Walk in the Forest, by Meryl Brown Tobin

Reviewed by Christine Edwards

Walk in the Forest is the first solo collection of poems by Meryl Brown Tobin. It brings together poetry that has been anthologised in a diverse range of magazines, broadsheets and journals; some have won awards, others broadcast on radio.

Many poems give voice to the poet’s concerns about world peace and justice. She ensures the reader’s discomfort by questioning morality and the condoning of conflict through silence. Tobin’s message is powerfully evoked through keen irony in ‘Tripping the New Millenium’, where following the ‘Killing, killing, killing’ on a global scale comes the question: ‘How about a trip around Australia?’. Western apathy to the plight of human suffering is evident in ‘East Timor’. ‘Rag Dolls’ is a simple but haunting epiphany of the Kurd slaughters. Tobin always comments with deep compassion about contemporary conflicts, highlighting the permanent scars of war where there are no victors.

Her work equally reflects on the importance of everyday relationships, of achieving personal harmony and a fulfilling existence. Hence sections under ‘People’ and ‘Reflection’ evoke the beauty and gentleness of humanity: ‘I drink riches / from others’ thoughts / pour what I have to share / Open to the world’. Inspiring words from ‘Cup’.

In her concern for the environment, Tobin’s poetry brings to mind the phrase ‘Take only photographs, leave only footprints’. She teases readers with the mysteries of Big Cats and Thylacines (‘Sestina: Striped Mystery’) and impresses on us the need to be responsible caretakers of nature: ‘We return as hordes surge in / a babble in a multitude of tongues / St. Kilda Beach transposed / … / Katatjuta’s sunset approaches/’.

Perhaps her three-lined poem ‘Principle of Life’ best sums up the beauty and thoughtfulness, and ultimately uplifting sentiments of this collection: ‘With love and truth your guides / leading through good and evil / take on the world’.

A 120 page A5 paperback with a full-colour laminated cover, Walk in the Forest is available from Readings and selected bookstores and newsagents for RRP $17.50 or direct from the publisher, Ningan Publishing, c/- P0, Grantville, 3984 (P&H incl in price).

Reviewed by Melbourne writer, Christine Edwards, whose latest novel is On Board the Boussole (My Story Series, Scholastic Press, 2002).


Dragons of Galapagos, by Bruce Whatley

The land dragon looks for a place to lay her eggs. She needs shelter, safety and warmth. There is only one place suitable – on the floor of the volcano.

Risking her life, the land dragon climbs down into the volcano, digs a burrow and lays her eggs. Some time later her eggs and the eggs of others hatch. The hatchlings must climb out of the volcano and evade the circling hawks. One little dragon battles the odds to eventually find a safe place.

The Dragons of Galapagos is a story of survival, by acclaimed author/illustrator Bruce Whatley. Youngsters will be enthralled by the factual basis of the book as well as the outstanding illustrations. Great for classroom sharing as well as home collections.

The Dragons of Galapagos, by Bruce Whatley
Lothian, 2003

The Red Book, by Chris Devir

Tex Collins has been a CPL (Civil Protection League) officer for thirty years, ever since the founding of the colony of Aurealia. Now, though, he would like to retire. All he needs is a little cash to fund his dream. But in the new world, after the near anihilation of the planet, extra cash is hard to come by. Desperate times, it seems, call for desperate measures.

The Red Book is a chilling tale of an unthinkable future. With nuclear war having wiped out most of the world’s population and most of the Earth’s surface now uninhabitable, the city of Aurealis is the last frontier of civililzation. But places in Aurealia are limited. Only those with a prized red book may enter. The rest are kept away by the CPL.

This is a story with great potential which doesn’t quite make it, because of problems with tense and a narration which is often pages and pages of telling with little action. This is unfortunate because when the action can be found is has the potential to be gripping.

Despite these shortcomings, the book does manage to paint a bleak picture of one possible future, and makes some telling observations about politics (both present and future).

The Red Book, by Chris Devir
Red Book Publishing, 2004

Aussie Pony Tales (No 2) by Sheryn Dee

Two new adventures with Jessie and her pony Magic.

