The Road to Winter by Mark Smith


roadtowintercoverThe Road to Winter by Mark Smith, paperback novel, 230 pages, published by Text Publishing in 2016.

Finn watched as his little town on the Victorian coast was ravished by a mysterious virus, leaving few survivors. Finn is a survivor, and he has kept himself and his dog, Rowdy, alive for the past two years, despite his youth. He’s also escaped the notice of the violent gangs of Wilders who have taken control of the land to the north. A girl suddenly appears on Finn’s beach, injured, tired and running from the Wilders. He makes a split decision to help her; he is not alone any more, but she does pose a huge complication to his otherwise repetitive life of hunting and surfing.

What a debut for Mark Smith! An intense dystopian novel set in Australia, The Road to Winter is about the struggles to survive in a world turned upside down. There are also themes of friendship and love, including the special bond that Finn has with Rowdy. I really got wrapped up in this story as I read. I stayed up late to finish reading it, and when I awoke the following morning, all I could think about was getting back into the book to find out what happened next. I was extremely disappointed when I remembered that I’d already finished it and the next one isn’t available yet.

Such rich characters, having experienced loss, trauma and hardship. In some ways they are all broken, but they also possess much strength to have survived the sickness and the collapse of society. I really liked Finn, his gentle and caring nature, his independence and his love for Rowdy. He is quite resourceful also, trapping rabbits and diving for abalone to eat. Rose and Kas are much more feisty, and maybe even more determined to survive than Finn. They are also capable, clever and beautiful. Ramage, on the other-hand, is cruel and vindictive, a truly ugly person capable of the most heinous acts. I think many of the Wilders do Ramage’s bidding because they are frightened of him, and with good cause. It’s a shame the virus didn’t take him out! The sound of his trail bike is chilling; it announces impending hostility and fear, hard to forget.

The author has included a rather controversial and topical aspect to this story in the form of ‘Sileys’. This is slang for asylum seekers. In the story these ‘Sileys’ were bought and sold like slaves, property for their owners to do with as they saw fit. Australia is currently up in arms about the treatment of asylum seekers, who face off-shore detention in poor conditions indefinitely. It’s scary to think that our current methods of processing asylum seekers could ever devolve into open slave labour like in the story.

A thrilling read, The Road to Winter is suitable for high school students. It is to be the first in a series, so now I have to wait (trying to be patient, and failing miserably!) for the next book.

New Library Additions July ’16


IMG_7880July was a quiet month when it came to book buying. I did pick up some lovely 2 for $30 Australian YA from Dymocks on the last day of the month, and I ordered some books from the kids Scholastic bookclub catalogue, but they haven’t arrived yet.

Physical Books:



  • Minecat by P.T. Evans (chapter book)

Minecat: A Whole Lot of Ocelots by P.T. Evans


minecatcoverMinecat: A Whole Lot of Ocelots by P.T. Evans, e-book, 64 pages, published by Montage Publishing in 2016.

When Jason’s cat, Spike, gets sucked into the computer, he finds himself in Jason’s Minecraft world. After watching Jason play Minecraft for hours on end, Spike finally gets to build the world himself. He takes full advantage of this to make his perfect home.

Minecraft has many fans around the world that play regularly. I am not one of these people, but I have watched my daughter play, and she talks about her game often, so I wasn’t completely in the dark. I had not seen ocelots in the game before, but after reading this my daughter went and found some ocelots and domesticated them just for me to see!

I rather enjoyed Minecat. It was a short and quick read, but the story was fun. It is a chapter book using reasonably simple language with short sentences and chapters. The allure of Minecraft will get the readers in, and the engaging story will keep them reading.

Spike is quirky, sweet and funny. And maybe just a little bit egocentric! I liked it when he was re-arranging Jason’s Minecraft house, adding climbing stations, beds, and eating all the flowers. Those spiders were a tad creepy, but the domesticated ocelots were very cute!

There are some illustrations in the story, such as images from Minecraft, often with Spike added to them. I liked the way Spike was drawn, he is pretty cute, and his insertion into the images and photos worked well. My favourite picture was where Spike was swinging on a vine in the jungle. The pictures suit the story.

