Bones Maloney and the Raspberry Spiders, by Glenda Millard

Bones Maloney might look tough, but his heart is as soft as a cherry brandy chocolate. Bones and his Jazz Doggies are the star attraction at Barker’s cafĂ© every Friday night. But, if there is one thing that Bones loves more than singing it is the raspberry spiders that are served at Barkers. Unfortunately, he isn’t paid enough to be able to buy one. What would happen if his throat was too dry to sing half way through his performance?

This humorous picture book combines children’s fantasy with the blues scene for an effect that will entertain both children and their adult readers. The illustrations of Matt Cosgrove are awesome, with vibrant colours and adorable dog-characters ranging from chihuahuas to dalmations to mutts and hounds.

Most likely to appeal to readers aged 4 to 8, Glenda Millard’s story will have you hankering for a raspberry spider.

Bones Maloney and the Raspberry Spiders
, by Glenda Millard, illustrated by Matt Cosgrove
A Margaret Hamilton Book from Ashton Scholastic, 2002

Magpie Mischief, by Jon Doust and Ken Spillman

As well as helping kids cross the road to school, the Crosswalk lady likes to help birds. She likes all birds, but has a special soft spot for the magpies who nest near the school gate.

Most of the kids who use the crossing have made freinds with the magpies too, but not Ben and his bumcrack buddies. They like to tease the magpies, and Ben has been trying to steal a magpie egg since grade three. So it’s no wonder that the magpies divebomb them during the nesting season.

Ben’s Dad is a shire councillor and when he hears about the magpies,he decides something must be done. The magpies must be eradicated.

The town is divided, but no one knows what to do. It is up to the children to find a solution.

Magpie Mischief is a fun quick read for children aged seven to twelve. The product of the combined talents of Jon Doust and Ken Spillman and with illustrations by Marion Duke, Magpie Mischief is a great read.

Magpie Mischief, by Jon Doust and Ken Spillman
Fremantle Arts Centre Press, 2002

Their Doorstep Baby, by Barbara Hannay

Claire and Adam Townsend are happily married. VERY happily married. After eight years they are still very much in love and in lust. But one thing prevents their lives from being complete – the lack of a child to complete their family.

With no medical reason for her failure to fall pregnant, Claire becomes increasingly depressed. The pressure on their previously stable marriage is immense. Then, when a baby is left on the doorstep of their isolated Outback home, Claire thinks her prayers have been answered, but Adam is not so sure.

Their Doorstep Baby by Australian author Barbara Hannay released in May in the UK, in June in Australia, and in September in the United States. The Outback setting, uniquely Australian, is used to tell a story which will tug at the heartstrings of all who are mothers and all who long to be.

Hannay offers characters with believable emotions and responses, in a predicament bound to test the strongest of relationships. She moves the story along with an excellent sense of timing and tension. A great read.

Barbara Hannay can be visited on the web at www.barbarahannay.com. You can also read an extract from Their Doorstep Baby

Their Doorstep Baby,by Barbara Hannay
Mills and Boon, 2002 ISBN: 0 263 83007 1

Bantam, by Terry Whitebeach and Michael Brown

When their taste of city life disappoints, Mick and Toad return to Bantam, their home town. Unemployed and broke, their biggest problem seems to be how to survive until next dole day.

For Mick and his friends life is about drinking, fishing and looking for girls. For Mick there are also chooks and his dog, Jezebel.

But life has a funny way of turning serious. Bantam is a town like any other – with problems of unemployment, domestic violence and youth suicide.

Will Mick ever find balance in the roller cosater ride of his existence?

Bantam is a special book. To blend humour and tragedy is a delicate process, but author Terry Whitebeach pulls it off superbly. Readers will find themselves laughing, crying and cheering Mick and his mate Toad on, right to the last page.

Author Terry Whitebeach began working on Bantam after her son Michael Brown moved to a small town and started sending letters home telling her of his adventures. The stories he told seemed to be funnier and more terrible than anything she could imagine, so she wrote them down.

Bantam is Whitebeach’s second young adult novel and her son’s first.

Bantam, by Terry Whitebeach and Michael Brown
Fremantle Arts Centre Press, 2002

Gypsy Magic, by Moya Simons

School holidays are meant to be fun, but Becky isn’t that thrilled with the outlook for hers. Her Mum and Dad have gone to New Zealand and she’s been left with her babysitter, Mrs Amati, who has a chrystal ball and says she’s a gypsy. All of Becky’s friends are out of town and the only kids left to play with are a strange girl called Zara and a painful boy called Josh.

But when there’s a bank robbery in town, the three chidlren are on their way to solving it, with a touch of gypsy magic. Mrs Amati’s crystal ball could be the key to turning Becky’s holiday around.

Moya Simons lives in New South Wales and has written lots of great books for chidlren, including Whoppers and Dead Average. Gypsy Magic will appeal to readers aged nine to twelve.

Gypsy Magic, by Moya Simons
Omnibus Books (a Scholastic imprint), 2002

Carrion Colony, by Richard King

We are here to etch the faint name of England upon the dust.

Set in the early nineteenth century, Carrion Colony explores the beginnings of white Australia in the mythical colony of Old and New Bridgeford. As they adapt to life in this harsh and alien clime, officers and convicts are stretched beyond belief just to survive.

Among the characters are a doctor so terrified by the native flora, he is determined to eradicate it, a madman who has been isolated on a rock in the middle of the bay and a Governor who chooses to exercise his medical skills only when it suits, among other flawed and eccentric characters.

