The Coast Road, by Peter Corris

When millionare Frederick Farmer dies, the police rule it death by accident. But his daughter is unconvinced. How can someone who refuses to use heating at night be trapped in a burning house? She is convinced his scheming second wife is behind the death.

Enter Cliff Hardy, the detective hired to investigate the case. Hardy is a colourful private investigator, who ruffles plenty of feathers in his quest to solve his case.

Hardy sees this is a low-key case, so when he’s offered a second, he believes he can handle both. The second case is that of a teenage runaway. Her mother wants Hardy to track her down and return her to the nest. Hardy finds himself drawn to the exotic Marisha Karastky and determined to help her find her daughter.

But as the two cases proceed, Hardy wonders if he’s taken on more than he can handle. Neither case is as simple as it first appeared. He finds himself dealing with crooked cops, violent bikies and dying witnesses. He wonders if he’s being set up in Marisha’s case and if he will be killed because of his involvement in the other.

This is the 26th book in the Cliff Hardy series. Hady continues to develop as a character, and author Peter Corris as a writer. Readers are drawn into the mystery, with enough information to follow Hardy’s train of thought, but enough left out to keep them guessing.

Action packed and well-paced, The Coast Road is a gripping read.

The Coast Road, by Peter Corris
Allen & Unwin, 2004

Angel Fever, by Isobelle Carmody

Eely has spent most of her life being unnoticed. Damaged at birth, she is simple and unattractive, and people seem to ignore her. But when Eely finds a winged man lying injured and helpless in a cave, she finds the strength to save him.

In the weeks that follow, Eely tends to the injured stranger, who in turn develops her self-confidence. Those around her can see Eely changing and growing more beautiful, but could it be that she actually holds within her the secret of beauty?

Angel Fever is just one of the wonderful titles in the innovative Quentaris Chronicles series. Each book in the series stands alone, but all are set in the magical fantasy city of Quentaris. The series, overseen by creators Michael Pryor and Paul Collins, is written by a number of Australia’s finest authors.

Angel Fever is a lovely tale. Author Isobelle Carmody creates a story which will draw young readers in, eager to learn what will happen to the ‘angel’ and where his missing stone will turn up. The message of the story, that beauty is not just about appearances, is subtle and not over-stated.

Recommended for young fantasy fans aged 10 to 14, this is excellent reading.

Angel Fever, by Isobelle Carmody
Lothian, 2004

Tropical Dreams, by Sally Odgers

Reviewed by Molly Martin

Keen to follow his dreams, Dad has brought his dream house in Frangipani, for a change of lifestyle. His kids Kim, Hal and Junee aren’t so sure. Moving to the country isn’t exactly a dream come true for them.

But things can – and do – get worse. Out of the blue Mum, Dad and even Gran start acting strangely. Dad is eating like a teenager – and leaving the same amount of mess. Mum is playing around with make up and the latest fashions, and Gran is bopping to the latest music. Do they really think they are teenagers, or is it just an act?

For three days the children are forced to become more adult as the adults become increasingly juvenile – first teeanaged, then children and finally babies. The children are run ragged trying to keep the adults occupied and safe while they try to figure out what to do about it.

Tropical Dreams is a humorous title from author Sally Odgers, part of the new Breakers series from Macmillan Education. Kids aged 9 to 12 will enjoy the antics of the adult characters and enjoy the zany ‘what if’ storyline.

A fun read.

Tropical Dreams, by Sally Odgers
Macmillan Education, 2004

Shoes News, by Jacqui Grantford

Did you know that ugg boots were discovered in 12 000 BC after a mysterious visitation from bright lights in the sky? And that Robin Hood may have given money and jewels to the poor, but he kept the shoes for himself? Jacqui Grantford does and you will too after reading the charming Shoes News.

Each double page spread of this title retells a historical event with the impact of shoes (or lack thereof) at its centre. The invention of the wheel was needed, we are told, to put less pressure on shoeless feet. The ancient Olympics was just a ruse to distract attention while wagonloads of new shoes were delivered to the war front. Queen Elizabeth, it is revealed, wore fluffy slippers instead of more regal footwear under her expansive skirts. In comic detail author/illustrator Grantford reveals long-hidden shoe secrets, rewriting history along the way.

Kids will love the humour of this offering and the novelty of the newspaper format of each report. Adults will also get a laugh and teachers will find it a valuable classroom tool for studies of the newspaper, among other things.

Shoes News is Grantford’s second picture book offering and, as with her earlier title Various Faerious, showcases her exquisitely detailed illustrative style.

A delight.

Shoes News, by Jacqui Grantford
Lothian, 2004

fire fire, by Eva Sallis

The Houdini family move to an isolated property in the South Australian bush to be free. The house is old and rambling, built on to an old hall in many additions, most of which are now in disrepair. Here the family plan to escape the outside world. They have come home to Australia from Germany, where Pa Houdini was a famous violinist and Acantia (the mother) an artist.

Here in the bush they educate their children, withdrawing them from traditional schooling, and foster their musical genius and other creative skills. The children run and play in the house and in the bush that surrounds it, while Pa continues to practice his music and the mother, Acantia, paints.

All this freedom and pursuit of self-expression should be wholesome and uplifting, but it isn’t. The children are controlled by the sometimes neglectful, often cruel actions of their mother, who becomes increasingly mad and out of control.Gradually the family splinters, moving towards total destruction from which there may be no return.

