My Big Birkett, by Lisa Shanahan

Some people are more prone to birketts than others. Those sorts of people are also usually easily provoked. It’s like they have a San Andreas Fault running through their personalities and even the slightest thing can set them off.

Fourteen year old Gemma Stone vomits when she speaks in public. Just ask Mr Daihatsu. But when the gorgeous Nick asks her to come along to auditions for the school play, Gemma agrees. It helps take her mind off her sister’s weird wedding and her sister’s fiance’s even weirder family. Raven, of the infamous De Head family decides to audition too. Her mother tells her about the ‘dog poo’ test for love, a cake stall becomes something more and Gemma meets a family of boys all named for birds. In the small community of Buranderry the scene is being set for the biggest birkett of them all.

my big birkett is pitched at lower secondary readers although there is much in here for readers either side of the target readership. This novel is wonderfully funny and sad, over-the-top and very real. It’s about learning to tell the difference between what’s right and what just seems right. Along the way, Gemma discovers Shakespeare’s language and the world of themed weddings. Not to mention the power of a well-timed birkett.


This is Lisa Shanahan’s first book for older readers. Some of her other titles include Gordon’s Got a Snookie and Bear and Chook. my big birkett, by Lisa Shanahan
Allen & Unwin 2006
ISBN: 1741145872

Readers who enjoy this book might also enjoy:

The Slightly True Story of Cedar B Hartley, by Martine Murray
The Wanderer, by Sharon Creech
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Disaster! by Kate McAllen

Reviewed by Jess Whiting

Soon after 9 pm a wall of fire roared out of the forest like a tornado. There was no time to fight it. Some people barred themselves in their houses, while others fled into the streets. In panic, they ran into each other. The fire created a wind so fierce it blew many people over.

This is a book describing in detail some of the most dangerous yet amazing disasters to ever hit the earth.

With each page you are taken to a scene in which you can imagine how the survivors felt in these heart stopping situations.

For readers aged ten and up Disaster! Is an info packed offering filled with amazing events and stories of those who survived against the mighty power of our planet.

A gripping read.

Disaster! by Kate McAllen
Scholastic press 2006

They came on Viking Ships, by Jackie French

Reviewed by Jess Whiting

The village was below them. Hekja stopped, and stared, and tried to still her breath. Beside her Snarf flopped down onto his tummy, and whined at the smell of blood. Reena had been right, Hekja realized. She was too late. No one could help the village now.

Hekja is a young girl who lives peacefully in her small village, until it is under siege. Hekja finds herself captured by Vikings and made a slave to Freydis, the daughter of the Viking leader Erik the Red.

Based on true events, They came on Viking Ships is an amazing story of adventure as you join Hekja and her dog Snarf on a perilous journey across the seas where they will make friends, foes and travel to amazing lands.

For ages ten and up, this novel allows you to step into the past and join the Vikings on their amazing adventures both on land and at sea. A moving story about friendship, loyalty and bravery, this book will have readers hooked.

A non stop adventure They came on Viking Ships, by Jackie French
HarperCollinsPublishers, 2005

The Words Inside, by Emmah Money

Reviewed by Dale Harcombe

This is the biography of Emmah Money. Adopted soon after her birth because of her Cystic Fibrosis, a life threatening illness, Emmah Money used her illness and her dreams to write the words that led to her being chosen 2005 Girlfriend of the Year by Girlfriend Magazine. This is the story of a girl who in her young life has had to overcome more than most people would. It is a testament not only to her character but to that of the adoptive family, who raised her and taught by example the importance of overcoming difficulties.

Emmah’s story is told in a very easy to read style. She does not flinch from dealing with some of the specific issues she faced with her illness and the results of so much hospitalisation. The book also gives a picture of her growing up and the hassles and bullying she received from her peer group at school. She does not shy away from the truth and includes her excursion into depression and alcohol to alleviate that depression.

But in the end it is a story about a girl who was brought up to believe she could do anything and who set out to prove the truth of that statement. She has gone on to do her part in seeking to raise the awareness of Cystic Fibrosis and to raise money to try and find a cure to this illness as well as work as a model.

For anyone suffering from this illness or any other debilitating disease this book would provide hope and encouragement. For those fortunate enough not to have to combat the problems Emmah has had to deal with, it will show that, with determination and courage, it is possible for a teenager to overcome and realize her dream.

The Words Inside , by Emmah Money
Random House Australia , 2006
$27.95 ISBN 1 74166 212 5

Still Kicking, by Cheryl Critchley

Reviewed by Dale Harcombe

This is part of Lothian’s Sports fiction series, aimed at trying to engage the interest of reluctant readers between 8 and 14year old. However it’s not only suitable for reluctant readers as it contains a good story.

This story revolves around Samantha Scott (Sam) who at thirteen is the only girl in the local Richmond under 14s footy team. Determined to more than hold her own against the boys and the initial scepticism of the sexist Jake Mc Donald, she becomes one of the team’s best players. With help from Muscles and a fitness plan he develops on his computer, she starts to achieve her aim to become ‘the best junior footballer in Melbourne.’

However, not everyone is happy about Sam’s position on the team. Her father constantly tells her football is not something she can make a living at. Therefore, she would be better to concentrate on schoolwork instead of football and study hard like her older sister, Kate, who wants to be a lawyer like their father. Because of her passion for football, Sam also is subjected to torment by Felicity Edwards and her cronies at school.

