Harry the Hairy-Nosed Wombat, by Jill Morris

Harry lives in a tunnel under a limestone rock. He comes out at night to walk to his favourite feeding spot. He likes his life near the sea. But one day men in big machines come and start moving the rocks and clearing a space for a new road. When Harry comes out that night he is scared and runs back to his tunnel. In the days that follow work progresses on the road and Harry finds it harder to get out of his tunnel each night, until the men realise the problem and come up with a solution.

Harry the Hairy-Nosed Wombat is one of six stories in this illustrated collection. Others focus on a red kangaroo called Rufus, a platypus called Percy as well as a possum, a koala and a numbat. Each story tells a tale of the adventures of one animal as it interacts with humans, but also highlights the uniqueness of the plight of the particular species.

With each story five or six pages long and supported by three illustrations, this title is best suited for reading aloud to those in early primary, or for independent reading for those aged eight and over. It would make great bed time reading and also an excellent classroom resource.

Harry the Hairy-Nosed Wombat & Other Australian Animal Tales, by Jill Morris, illustrated by Tina Wilson
Greater Glider, 2003

The Roman Army, by Dyan Blacklock & David Kennett

The Roman Empire was one of the largest and most successful empires of all time…Such a broad and diverse empire was difficult to control. This complex and dangerous work was the job of one of the most fearsome forces the world has ever seen – the Roman Army.

This quality offering provides an in depth profile of that army – from its membership structure to its equipment, modes of transport, camp lay out and much much more. The information is presented in easy to understand text, without being over simplistic or condescending to young readers.

David Kennett’s detailed illustrations are outstanding, with a comic-book style layout which provides multiple cells on most pages allowing for close-ups and more detailed explorations of points of interest. Two double paged spreads, one a map showing the breadth of the Roman Empire, the second a detailed battle scene, contain no explanatory text, allowing for maximum impact. Even the end papers are utilised as visually explanatory tools, with multiple illustrations of the various warrior enemies of Rome.

This is the second non-fiction offering from the team of Dyan Blacklock and Kennett. Their first, Olympia:Warrior Athletes of Ancient Greece was the winner of the Eve Powell Award for Information Books in the CBCA book of the Year Awards. With such quality productions coming from the pairing, it is hoped it will continue.

The Roman Army, by Dyan Blacklock and David Kennett
Omnibus, 2004

YoYo Go Maze & YoYo Go Spy, by Jeanette Rowe

Reviewed by Magdalena Ball

YoYo is a popular Maisy-Mouse styled dog who has become almost as famous as Maisy herself. He has been designed specifically to appeal to the very young, with simple naïve drawings, very bright colours, and simple, easy to follow adventures involving his animal friends, his little toy horse, and his family. The two new YoYo books are full of interactive fun and problem solving which will keep youngsters amused for long periods. YoYo Go Maze has seven different mazes, each with a different theme. There is a park, a pirate scene, fishing, an animal’s underground world, a farm, a jungle, and a zoo. In each two page scene, children have to find their way through the simple maze to an end path, but along the way they also have to find a variety of different animals or objects. Even the youngest children (from age one or so) can find the items along the way and older children (to age five or so) can follow the maze and build their knowledge of the things in the scene and their confidence.

In YoYo Go Spy, there are also seven scenes, one where YoYo is flying to the moon, a pirate captain looking for Treasure Island, a knight, at the circus, diving on the reef, in the jungle, and by the pond. The scenes are wonderfully detailed, and there are specific items to look for and find. It’s a kind of very simplified Where’s Wally for the youngest members of your family. Children will love these books, and for younger siblings of children who already enjoy mazes, this is a chance for them to join in. The scenes are fairly true in terms of the animals they contain, and so children can really learn about the different habitats and the types of creatures and items they contain. If they are already familiar with YoYo, they will enjoy pointing out his hidden friends and family, who also join in the make-believe. There’s plenty of fun for children, and lots of opportunity for adult interaction.

YoYo Go Maze ISBN 0733313361
YoYo Go Spy ISBN 073331337X
By Jeannette Rowe
ABC Books, Softcover, AU$9.95, 2004, 16pages each

This review first appeared at PreschoolEntertainment. It is reprinted here with permission.

Slow Travel, by Mari Rhydwen

Rather than growing gracefully middle aged, Mari Rhydwen and her husband Allen decided to buy a yacht and set off on a sailing adventure. Despite having very little knowledge or experience,they set off on a journey that lasted three years, leaving behind friends, families and careers.