This is a gripping and compelling tale, spun with layers of language and of meaning. The reader is drawn in, wanting to tend to the children and to heal the parents, even whilst not fully understanding why the family is in such chaos.

This is a story of love and of damage, of growing up and growing away.It shows how some bonds can be strengthened by adversity, whilst others may vanish.

Eva Sallis is a versatile and intense writer. fire fire is engrossing.

fire fire, by Eva Sallis
Allen & Unwin, 2004

The Enormous Book of Hot Jokes for Kool Kids, by Andy Jones

Q. What’s better than a good joke?
A. Hundreds of good jokes.

The Enormous Book of Hot Jokes for Kool Kids is jam packed with hundreds of jokes for kids. Contributed by kids from all over Australia and compiled by Andy Jones, there are jokes on every subject imaginable.

On offer are knock knocks, Doctor Doctor jokes, chicken (and other beasts) crossing the road jokes, animal jokes, computer jokes, school jokes – in fact jokes on a vast array of topics. These are complemented with the comic illustrations of Mike Spoor and Stephen Axelsen.

Created from a compilation of five earlier Hot Jokes books by Andy Jones, this volume is sure to be well received by 8 to 12 year old readers.

The Enormous Book of Hot Jokes for Kool Kids, by Andy Jones
ABC Books, 2004

A Taste

Q Why did Polly put the kettle on?
A Because she didn’t have anything else to wear.

Q What’s a pig’s favourite sport?
A Hamball

Mrs Wiggins Wartymelons, by Glenda Millard

Life in Korweinguboora (readers will have fun geting their tongues around this) is fairly predictable. So when Ralphie the goat suggests that Mrs WIggins grow watermelons instead of potatoes, Mrs Wiggins knows just what folk will say: We can’t grow wartymelons in Korwinguboora. But Ralphie convinces Mrs Wiggins to give it a try, despite what the locals say.

Growing watermelons in Korweinguboora isn’t easy – the nights are too cold for watermelons. But Mrs Wiggins proves that, with a little determination and ingenuity, anything is possible.

Mrs Wiggins Wartymelons is a beautifully presented, funny picture book, by outstanding author Glenda Millard. The quirky tale is well complemented by the illustrations of Stephen Axelsen, which are a combination of rustic and whimsy.

Glenda Millard is the author of The Naming of Tishkin Silk, a children’s novel, which is short listed for this year’s Children’s Book Council of Australia book of the year awards. Mrs Wiggins Wartymelons is very different, but shows the same outstanding storytelling ability.


Mrs Wiggins’ Wartymelons, by Glenda Millard and Stephen Axelsen
ABC Books, 2004

A Fine Mess! by Norman Jorgensen

Michael Hardy is a normal boy, really. Just wants to have fun, snag the girl of his dreams and stay out of trouble. But his chances of staying out of trouble seem pretty remote when he gets together with his mate, Woody Decker. In just a few short weeks the school library catches fire, the principal is knocked unconcious, the school play turns from tragedy into a tragic comedy and a replica catapult puts a brick through a church window and wrecks a wedding.

A Fine Mess is a story which truly lives up to its title – it is superbly chaotic. There is plenty of action and loads of laugh out loud moments.

Norman Jorgensen is best known for his two recent picture books – In Flanders Fields which won the CBCA Picturebook of the Year Award in 2003 and The Call of the Ospery (2004). A Fine Mess is vastly different from these two, but what shows through in all three is Jorgensen’s passion for the written word.

A Fine Mess is a great read, recommended for kids aged 11 and up.

A Fine Mess, by Norman Jorgensen
Fremantle Arts Centre Press, 2004

The Lake, by Roland Mugford

Caitlin isn’t so sure about her new life in the country. Her parents are tied up with the new baby, Patsy, and her best friend Jack is still in the city. Soon though, Jack has a new sister too, and he and his parents have moved into the new house on Caitlin’s farm.

The cousins, who are also best friends, are making new friends and having new adventures. Maybe living in the country isn’t so bad after all.

The Lake is part of the Green level of the Breakers series from Macmillan Education. It is also a sequel to The Island part of the Yellow level of the same series, although it stands alone.

The Lake deals with issues such as sibbling rivalrly and growing up as well as the differences between country and city life, but the real focus is on family and friendship.

The Lake is aimed at a reading age of around 11 years and is suitable both for classroom and private reading.

The Lake, by Roland Mugford
Macmillan Education, 2004

The Island, by Roland Mugford

It’s supposed to be a holiday, but Caitlin and Jack seem to be spending a lot of time helping their parents clean out their shack. So when they get a chance to explore they think it will be fun. When they climb the hill they see two people doing something suspicious. Could they really be burying a body?

When the adults don’t believe them, they resolve to solve the msytery themselves. But before they get a chance they are sidetracked by more work and more sites to see. Then they meet two kids from the neighboring farm and the mystery is solved for them. The holiday isn’t over yet and there’s plenty more adventure to be had.

The Island is one of twenty titles in the Yellow level Breakers series from Macmillan Education. It is a nice blend of adventure, mystery and fun, as well as taking the opportunity to show some of the contrasts between country and city life.

The Island is aimed at children with a reading age of around ten and is suitable for both home and classroom reading.

The Island, by Roland Mugford
Macmillan Education, 2003