After the Storm
A storm has come and gone in the night. Jessie and her pony Magic have a job to do. They ride around the fence line, making sure broken branches haven’t damaged the fence. In this second book of Pony Tales, Jessie finds a bird’s nest, blown from a tree during the storm. Nearby is a tiny bird, too young to be on its own. Jessie wants to carry it home in her riding helmet, but knows she mustn’t ride without her helmet. It’s a long tiring walk home, carrying the bird and leading Magic, but Mum knows just how to help.

Helping Out
There’s always plenty to do around the farm, especially now there’s a new baby on the way. When a water pipe bursts in the yard, it’s one more job for Jessie’s dad in an already busy day. Jessie decides to help out. She and her pony, Magic will move the sheep from one paddock, up the track a bit, and into another paddock. Jessie has often helped Dad and is sure she’ll be able to manage on her own. She successfully moves most of the sheep, but a few stragglers refuse to do what they should.

Aussie Pony Tales (No 2) by Sheryn Dee from ABC Books, gives us the next two adventures of Jessie and her pony Magic. These stories, written for 5-8 year olds, show what it’s like to live on Jessie’s farm. The distinctive bright cover is very similar to that of the first book, suggesting the next of these engaging story twins will be easy to spot.

Aussie Pony Tales (No 2), by Sheryn Dee
ABC Books 2003

The Sister of the South, by Emily Rodda

Lief hit powdery earth, and rolled. The song of the Sister was like a knife cutting into his brain. He groaned in agony and curled himself into a ball, his eyes screwed shut. But still he gripped the Belt of Deltora, gripped it so tightly that his hands ached and slowly, slowly the soothing power of the amethyst, the strength of the diamond, gave him the will to open his eyes.

Since 1997 kids from all over the world have been following the adventures of Lief and his friends Barda and Jasmine as they have sought to restore Deltora to its former glory. At every step they have had to triumph over evil. Now, in the final instalment of the third series, the friends’ quest reaches its terrifying end.

In Sister of the South the companions return to their home, the city of Del, where they believe the last of the Shadow Lord’s evil creations – the Sister of the South – lies hidden in the heart of the city. From the moment he reenters Del, Lief feels a terrible sense of foreboding, but he knows he must go on. Surely destroying the Sister of the South will mean an end to the evil influence of the Shadow Lord. But there is something else troubling him. What was Josef, the palace librarian, trying to tell him before he died? Could Rowan be about to make the biggest mistake of all?

Whilst young fans will be saddened by the ending of such a succesful series, they will not be disappointed by this final installment. The book has twists and turns to keep the reader guessing and a satisfactory ending, which is less predictable than expected.

Thrilling reading.

Sister of the South: Deltora Quest 3 #4, by Emily Rodda
Scholastic Press, 2004

Aussie Pony Tales (No 1) by Sheryn Dee

Two pony stories for the price of one:

The Best Day
Jessie wakes early on her seventh birthday. She can hardly believe that the pony outside the window is really hers. It seems to take a lifetime until she can have her first ride on her very own pony. Jessie and her pony walk around the horse paddock, getting used to each other. The pony must also become familiar with all the sights and sounds of the farm, including Max, the dog.

Sleepy Lizard It’s a beautiful Spring day and Jessie is planning to spend all day riding Magic, her pony. After helping Dad with some of the farm chores, finally Jessie can saddle Magic and begin. They ride around the horse paddock for a while then through an open gate, ready for their first adventure. Jessie spots a lizard on the track and dismounts for a closer look. She strays into the bush and loses sight of Magic and the track. The adventure has a happy ending, but Jessie learns some new rules that will help to keep her safe.

These pony stories are full of details and instructions sure to delight the young horse-lover. The joy of owning a horse is clearly communicated, but the writer is careful to include the responsibilities too. The reader making the transition to first chapter books will find these stories a manageable length, with detailed black and white illustrations on most pages. Cover art and numbering suggest there will be more of these stories and they are sure to develop a following in their intended 5-8 year old readership.