This is a colony where mayhem and violence are the norm, where there is nothing too far fetched to be considered a legitimate part – for everything in this colony is far fetched.

Richard King, winner of the 1995 Vogel Literary Award, exercises his skills as an absurdist writer. Unfortunately, he is perhaps too absurd, for in its efforts to be clever it becomes too clever for the average reader.

This is a novel where plot and character are pushed aside in the pursuit of art. Perhaps one needs to be finely schooled in the art of the absurd to truly enjoy it.

Carrion Colony, by Richard King
Allen & Unwin, 2002

Jinx, by Margaret Wild

Do not love me.
Be warned!
I am Jinx.

Margaret Wild is best known for her award winning picture books, including Fox and Old Pig. In Jinx she makes her debut as a writer of young adult fiction. Readers can only hope that this is a genre she stays with.

Jinx deals with topics not new to YA Fiction – including teenage angst and youth suicide – yet does it in a style which is both refreshing and daring.

Jinx is told in blank verse, which ensures that every word is carefully chosen and loaded with meaning. It also makes the novel a fairly quick read and accessible to readers of all abilities.

Jinx hasn’t always been called Jinx. She used to be called Jen, before she became a Jinx. Now, no one is safe around her. Her parents have split up, her boyfriends are dying. Perhaps everyone should stay away from her.

Jen’s story is a poignant one, dealing with serious topics, yet doing so with a gentle humour which prevents it from being either black or preachy.

Jinx
is excellent both for private reading and for class study, for children aged 14 and over. It is short listed for the Children’s Book Council of Australia Awards, 2002.

Jinx, by Margaret Wild
Allen & Unwin, 2001

Tashi and the Haunted House, by Anna Fienberg and Barbara Fienberg

There’s a light in the window of the haunted house, and Tashi is going in.

Tashi is back and has two new adventures to share in Tashi and the Haunted House. In the first story Tashi finds Ning Jing hiding in the haunted house, scared of her nasty cousin Bu Li. Tashi comes up with a spooky plan to scare him right out of the forest. In the second, Tashi is confronted by two mysterious creatures in the village square. Tashi knows the demons are back and they want to beat him. Can he outwit them, and save the village school?

Tashi is an appealing character from a magical far away land, the creation of Anna Fienberg and her mother Barbara. This is the ninth book in the Tashi series, and is sure to convince those who are not yet Tashi fans to read the whole set.

Brought to life in the illustrations of Kim Gamble, Tashi shares his adventures with his friend Jack and the whole family.

Anna Fienberg is the author of many popular and award-winning books for children, including Joseph, shortlisted for the 2002 Children’s Book Council Awards, and Horrendo’s Curse. Her mother, Barbara Fienberg, is the chief plot-deviser for the Tashi books.

Kim Gamble is an award-winning artist. He has illustrated many of Fienberg’s books as well as those of other authors, including Margaret Wild.

Tashi and the Haunted House is sure to delight youngsters aged 6 to 10.

Tashi and the Haunted House, by Anna Fienberg and Barbara Fienberg, illustrated by Kim Gamble
Allen & Unwin, 2002

The Legend of Moondyne Joe, by Mark Greenwood

One of the more colourful characters from Western Australia’s past has been brought to life in a new picture book from Cygnet Books, the children’s imprint of UWA Press.

The Legend of Moondyne Joe
tells the story of Joseph Johns (who became known as Moondyne Joe), who is remembered for his daring escapes from custody.

History has questioned whether Joe was really a hardened criminal, or simply a harmless lover of freedom. Author Mark Greenwood manages to explore Moondyne’s tale without either condemning or condoning his actions, yet the reader finds himself quietly cheering Joe on.

The story is told in simple yet clear detail and is superbly complemented by the gouache paintings of illustrator Frane Lessac (who is also Greenwood’s wife). The illustrations add to the air of history in the piece and are also true to the Western Australian setting. The pictures of the Fremantle Prison are especially accurate.

The addition of a glossary of terms and notes on the convict era are a useful educational tool and also help the independent reader to access the text.

The Legend of Moondyne Joe is an outstanding non fiction picture book text.

The Legend of Moondyne Joe, by Mark Greenwood, illustrated by Frane Lessac
Cygnet Books (an imprint of UWA Press), 2002

Plotless Pointless Pathetic, by Joshua Wright

Egads! There’s trouble afoot in the land of Sausagopolis.

Somebody has been writing naughty poetry – poetry sure to corrupt the minds of innocent, straight-laced citizens.

But don’t fear, dear reader, because help is at hand – Sir Glame, knight hero, and his trusty sidekick Bill (actually a talking horse) – are on a quest to stop the evil Saucy McRascal, author of the Big Book of Fun

This is, however, no traditional fantasy-quest story. The title, Plotless Pointless Pathetic gives more than a little hint to the true nature of the story.

Author Joshua Wright fills the book with corny jokes, inexplicable plot twists and plenty of general silliness. Cartoons on every page provide distractions and humour.

As Glame and Bill blunder their way through the quest, they encounter colossally scary monsters, scrap trucks and freaky fuzzies, who talk cute but act mean.

This hilarious book will appeal to children aged 8 to 12, athough older readers will also find some laughs.

Plotless Pointless Pathetic is the first book from Joshua Wright. One suspects it won’t be his last.

Plotless Pointless Pathetic, by Joshua Wright
Allen & Unwin 2002