Harriet Huxtable & the Trouble With Teachers, by Louise Pike

Harriet Huxtable is not happy. Mr Penny, her wonderful teacher, is away from school and the relief teacher Mr Rugless is awful – he doesn’t play the saxophone and he knows nothing about cricket. What’s worse is that the reason Mr Penny is away is that he has an interview at a school in the city. If he gets it he’ll be leaving.

Harriet and her best friend Sophie hatch a plan to keep Mr Penny in town. If they can find him a wife he won’t leave and Mr Rugless won’t be their permanent teacher. Great plan – now all they have to do is find the wife!

Harriet and Sophie have loads of fun and some awkward moments as they search for the perfect woman for Mr Penny, avoid the grumpy Mr Rugless, and even manage to find Harriet’s father’s missing body part.

A funny read.

Harriet Huxtable and the Trouble With Teachers, by Louise Pike
Omnibus, 2003

The Alphabet of Light and Dark, by Danielle Wood

When Essie’s grandfather dies, she returns to Bruny Island and to the lighthouse where her great-grandfather was keeper for half of his life. There, in the solitude of the now empty lighthouse and the keeper’s cottage, she unravels the stories of her great grandparents, her grandparents, her parents and herself.

Her grandfather has left her a box of memories – a postcard, a carved coconut and a tiny coin – and the memories of the stories he told her when he was alive. These are the fragments which she will explore and weave together to write the story of her ancestors and to try to make sense of her own life.

In the meantime, a childhood acquaintance has reentered her life. But Pete Shelverton has a history of his own.

The Alphabet of Light and Dark won the Vogel Literary Award for author Danielle Wood. Her writing has a wonderful richness which makes it both absorbing and highly accessible. A beautiful read.

The Alphabet of Light and Dark, by Danielle Wood
Allen & Unwin, 2003

Environmental Degradation, by Margaret Metz & Victoria Hine

Environmental Degradation is an important issue for all Australians and, as such, a highly relevant subject for classroom study. This reference title is an excellent resource for such study.

Covering topics such as what environmental degredation is, its causes and effects and specific problems such as introduced species, extinction and pollution, Environmental Degredation is suitable as a class text, a library title or even a teacher reference.

Part of Watts Publishing’s Australian Focus on Issues series, the book includes accessible text for upper primary and secondary studnets, supported by plenty of internet links and quality photography.

A great resource.

Environmental Degredation
Watts Publishing, 2002

Killing Superman, by Mary-Rose MacColl

Scott Goodwin lost his father when he was eighteen but has never been able to accept that his father is dead. At his funeral, Scott refused to cry because he was sure the man in his coffin was not his father. Afterwards, he tried desperately to prove the wrong man had been buried and to find his father, who he was sure was still alive. Now, twenty years later, Scott has come to accept that he will never know the truth. Until he meets Emily, who offers to help him.

Scott shares his story with Emily as he falls in love with her. But when they travel to France and Scott sees his father on a beach, he has to confront the truth about his father – and about Emily.

Killing Superman is an intriguing tale about grief, love and lies. Readers will find themselves drawn into the double mystery, struggling alongside Scott for understanding.

A gripping read.

Killing Superman, by Mary-Rose MacColl
Allen & Unwin, 2003

The Castaways of the Charles Eaton, by Gary Crew & Mark Wilson

When the ship Isabella sails from Sydney in June 1836, its orders are to search for survivors of the Charles Eaton, a ship which had been missing for two years.

What the crew of the Isabella found was disarming. On Murray Island, known to be inhabited by head hunters, they find just two survivors – a toddler and a young cabin boy – living with the natives. They also find seventeen skulls – the remains of the other victims of the wreck of the Charles Eaton. The islanders have slain these seventeen, but spared the boys because they were believed to be the ghosts of long-lost children now returned to them.

The story of the rescue of the two white boys and subsequent events is told by the fifteen year old clerk of the Isabella, whose job it is to try to keep the two survivors calm and happy on their trip back to Sydney. This chocie of narrator adds depth to the book, with the clerk’s insights and asides proving very telling.

Based on a factual story, author Gary Crew and illustrator Mark wilson weave a story of intrigue.

The Castaways of the Charles Eaton, by Gary Crew and Mark Eaton
Lothian, 2002

Captain Jim, by Mary Grant Bruce

Reviewed by Tash Hughes

Captain Jim is the sixth in a series of fifteen books about Norah Linton and her family on their station, Billabong. The series was very popular with girls as they were printed, and has touched generations of Australians and others. Billabong is an isolated cattle station in Northern Victoria in the early 1900s. Having never known her Mother, Norah lives with her Father, David, elder brother, Jim, and their friend, Wally Meadows.

The family is in England during the first world war and Norah has just inherited a large home in Surrey from an Irishman they had adventures with in the previous book. Wally sees that Norah and her Father can somehow use the house to aid the war whilst he and Jim are off fighting.

Norah sets up the house as a home for lonely soldiers on leave and those recovering from injuries. They find people to work with them in the house and on the surrounding farmlet. It is not much later that Jim and Wally return to the front as soldiers again.

Soldiers from Jim and Wally’s regiment are the first guests, including their Major’s family who stays with them for the war’s duration. Australians become frequent visitors, also, including Harry Trevor a friend from the first Billabong book.

After a while, the house is very busy and often full. Norah and David Linton fit into the country life around them, even joining in a spring hunt. It is upon their return from the hunt that the telegram arrives with news of Jim’s death.

