considering it was such a huge event, something I had been expecting to be a climax of this book based on the blurb.

After that it becomes a list of events about what happens after the settlement and what Spicer is doing now. This is after all an autobiography of Tracey Spicer, not a call to arms. But Spicer herself seems to build up your expectations as you read, constantly referencing the Good Girl and when she finally changes sides, it falls flat on the page, no matter how monumental it was in reality.

However, if you set aside that my expectations were skewed or I read too much into it, the book is still interesting and not unimportant. There is feminism and anger at the patriarchy but no real solutions. Unlike Clementine Ford who tells us how to burn down the establishment, Spicer keeps pointing out the inequality but doesn’t help us find a solution.

As a look at her life and her career it is interesting and shows you the behind the scenes and bones of her career. She strips away the flare and the lights of the television industry and she shows off her amazing achievements. I think this should be what is taken from the book, a great career from a great woman.

You can purchase The Good Girl Stripped Bare via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | Angus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust | Audible

Previous Older Entries