Slow Travel is the story of Mari Rhydwen’s travels, but is more than just a travel story. It is a tale of discovery, with the geographical discoveries being far less important than what Mari and Allen learn about themselves and each other.

This is a book about following your dreams and about taking risks. It is about letting the details take care of themselves and not sweating the small stuff. Slow Travel is, as Rhydwen says, “no longer a manner of locomotion” but rather “a way of life”.

Slow Travel, by Mari Rhydwen
Allen & Unwin, 2004

Children's Audiobook Review: Carkids Junior – The Little Red Gnome Goes Fishing

When the Little Red Gnome goes fishing, he wants to catch a fish to take home for his friend Matilda. First he catches a shoe, then he catches a pot. When he finally does catch a fish it talks to him! What will he take home to his firend Matilda?

The Little Red Gnome is one of two stories on this cd recording aimed at children aged 3 to 6 and designed for listening in the car or (as narrator Tim Levy points out) on a plane, train or bus. The second story Extra-Super-Big Pancake tells the tale of three magical sisters who set about making a pancake big enough to feed all three of them. There are also two songs – Mousie, Mousie and Little Pony – and a great game for playing in the car, Gingerbread.

Carkids Junior is the creative work of Tim Levy who is both the chief voice talent and the writer of the content. He is joined by Diane Tatum and her unnamed ‘gang’.

There is plenty on the CD to keep youngsters listening, although children at the younger end of the age range may have a little trouble following the stories. They will, however, still enjoy the funny voices and the music. As well as being good for travelling, this offering would have classroom appeal.


Carkids Junior: the Little Red Gnome Goes Fishing, written & narrated by Tim Levy and Diane Tatum
ABC Audio 2004

Sword of Allah, by David A. Rollins

What if terrorists had weapons of mass destruction and they were aiming them right at Australia? This chilling scenario is at the centre of Sword of Allah.

SAS soldier Sergeant Tom Wilkes is in Papua New Guinea on protective escort duty when he comes across a drug runner exchanging weapons for drugs with a Highland tribe. Intrigued, he trails the smuggler, knowing he is onto something big. Just how big, though, is beyond his expectations.

In Indonesia, a terrorist organisation called Babu Islam has a camp where its members prepare for their work. Their drug running enterprise is a revenue raiser, to fund their work in ridding the world of infidels. To do this they need time, expertise and the chemical weapons which have come their way and now wait to be utitlised.

Tom Wilkes, who we first met in Rollins’ earlier offering Rogue Element, is on the trail of Babu Islam, but he cannot work alone. Only an international effort – involving Wilkes’ SAS, other Australian bodies, the CIA, even the Indonesian Kopassus, who Wilkes’ was up against in Rogue Element – can have any chance of tracking down the terrorists and averting a massive disaster.

From a slightly slow begining, Sword of Allah gathers momentum as it marches towards its climax. Australian readers will find it especially confronting, with the country’s preparations for the likelihood of attack and the reality of its unpreparedness a thought-provoking aspect of the book. It is a scenario which will have readers squirming, even as they keep turning pages, unable to put the book down.

Frighteningly real.

Sword of Allah, by David A. Rollins
Macmillan, 2004

Set Free, by June Keir

When the new boy – Zach – starts school, he is put in the empty desk net to Ben and Ben is told to look after him. But Ben can’t get Zach to talk to him, and neither can anyone else. Zach follows Ben around and even does what Ben tells him, but he won’t speak to him.

When Ben invites Zach to come to the national park with him, the pair stumble across a poacher trying to trap the birds in the park. As they try to track the poachers’ movements, the boys find themselves caught up in more trouble than either can handle. Zach needs to speak and to overcome his fears if they are to survive.

Set Free is a fast paced adventure for kids, but it is also much more. Zach’s trauma stems from his experiences as a refugee coming to Australia on a leaky boat and being interred in an immigrant detention centre. Ben has had trauma of his own – his best friend James has been knocked off his bike by a truck and killed. Both boys have to put these experiences behind them as they form their new freindship and tackle the dramas that unfold in the national park.

Part of the new Breakers series from Macmillan Education, Set Free is a thought-provoking read suitable for private reading as well as classroom use.

Great reading.

