What time is it? It’s time for our team of keen readers to share their TOP READS for the month — the best book each of them read during September 2014. If you need just the right book to read in the school holidays, these books come highly recommended:

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Two of our Young Readers are away on holidays and out of contact — we look forward to sharing their October reads with you in a month!


by Bailey, 8, QLD

One day Gary the camel was going to the River Nile for a bath.

“I hate grit. It’s in my ears, my fur, my mouth and in my hair. It’s everywhere!” complained Gary as he trudged down to the river. Just as he was stepping in to take a bath, his glasses slipped off! “Oh dear! Now I’ll have to get a new pair of glasses”, said Gary. So off he went to the shops at Cairo to get some new glasses.

Without his glasses, Gary had a lot of trouble seeing clearly. Not before long Gary came to a Hairdresser.

“Can I buy some glasses please?” asked Gary.
“Sorry”, said Kerri the Hairdresser.  “We don’t sell glasses but I can give you a haircut”.
“Okay” said Gary, feeling disappointed.

BUUZZZZ! In no time at all he had a new haircut. Then he thanked Kerri the hairdresser and off he went to find some glasses.

After a while Gary found a Beauty Parlour.

“Can I buy some glasses please?” asked Gary.
“Sorry”, said Tina the Beautician. “We don’t sell glasses but I can shampoo and perfume your fur for you”.
“Okay” said Gary disappointed.

SCRUB, SCRUB, SQUIRT!!! In no time at all he had his fur washed and perfumed. Gary thanked Tina the Beautician, and then off he went to buy some new glasses.

Ten minutes later, he came to a hat shop.

“Can I buy some glasses please?” he asked Terry the Hatter.
“Sorry” said Terry. “We don’t sell glasses but I can make you a hat?” offered Terry.
“Okay” said Gary disappointed. TAP! TAP! TAP! In no time at all, Gary had a new hat. He thanked Terry the Hatter, and then off he went to find some new glasses.

As he entered the next shop, he was sure he’d found the glasses shop.

“Can I buy some glasses please?” asked Gary.
“Sorry”, said Bronwyn the Tailor. “We don’t sell glasses but I can give you some clothes”.
“Okay”, said Gary still feeling disappointed. Suddenly the sweet smell of lollies wafted up his nose. So he thanked Bronwyn the Tailor and off he went following that sweet smell.

In the lolly shop Gary bought a Gobstopper.

“Be very careful with it”, said Chris the Candy Man. “You don’t want to break a … ” But it was too late; Gary had already broken his tooth.

“Ouch! That hurts!” Gary howled to Chris the Candy Man as he left the shop.

When he finally got over the pain of his broken tooth, Gary came to another shop.

“Can I buy some glasses please?” Gary whimpered to the receptionist behind the counter.
“Sorry”, said Dali the receptionist. “We don’t sell glasses but I can get Cameron the Dentist to fix and clean your teeth”.
“Yes, please,” said Gary, feeling relieved. Not before long Gary had sparkling clean teeth.

He thanked Cameron the Dentist who said, “I know an Optometrist called Peter, he’s a friend of mine. I’ll take you to see him”. And with that, they headed off to meet Peter the Optometrist.

Finally Gary had found the right place to buy a new pair of glasses. Without delay, he chose a smart and shiny new pair, and looked in the mirror. He was surprised to see the camel staring back at him. His hair was trimmed, his ears were clipped, his fur was washed and perfumed. He had a new hat, a brown and blue shawl and his teeth were clean and sparkling. He was no longer a spitty, nitty, gritty camel. Now he was Gary the spunky, funky, hunky camel! He wasn’t disappointed anymore, he was delightedly distinguished!

The End

The 52-Storey Treehouse by Andy Griffiths, ill. Terry Denton, ISBN 9781742614212, Pan Australia

The 52-Storey Treehouse



Joseph is reviewing his own copy of this book.

I had to wait a whole year for this book. When it finally came out I read it from cover to cover in one sitting and I’ve read it many more times since.