My fourth grader loves Minecraft and spends hours playing it with her friends. She also loves cats. When I told her I had a copy of Minecat for her to read she was very excited. She read it quickly in one sitting, and has already re-read it a couple of times. She thought it was an excellent read for any Minecraft fan, though it was a bit easy for her. She’s quite enthusiastic about reading more in this series.

Minecat: A Whole Lot of Ocelots is suitable for primary school students. It would also suit reluctant readers, especially those with a love of Minecraft.


*I received this book from the publisher as a digital copy in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive any other remuneration, and the review is composed entirely of my own opinions.

Suzie’s Messy Room by Diane N. Quintana and Jonda S. Beattie


Cover Suzie's Messy RoomSuzie’s Messy Room by Diane N. Quintana and Jonda S. Beattie, picture e-book, 48 pages, published by Page Publishing in 2015.

Suzie is five, and she loves playing in her room. Sometimes she has so much fun her room gets really messy with toys, books and puzzles everywhere. Now it’s time to clean up the mess, buts it’s a big job for a little girl.

The authors have applied their organisational skills to the task of cleaning up a child’s bedroom in Suzie’s Messy Room. Suzie’s mum breaks the job into smaller, more manageable tasks, such as focussing on picking up the clothes, or putting away the dolls. This helps Suzie to complete the job. Alongside colourful illustrations depicting Suzie cleaning up her room, the story helps to show kids how they can go about organising their rooms and keeping them neat and tidy.

I know Suzie’s mess very well! And I know how hard it can be to know where to start when the job is so humongous. The techniques used in Suzie’s Messy Room are useful for children to utilise. It really can make the job of cleaning up a room much easier, though I’m still not convinced anything can make them like it! Preferably this book would be shared between parents and their children, leading to a discussion about the state of the child’s bedroom and what needs to happen to make it tidy again! Hopefully this book will help convince kids to clean up.

I understand the need to reinforce positive behaviour, but I think going out for a special ice-cream is a little over the top for cleaning up her room. I prefer verbal praise and high-fives and stickers, and I keep a “rewards box” with small items in it for jobs really well done.

The illustrations are nice and bright. They remind me of some of the picture books I had as a child, though that might just be Suzie’s short, curly hair! And the mother’s ears made me think of elves, mostly on the page where she is hugging Suzie. I really like Suzie’s facial expressions.

Overall, a nice book about cleaning up, with some positive ideas for helping children do it themselves. It is suitable for primary school students, but I suggest reading it with your child to get the most benefits.


*I received this book from the author as digital copy, who asked me for an honest review of this book. I did not receive any other remuneration, and the review is composed entirely of my own opinions.

Herbie’s Big Adventure by Jennie Poh


herbiescoverHerbie’s Big Adventure by Jennie Poh, picture e-book, 40 pages, expected publication on September 1st 2016 by Capstone Young Readers.

Herbie is a small hedgehog setting off on his first adventure in the big world beyond his home. He goes foraging on his own at his mother’s insistence even though he is a bit nervous.

This is a nice little tale of adventure and exploration. I liked the way the wind carried Herbie off, especially when he was flying along on the leaf. This is quite a unique way for a hedgehog to move around, but it looked like fun. It was good for sharing aloud, though I thought the text could have been a little bit bigger for ease of reading.

The illustrations in Herbie’s Big Adventure are simply gorgeous! First off, the cover caught my attention with its cute little hedgehog surrounded by an assortment of forest items, and this flowed right into the story. I love the style and colours used to create Herbie’s world. And Herbie really is very cute. I like the page where Herbie is eating apple cores and he looks so happy.

Herbie’s Big Adventure is a delightful picture book most suitable for lower primary school children and preschoolers. I found it was a little long for my toddlers, though they liked the pictures.


*I obtained this book as a digital copy from Netgalley. I did not receive any other remuneration, and this is an honest review composed entirely of my own opinions.

Caillou, No More Diapers by Christine L’Heureux and Pierre Brignaud


caillounomorediaperscoverCaillou, No More Diapers by Christine L’Heureux and illustrated by Pierre Brignaud, picture e-book (board book edition), 24 pages, published by Chouette Publishing – Caillou in 2016.