Set Free, by June Keir, illustrated by Dion Hamill
Macmillan Education, 2004

The White Earth, by Andrew McGahan

William is only eight when he sees a huge smoke cloud erupt on the family farm. He is confused by the events that follow – the smell of smoke, the ringing of the telephone, the appearance of neighbour’s vehicles. But eventually he realises his father has been killed in a tractor fire. William and his mother are left destitute by his father’s passing, and with the unstable mother unable to either care properly for William or work for a living, they are forced to accept the charity of an uncle William didn’t know existed.

Moving into his uncle’s home, Kuran House, does not provide the stability William needs. His uncle has spent his life in an obsessed quest to own Kuran Station and now needs an heir to continue his life’s work. He is not, however, prepared to simply name William in his will. He wants the boy to prove himself. William’s mother, desperate for security and a better life, expects William to perform for his uncle. And, while William works to try to balance the competing needs of these two unbalanced adults, he is also battling a health problem which no one around seems at all concerned with.

Alongside the personal struggles of William and the unstable grown ups who seem to occupy his world is the story of the Mabo case and the land rights debates of the late 20th century. The novel is set in 1992, the year the Mabo case was playing out in the nation’s courtrooms and television sets. William’s uncle is involved in the White Australia movement, through the Australian Independence League and has William assist him in his work. William is a boy desperate for love, acceptance and order and he is drawn into what he sees the League offering him. It is much later in the novel that he is forced to question both the League and his uncle’s beliefs and action.

The White Earth is a complex story, with parallel plots involving William’s present and his Uncle John’s past. As William’s story unfolds we also learn what has brought his uncle to this place in his life – both physically and emotionally. It is a novel with many shocks, gripping the reader with its sheer awfulness. Those who have read Dickens will draw parallels between Uncle John and Miss Havisham and be aware of the Dickensian feel to both the progression of the tale and the overall tone.

That said, this is a very Australian novel, with a very Australian setting and cast.


The White Earth, by Andrew McGahan
Allen & Unwin, 2004

Tears in a Treasure Box, by Eleni McDermott

When Sam starts going to child care, he spends his day sitting next to the window waiting for his mother to come back. When she drops him off each day, he cries. Then Maria and Mummy come up with a surprise for Sam – a bright treasure box with reminders of home – a photo of Mummy, a little blanket and a tiny teddy bear – inside. When he plays with the treasure box Sam feels warm inside. Soon he grows used to child care and even enjoys his time there.

Tears in a Treasure Box is a story about separation anxiety and comes with a free booklet explaining this anxiety and strategies for dealing with it. The picture book is intended to help children beginning child care and also offers parents and carers an example of coping with this transition.

The use of minimal colour in the early illustrations to emphasise the grey mood of Sam is a nice technique, and highlights the bright colours of the treasure box and the mood it evokes. There are some minor grammatical errors in the text – it would be nice to see mummy given a capital ‘M’ and the word ‘too’ appears as ‘to’ in one sentence – but the intent of the book, to provide a positive message about child care, is met.

A useful tool for parents and for carers.

Tears in a Treasure Box, by Eleni McDermott, illustrated by Suzy Brown
Ages to Ages Publications, 2002

Company Information
Ages to Ages Publications provides quality picture books, adult workshops and articles that inspire, inform and enhance the quality of children’s relationships with significant adults. Find out more at www.ages2agespublications.com.

Malicious Intent, by Kathryn Fox

Businness is slow for Anya Crichton, a freelance forensic physician and pathologist. But after her evidence helps to win a high-profile case, demand for her services grows. Perhaps now she can start building up her income to the point where she can afford to fight her ex-husband for custody of their three-year-old son.

When lawyer Dan Brody asks Anya to investigate the apparent accidental death of the teenaged daughter of a local Lebanese businessman, Anya comes across something unexpected. There are links between this death and those of a nun and a doctor. All appear to be suicides, but there are similarities which make Anya question this finding in all three cases.

As she probes deeper into the case, Anya struggles to find a motive for the deaths and, through her own brand of detective work, to find the evidence which will lead her to the killer. What she finds is as unexpected as it is shocking, leaving Anya fighting not just for her own safety, but also that of her colleague, Detective Sargeant Kate Farrer and of Anya’s son, Ben.

Malicious Intent is a gripping offering from first time author Kathryn Fox. Readers will be absorbed from start to finish, before being taken by surprise with the outcome.

Kathryn Fox is currently working on the second Anya Crichton novel. It will be eagerly awaited by those who read the first.

Malicious Intent, by Kathryn Fox
Macmillan, 2004