As night draws near, the boy must feed the chooks and shut them in their pen. Across the farm yard he goes, past the buildings, machinery and trees of the farm yard.
He calls to the chooks and they follow him to their yard where he feeds them and counts them, speaking to them by name. But one chook is missing and it is getting dark. He must find the missing chook before the fox comes prowling, and conquer his own uncertainties about crossing the dark yard to get home.
Shutting the Chooks In is a charming new picture book from writer Libby Gleeson and illustrator Ann James. With minimal words, Gleeson creates rather than describes the emotions of the young boy, who remains nameless, portraying his closeness with the chickens (each of which does have a name) and his sense of duty. His uncertainty about the dark is also drawn by the word choice, and the reader can feel his heart pumping as he runs home, to joyfully greet his mother waiting inside the back door.
Ann Gleeson’s charcoal and pastel illustrations complement the simplicity of the text, with the colours of the twilight subtly creeping in as the story progresses. The golden light of home shining on the last page frames the boy on his triumphant return.
Shutting the Chooks In, by Libby Gleeson, illustrated by Ann James
Scholastic Australia, 2003
In the early 1800s, Dorothea Brande accompanies her new husband on his regimental tour of duty to colonial New South Wales. From the polite circles of her Devonshire home, to the harshness of the colony proves a terrifying adjustment for the couple.
Dorothea struggles both with the physical harshness and the desperation and brutality of most of the colony’s residents. For her husband Charles, the colony is similarly depleting. However, rather than draw them together, this mutual discomfort drives them apart
Dorothea, searching desperately for a comfort zone which will connect her with home, decides to create a cottage garden around their humble home. As she directs her convict servant Daniel in this task the pair build a strange bond. The garden is a haven for them both.
Author Catherine Jinks interweaves historical fact with a compelling story, so that the reader can truly experience Dorothea’s desperation and sense of alienation. The characters of the colony, from all walks of life, are deftly portrayed, and the development of the three principals, Dorothea, her husband Charles, and the servant Daniel is both believable and enduring.
The Gentleman’s Garden is an enticing read for lovers of historical fiction or literary masterpieces.
Catherine Jinks is a versatile writer whose work ranges across genres and age groups from children to adult. She lives in New South Wales. Her children’s novel Eglantine (Allen and Unwin,2002) is also reviewed on this site.
The Gentleman’s Garden, by Catherine Jinks
Allen & Unwin, 2002
Pincus Corbett works hard in his tailor shop, attending to every detail, working late when customers have special orders. His is a hard-working, very regular life. But one night, as he works late, a mysterious customer puts in a very strange order. He wants a multicoloured suit with matching cape, made to order from an old sketch. Pincus obliges, but doesn’t know why anyone would want to wear such a suit.
When the man doesn’t come to claim the special suit, Pincus decides to try it on for himself. When his wife finds him gone the next morning she is mystified – where has he gone and why?
The media aren’t much interested in Pincus’ disappearance. They are far more interested in a strange hypnotist who appears at Sir Malcom Hersey’s party, and in the Prime Minister’s sudden unplanned holiday.
Meanwhile, Pincus finds himself caught up into a secret mission the likes of which he could never have anticipated.Is he really a hypnotist? And will he evr get back to his wife?
Pincus Corbett’s Strange Adventure is a fun book from acclaimed story teller Odo Hirsch. In his regular brilliant fashion, Hirsch weaves a fantasy full of humour and adventure, yet manages to touch on themes of loyalty and guilt.
Pincus Corbett’s Strange Adventure, by Odo Hirsch
Allen & Unwin, 2002
When Chayse is assigned to an undercover op working on a fishing boat, he is determined not to get personally involved. But that determination is in danger of cracking when he meets the new skipper of the trawler, Samantha Bretton.
Samantha has her own reasons for not getting involved – not with Chayse, or any other man. On top of whatever lurks in her past, her father has been wrongly charged with murder and has a broken leg preventing him from returning to the boat. Samantha must work the trawler or her father faces losing it.
Thrown together by the confines of the boat and by a series of misfortunes, Samantha and Chayse fight their feelings for each other. Even when they acknowledge their bond, each has secrets which could break the relationship apart. Despite this, however, the pair continue to work at solving the murder attributed to Sam’s father. Perhaps if they can unravel that mystery they can begin to work out their other problems.
Deadly Tide is the first gripping mystery title from author Sandy Curtis. With a special combination of mystery, suspense and romance, it is a compelling read.
Deadly Tide, by Sandy Curtis
Pan Macmillan, 2003
Silly Baby Magpie!
Big eyes and floppy head…
I’ve been scratching, screeching, tapping
Now I’m ready to be fed.
Silly Baby Magpie, a brand new book from Greater Glider Publications, follows baby magpie from his early life in the egg through his youth and on to maturity. Along the way we see his antics as he learns and plays.
Author Jill Morris combines simple, lively verse with text boxes containing non-fiction information about the magpie, one of Australia’s most common birds. The story and information are complemented by the richly detailed illustrations of Heather Gall.
A fun and informative picture book.
Silly Baby Magpie, by Jill Morris, illustrated by Heather Gall
Greater Glider Publications, 2003
Pigs don’t fly …. But sometimes they do like to wallow in the mud.
Bear’s don’t bounce … But they snooze all winter.
Two new lift-the-flap picture books, combining the talents of author Jackie French and illustrator Matt Cosgrove are sure to delight young prereaders and their parents. Each page combines a little fantasy – flying pigs, bouncing bears, jiggling giraffes – with a little fact, hidden beneath sturdy flaps. Each flap is half a page and the illustration on the main page is continued on to the flap, to show a connection between the fact and the fantasy.
French’s simple text makes these books quick to read and suitable for toddlers’ short attention spans, whilst Cosgrove’s vibrant illustrations are sure to delight.
The format of the two books is similar, with Pigs Don’t Fly concentrating on farm animals and Bears Don’t Bounce on wild animals.
Jackie French is a prolific author with many children’s titles to her name, as well as books about gardening and natural lifestyle. She makes regular appearances on television’s Burke’s Backyard.
This pair of books are sure to prove popular with youngsters and their parents.
Pigs Don’t Fly and Bears Don’t Bounce, by Jackie French, illustrated by Matt Cosgrove
Koala Books, 2003
Mrs Besome is organising a Grand Pet Parade and all the kids are going to bring their pets. Even Dulcie – which is strange, because Dulcie doesn’t have a pet. But somehow, Dulcie finds herself putting her hand up in class and telling everyone that she will be bringing Muriel.
Now, all Ducie needs to do is to find a Muriel before the big show. As luck has it, Dulcie and Dud do find a Muriel. ALl they have to do is find a place to put her (if she really is a her) until the big show. Can they keep the really secret secret, and will Muriel win the pet show?
Dulcie and Dud and the Really Secret secret is the fourth Dulcie and Dud book from author Carol Ann Martin and illustrator Janine Dawson. The combination of fun plot, endearing characters and clever line drawings makes for an entertaining book, accessible to readers aged 6 to 8, making their transition from picture book texts to early novels.
A fun story.
Dulcie and Dud and the Really Secret Secret, by Carol Ann Martin, illustrated by Janine Dawson
Omnibus Books, 2003.