Aussie Pony Tales (No 1), by Sheryn Dee
ABC Books, 2003

Grannysaurus Rex, by Tony Wilson and David Cornish

My granny had started to grow. By the time she stopped growing she was a dinosaur.
‘I am Grannysaurus Rex!’ the dinosaur roared. ‘Now it is time to rampage.’

The young character in this book has a Granny who spoils him. She is also a Granny with a sweet tooth and a lolly bag to feed it.

When the boy has a day out with Granny, she brings her lolly bag and the pair have fun eating sweets and playing dinosaur games in the park. But when they take a break, the sugar from the lollies starts to take its toll, and the boy has a sugar-nightmare in which he sees Granny evolve into a dinosaur and go on a rampage. Only when Granny explains what is happening does he relax and join in.

Grannysaurus Rex is a fun, dinosaur filled offering with plenty of realistic dinosaur illustrations form David Cornish and a whimsical storyline from Tony Wilson. Young dinosaur lovers will love spotting the different dinosaurs, a list of which is provided under the book’s dedication. Adult readers will enjoy the simple text and the sly message about the perils of too many lollies.

This hardcover offering is a first picture book for both author and illustrator.


Grannysaurus Rex, by Tony Wilson and David Cornish
Omnibus, 2004

Sniffy the Sniffer Dog, by Krista Bell

Born into a family of outstanding sniffer dogs, no one can understand why Sniffy is such a failure at sniffer dog school.

Sniffy’s problem is that his nose seems to be doing the bidding of his stomach. He can always find lollies and chocolate, but this is no help when he’s supposed to be finding seeds and fruit.

When Sniffy is thrown out of sniffer dog school, he thinks his life is over. But really it’s just begun. He finds a new home with a family, where he gets the chance to prove he really is an excellent sniffer dog.

Sniffy the Sniffer Dog is a delightful new chapter book by versatile Aussie author Krista Bell. With illustrations by the talented Craig Smith, this is a great title for six to eight year old readers.

Sniffy the Sniffer Dog, by Krista Bell and Craig Smith
A Start-Ups title from Lothian, 2003

Weathercock Black, by M. J. Bruty

In an increasingly suspicious and tense world, the murder of ASIS agents in Indonesia and Papua New Guinea sounds alarm bells in Australia’s security agencies. There’s a leak somewhere – a leak that has meant these agents identities has been revealed, with disastrous consequences.

Barely recovered from a wound incurred on his last operation, David Garis is surprised to find himself recruited to an operation to find those responsible for the deaths. He is even more surprised when he meets Kristin Pace, a Biritish exchange officer, who has been assigned to his team. He isn’t convinced that Kristin has what it takes to go undercover in the wilds of Papua New Guinea.

Soon, though, David and Kristin are working together to figure out who is responsible for the death of the ASIS agents and other strange things happening in the region.

Weathercock Black is a fast moving action adventure set within the ranks of Australia’s secuity agencies and in the highlands of Papua New Guinea. Bruty ‘s strong plot is supported by her believable characters and setting. There is plenty of action, some unexpected twists and turns and intrigue aplenty.

Some readers will find the editing quality a little distracting – there are spelling and punctuation errors which should have been picked up at the proofreading stage scattered throughout the book. This is a shame because it is a well-written story which deserves to be read.

Weathercock Black is a good solid first novel from a new Australian writer.

Weathercock Black, by M.J. Bruty
Sid Harta Publishing, 2004

Thambaroo, by Jane Carroll

Piner Ridge is just another town in a long line of towns for Mitch and his family. He’s learnt not make friends and not do do anything which might get him noticed. It’s much easier that way.

So why is he drawn to Thambaroo, the homestead on Sophie Turner’s family farm? And why does he keep going back there, feeding the cat, touching things that aren’t his? Mitch just can’t explain it – to himself or to anyone else. He just knows he has to go back – no matter what.

Thambaroo is about one boy’s connection with a house, a family and a sense of belonging. It is also the story of Mitch’s family, in crisis because of his father’s alcohol problem. Finally, it is a gentle story of young romance as Mitch and Sarah battle their feelings for each other.

Thambaroo is a compassionate book, suitable for ages 12-15.

Thambaroo, by Jane Carroll
Scholastic, 2003