This news is a hard blow to Norah and her Father, and keeps Wally from visiting them in his guilt and anguish. Being in the house of soldiers gives them a purpose to continue on and many support them in their grief. Grant finishes the book six months later, at Christmas, with family celebrations including all the house guests.

Captain Jim, by Mary Grant Bruce
Ward, Lock and Co, 1919

Favourite Australian Stories, Compiled by Colin Thiele

Reviewed by Tash Hughes


A collection of twenty-two stories by Australian authors, this book forms part of our literary history. Some of the included authors are well known today, such as Alan Marshall, Henry Lawson and Henry Handel Richardson.

There is no common theme to the stories beyond their connection to an idealistic, simpler Australia. Each story is based around the people and places that formed many of the images Australians hold of themselves.

A few of the stories have been collected from publications such as The Bulletin and Meanjin, whilst others have been published in books.

Two stories are based on women, and two on children. The Drover’s Wife is a classic tale of the family left behind when men went droving whilst And Women Must Weep shows a young girl’s experience of her first ball. Watching animals in The Ant Lion and The Foal ends up teaching children lessons about life and respecting it.

There is humour in The Funerals of Malachi Mooney, mystery in A Golden Shanty, another world in The Jumping Jeweller of Lavender Bay and the puzzlement and danger of a drunk in The Lobster and the Lioness.

Kaijek The Songman(1941) shows the interrelationship between a white prospector and an aboriginal couple in the middle of nowhere. The story is largely told from the point of view of Kaijek and Ninyul as they happen upon the prospector’s camp. However, it is obviously written by a white man for the Bulletin market when there was little real sympathy or understanding of aboriginals.

An interesting collection that would enhance any understanding of the development of the Australian psyche.

Favourite Australian Stories, compiled by Colin Thiele
Rigby, 1963

The Waterless Sea, by Kate Constable

Calwyn and her friends patrol the seas near their island home, making them safe from pirates. One of those they rescue, Heben, has come in search of them, hoping they can help free the children trapped in a palace in Merithuros.

In Mertithros, Calwyn, Mica and Halasaa cross a barren desert to the Palace of Cobwebs, the home of the Emperor. But there they encounter great danger. The sorceror Amagis is plotting to overthrow the Empire and the three must combine their magic and their skill to rescue the five children they find whose job it is to hold the palace together, and escape alive.

Then they must undertake an even more dangerous quest – to Hathara and the Black Palace, home of the Iron Workers.

Meanwhile their friend Darrow is also in Hathara, marching on the palace with rebels intent on overthrowing the empire. Can Calwyn and her friends still trust him?

The Waterless Sea is a satisfying sequel to The Singer of All Songs. Favourite characters are further developed and faced with new and intriguing obstacles. A captivating read.

The Waterless Sea, by Kate Constable
Allen & Unwin, 2003

Animalia, by Graeme Base

Reviewed by Tash Hughes

One of Graeme Base’s earlier and best known books, Animaliais a treat.

Base himself didn’t think another alphabet book was needed in the world, so didn’t expect much of this book; how wrong he was! Animalia is an alphabet book, with most letters being allocated a single or double page. T and U, N and O share two pages between them.

Each letter has a poem that conjures up bizarre and interesting animal images, yet seems almost insignificant in the face of the illustrations.

Each page of the book is packed with pictures within pictures. The overall page scene relates to the letter’s verse; for instance, “Eight Enormous Elephants Expertly eating Easter Eggs” has a picture of eight elephants with Easter eggs!

Beyond that, the page contains many other items beginning with the letter for the page. In fact, there at least a thousand different alphabetised things in the book to find! Some are subtle, some are well hidden and some may take time to identify (such as the philosopher and politician, or the hamster, Humpty and hook). All are detailed and linked to the letter – even the can is a coke can and the wolf is white!

Like other books by Base, the book can appeal to many age groups, each group looking at the levels that are appropriate and being unaware of shared levels within.

As a final challenge, Base warns, “In Animalia, you see, It’s possible you might find me.” With care and effort, the boy Graeme can be found on each page in the book.

Some of the Animalia pages have also been made into jigsaw puzzles that are both fascinating and challenging because of the depths to each letter’s picture.

Animalia, by Graeme Base
Viking Kestrel, 1986

Bananas in Pyjamas: SPACE BANANAS

Reviewed by Tash Hughes

This story is about the Bananas In Pyjamas and Teddies of Cuddles Avenue.

The Bananas overhear the Teddies wishing to meet space people, and decide “it’s tricking time!”

Next morning, the Bananas dress up and trick Morgan and Lulu into entertaining space Bananas. Just after their friends see through their trick, Amy arrives and believes they are real Space Bananas.

The Bananas promise Amy a ride in their space ship that night. Amy is very excited and enjoys her trip, until she notices Morgan and Lulu amongst the stars out her window! In usual good humour, she accepts the joke on herself and leads them all into a new game of space travel.

Like the TV shows about the Bananas and Teddies, this book appeals to young preschoolers as they love the characters. Again like the show, though, the story line and text are perhaps suited for a slightly older age group. Younger children will enjoy the pictures and an abridged version of the story more than an actual reading of the text.

Fun story with bright illustrations that show friends playing together with good humour and intentions.

Bananas in Pyjamas: SPACE BANANAS by Richard Tulloch & Leonie Worthington
ABC Books, 1997