This is the fourth book in the Treehouse series and once again 13 new storeys have been added, including a watermelon smashing room. But Andy and Terry soon remember something important — Mr Big Nose has forgotten to remind them about the deadline for the new book and he has gone missing. Could it be related to that book Fun with Vegetables by Vegetable Patty? They take off on an advegetable story (an adventure with vegetables) with the help of a little caterpillar with a surprising secret. And what has happened to Jill? Why won’t she wake up when Andy and Terry explode in?

I liked lots of things about this book. Firstly, the unexpected plot. My little sister kept wrongly guessing the next step of the plot. I liked the characters — some minor characters from earlier Treehouse books are back, and there are some new ones as well. My favourite part was the craziness of everything in the book, especially Terry’s ninja snails.

My special tip for reading this book is that you should read the other books in the series (like The 26-Storey Treehouse) first because then the jokes are funnier and they make more sense.

The illustrations in this book are by Terry Denton (like in the earlier books). They are just perfect for the Treehouse series because there are lots and lots of them and they’re the sort that you don’t get bored with. His drawings are like first drafts, it’s like you’re seeing them when he’s just finished drawing them. I like that.

I would recommend this book for 7 to 13 year olds and all adults who like a bit of humour. My special warning: if you’re scared of spiders, skip over Terry’s spider pictures — they are pretty scary. Both boys and girls will enjoy reading this book.

I rate this book 9.5/10 and it’s my favourite book in the series.

Joseph is one of our regular book reviewers. His most recent review (if you don’t count this one) was of Our Village in the Sky. If YOU would like to send us a book review, check out our submission guidelines. Happy reading!

Tottie and Dot cover

Tina Snerling is an Australian illustrator with a brand new picture book — Tottie and Dot. Today Tina is visiting us to talk about how she starts illustrating a new book project.

When the publisher gives you a picture book text, what’s the very first thing you do?

I start to think about the colour palette, style of drawing, characters and the actual scenes to be illustrated. This can take days, weeks or months, depending of the depth of the book. For Tottie and Dot, the colour palette was very important to the storyline given the intensity of the scenes. They needed to be completely contrasting in every way.

Once you had the story text for Tottie and Dot, how long did it take you to complete all the illustrations?

This is a little difficult to answer as the process is quite long! I usually start developing the characters first, like this:

Tina's sketches for Tottie and Dot


Tina snerling sketches 2

I created around 10 different ideas and ‘girls’ in this case before I came up with the ‘final’ Tottie and Dot! Then once the girls are drawn, I work on different poses and facial expressions I might need. Then comes the fun part of illustrating each page! This took around 6 months full-time illustrating to complete the book ready for printing. Some days I can work 15+ hours illustrating — it depends how creative I am feeling!

Can you draw whatever you like?

I get given an illustration guideline from the author. They usually have a general idea of what image will be illustrated, then I get to the fun part and add my own personality and humour to the illustrations! Working with Tania is amazing, as I get to go crazy with my imagination, and add my own quirky details. In Tottie and Dot I loved the incorporation of the cats — it was so enjoyable creating crazy things for them to do in each scene.

Did Tania (the author) see any of your illustrations before the whole book was finished?

Tania and I work very closely on our books. We are a little bit different to most illustrator/authors where we work as a team. We are in constant daily contact (sometimes until all hours of the night) and bounce ideas off each other.

Do you decide where and how much text goes on each page, or does the publisher decide that?

The text is already set out on each page when I receive the manuscript. This was part of the author’s role and is important especially in picture books as we are usually limited to 32 pages. As the book designer, I do get to decide the font, size and position of the words though!

Did you do the cover first, or last, or somewhere in the middle of all the illustrating?