Caillou has got the hang of the potty, and now he is going to use the big toilet. His dad gets him a special seat and step to make it easier to use. Caillou really wants to go to bed with his diaper, but he’s not quite ready for that.

I remember reading Caillou books as a child and I’m quite fond of him, so it was a joy to introduce him to my own children. I read this to my two toilet training toddlers, and they loved it; I’ve had multiple requests to re-read. Since we are Australian I replaced the word ‘diaper’ with ‘nappy’ whilst reading so that my kids wouldn’t be confused by the new word. We also had a little talk about Caillou using the sink by himself. In the story he gets up on his step and turns the faucets on and off, filling up cubes, and tipping them out. It sounds really cute, but when my boys try to do this, it’s more like someone mashed the soap, shoved it up the faucet, let the water flow, washed the towels in the sink and used the ceiling for boat races. So we talked about how responsible Caillou was being at the sink, making sure not to spill any water!

The pictures are bright and fun, while the text is simple and clear, making it perfect for younger children. The book also comes in a sturdy board book format, which I like (my son is a serial book ripper!) Both books in the Caillou Potty Training Series are a great way to start the conversation about toilet training. I really liked that it wasn’t all successes in the story; Caillou wets the bed on one page, and it’s not a big deal, he just tries again. Learning that everyone experiences misses alongside the hits is important for children of all ages.

Caillou, No More Diapers is the follow up to Caillou, Potty Time, taking learning to use the toilet to the next step. It would make a great gift for a toilet training toddler.


*I obtained this book as a digital copy from Netgalley. I did not receive any other remuneration, and this is an honest review composed entirely of my own opinions.


The Flywheel by Erin Gough


flywheelcoverThe Flywheel by Erin Gough, paperback novel, 306 pages, published by Hardie Grant Egmont in 2015.

Del’s life is complicated. After her mother left, Del encouraged her heart-broken father to travel overseas and take time for himself. While he is away, Del is running her father’s café, The Flywheel. She was supposed to just be helping out the manager, but he got deported, and now she’s on her own, trying desperately to keep things going, and she just can’t tell her dad. She also wants to avoid going back to school, where she is supposed to be in year eleven. She’s been copping it for being gay, with the ‘popular’ girls leading the charge with claims of stalking and voyeurism. And she’s got her friend Charlie to worry about; and her crush on Rosa, a girl that dances Flamenco at the Tapas Bar across the road.

A poignant and compelling story of a girl trying to find her place in the world, The Flywheel is about friendship, love, loss, and making the best of any situation. Beautifully written from the stand-point of Delilah, the gay 17 year old protagonist, I found this book to be incredibly hard to put down. I would have finished it in one sitting, but I really needed to sleep!

With excellent description, I could be sitting in The Flywheel now, sipping a triple chocolate milkshake, eating a HAT sandwich and watching the uni students play poker. Or chatting with one of the sunburnt backpackers. Or watching Rosa dance gracefully around the floor at Charada, her red skirt flying. It all felt very true to life. Even the awful bullying that Del faced at school sounded similar to things hurled about in my own school days. I hate that any child should have to endure torture like that, and I wouldn’t have minded seeing Ella (or Georgina) catch a football with her face!

Del is an amazing girl. She is smart, funny, kind, brave, loyal… the list really could go on. I liked her very much. Her life might be in the toilet, but she never really gives up. Determined and independent, she is confident in her sexuality, but expects too much of others. As the story progressed, Del came to know a lot more about herself, and how to live the life she wanted. Charlie also developed quite a lot through the book. He is kind of crazy, yet loveable. He added spice to the story with some of his antics, and his fickleness in love. He is a very good friend to Del. The supporting characters were also well described and easy to picture. I especially liked Misch; she made me laugh.

The Flywheel is a delicious look at contemporary Australian teenage life. It does contains some swearing and sexual references and it is most suitable for middle and upper high school students, through to adults.

The Flywheel is shortlisted for the 2016 Children’s Book Council of Australia Book of the Year in the Older Readers category.