Our publisher usually likes to see the cover fairly close to the beginning of the book. Once the characters have been decided and the scene is set, the cover then usually comes next! I still tweak a few things later on once the book is coming to an end though! With Tottie and Dot, we actually had another cover:

Alternative Cover for Tottie and Dot

… which we stuck with for some time, but at the final hour I changed it to be the current cover you see today:

Tottie and Dot cover

Tottie and Dot is published by EK Books. You can find out more about the book (and the author and illustrator) on the Tottie and Dot website. This blog post is part of a Blog Blast — for more interviews, giveaways, book reviews and news on Tottie and Dot, check out the participating blogs


by Tamsyn, 11, VIC

“I’ll be as fast as I can” Meg said.
“Good luck,” Lauren replied with starry eyes. Lauren and Jem stood arm in arm waiting for Meg to complete the task.

The great brass doors creaked as Meg opened them. Looking back one last time and very much wishing she didn’t agree to the dare, she stepped inside. She hastily crossed the groaning floor to the stairs. Clutching the banisters tight with knuckles turning white, she climbed steadily towards the landing. But as she placed her foot on it, a piece crumbled and fell away to the floor below, hurtling Meg forward and burying her face in dust and mould. As she stood, the strong, thick taste of blood reached her lips, but she wiped it away with her sleeve and began walking along the long dim corridor. She tried to remember Jem’s exact instructions, “Go along the first corridor off the landing, turn right. The door you want is at the end.”  Looking straight ahead as she rounded the next corridor, she didn’t need instructions to know what door it was. The black spider web covered spooky door was by far the scariest of them all. As she reached out to the dust covered door knob, an ear-splitting scream started ringing in her ears. She sprinted back to the stairs with shock and fright. Was the screaming getting louder?

She did not know; all she cared about was getting out. About to fly down the stairs, she yelped in fright at a small figure clinging tightly to the landing and sobbing.
“Meg! Help me!” the figure cried.
With a jolt of surprise Meg recognised Annabelle. She grabbed her sister’s arm and heaved her onto the landing.

“What are you doing here?” Meg panted, puffed from the effort of pulling. “Go home!” Meg ordered.
“NO! I don’t want to go back; I want to stay with you!” Annabelle sulked and burst out crying.
“Great, just great,” Meg muttered and forced out the words “fine, follow me”. She had calmed a bit and decided to head back to the door. She once again groped for the doorknob in the dim light. No high pitched shriek came so she turned it cautiously. It clicked open with ease. There was no going back.

She stepped inside, leaving Annabelle cowering at the doorway. Lit candles in brackets cast an eerie glow. She briefly thought someone must have been here recently. Quickly, a blinding flash of light speared into her eyes and she fell to the ground. Her eyes jammed shut, and groaning in agony, she hobbled back to Annabelle. Leaning on her, they shuffled back to the landing, pushed themselves over the gap and onto the step. Meg kept pushing, no longer caring about the dust or cobwebs. Annabelle followed shakily behind. They eventually reached the door. Annabelle turned the door knob over and over, her face scrunched up in concentration. Nothing happened. Meg had a go, yet realisation turned to rising panic. They were stuck …

Happy Spring Eve! (Well, tomorrow is the first day of spring in Australia. That counts as Spring Eve, don’t you think?) It’s the last day of August and that means it’s time for our team of keen readers to share their TOP READS for the month — the best book each of them read during August 2014. If you’re looking for a book to read, here’s a good list to start with:

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NB: Sometimes a book might be out of print. Don’t forget to ask for it at your library!

** Warning for younger readers: Although Cuckoo Song is an amazing book it contains a fairly creepy concept and some frightening scenes.

This is a wonderful poem for reading out loud. ~ Rebecca


A SONG OF AUTUMN by Adam Lindsay Gordon

‘Where shall we go for our garlands glad
At the falling of the year,
When the burnt-up banks are yellow and sad,
When the boughs are yellow and sere?
Where are the old ones that once we had,
And where are the new ones near?
What shall we do for our garlands glad
At the falling of the year?’

‘Child! can I tell where the garlands go?
Can I say where the lost leaves veer
On the brown-burnt banks, when the wild winds blow,
When they drift through the dead-wood drear?
Girl! When the garlands of next year glow,
You may gather again, my dear—
But I go where the last year’s lost leaves go
At the falling of the year.’


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