Both Sam’s friendship with Izzy, Hugo and Muscles and the hassles and torment suffered at the hands of Felicity (Flick) and her friends are realistically portrayed. And anyone who’s ever played junior sport of any kind or stood on the sidelines of junior sport, can relate to the embarrassment felt by Hugo at the behaviour of his father on the sidelines. This embarrassment leads to him dropping out of the team and Sam’s friend Izzy comes in to the team in his place.

The two girls are doing well and everything seems to be going right, as their team heads towards the finals. But then a chance remark threatens to bring all Sam’s hard work undone. For anyone with the remotest interest in AFL, this book will be eagerly read. An AFL fan, though supporter of another team, I read this novel in one sitting. My one negative comment is it might have been good to remember AFL is a national game and Victoria is not the only state involved in Auskick. Assuming the book is to have an impact not only in Victoria; relevant contact information for all states at the back of the novel would have been helpful for those wanting to find out more. Similarly the author’s note which talks about Auskick and the current rules about girls playing could have been less Victorian centred.

Still Kicking, by Cheryl Critchley
Lothian Books, 2006
$14.95 Paperback ISBN 0 7344 0932 X

It’s True! Women Were Warriors, by Carol Jones

Who said power was for pussycats?

This is title 20 in the ‘It’s True!’ series. Carol Jones introduces warrior women through history. From Ancient Greece to not-so-long-ago Russia, it races through the lives of some amazing and influential women. There are tales of Amazon women warriors who trained their daughters to fight and banished their sons. Read about an Irish goddess who could kill with the power of her battle cry. These powerful women used traditional battle strength as well as a plethora of other skills to achieve their aims.

This is an entertaining look at powerful women in the distant and not so distant past. It tells of their ambition, greed, legacies, strengths and weaknesses. As well as more familiar characters, the author has sourced lesser-known (outside their countries) warrior women from all over the world. There is detail enough to guide the reader who wants to know more. Text boxes and Elise Hurst’s illustrations add to the reading experience.

It’s True! Women Were Warriors, by Carol Jones, with illustrations by Elise Hurst
Allen & Unwin 2006
ISBN 1741147344

The True Adventures of John Nicol, edited, condensed and illustrated by Julian Bruere

I have set down an account of my life at sea.

Julian Bruere offers a condensed version of John Nicol’s seafaring stories and illustrates them in wonderful detail. John first went to sea at age fourteen although it wasn’t until he completed his apprenticeship as a cooper that he sought work on ‘Proteus’. He shares his recollections of adventure and disaster that accompanied his travels. He takes a wife and fathers a child on the journey to the colony of Port Jackson. Unable to stay, he promises to return as soon as he can. Time passes and John crews many other ships, in his attempt to join his wife and son.

This is a deceptively simple story, but rich in detail of the journeys John Nicol made and the countries he stopped in. The reader experiences Canada, Britain and Australia through John’s eyes, and also a detailed account of life as a merchant seaman. Julian Bruere’s illustrations are wonderful. There are labelled diagrams of ships from outside and in cross-section, world maps, detailed representations of ports and a memorable illustration of an encounter with a sea lion. Recommended for all sailors and adventurers.

The True Adventures of John Nicol, edited and illustrated by Julian Bruere
Black Dog Books, 2006
ISBN: 1876372176

Space Dogs, by Justin Ball and Evan Croker

Belka drew a deep breath as the significance of the moment hit him. Gersbacian meets Earthling. Two worlds coming together. The hands of two great civilisations stretching out across the universe. This was it. This was First Contact . A thud threw Belka and Strelka forward in their seats.
‘He’s stuck his nose in our butt,’ Strelka announced, checking his instruments.

In 1957 a Russian dog called Laika was launched into space – never to be seen again. Far away, the residents of planet Gersbach were surprised to meet Laika when she crashed in their midst, but they soon grew to love her. Now, though, Gersbach is faced by destruction by a mysterious force located on Earth. They are sending their two finest Galactanauts to find and destroy it. Their ship should blend in easily on Earth – it is modelled on Laika – a spacecraft that looks just a dog.

On Earth the galactanauts face all sorts of perils – from rebel Gersbachians inside a dachshund-shaped craft, to angry boys on motorised scooters. But they find allies in the Buckley family – a family with problems of their own.

Space Dogs is a fun first novel from a talented pair, who have managed to have the book also published in the US and Canada and are in talks regarding film rights. Kids will like the silliness of the idea of tiny aliens travelling in dog-shaped craft, and the non-stop action of the story.

Space Dogs has been simultaneously released in print and audiobook versions, the latter read by Andrew McFarlane.

Space Dogs, by Justin Ball and Evan Croker
ABC Books, 2006

Surfing Goliath, by Michael Hyde

Every three years this mammoth surf appeared. It was the stuff of legend among bodyboarders in the area – particularly those who lived at Brown’s Beach. Locals called the waves, some bigger than four metres high, Goliath.

Seal and his mates, Nuts, Crab and Dolphin love to body surf. As the time of the mammoth surf approaches, they practise every day. Seal learns that Goliath is also the name of an enormous bronze whaler shark who visits the area every three years with the freakish surf. Still, the friends are determined to pit their skills against Goliath, just as Angelo, shark-catcher, is determined to capture the bronze whaler. News of the surf and the plan to ride it filters out to the city media and the little town is overrun with journalists keen for the big scoop. Seal wishes they would understand it wasn’t about being seen to do something, it was about doing it.

Surfing Goliath is an exciting, action-packed story. Seal and his mates are fearless and apprehensive by turns as they contemplate Goliath. The rivalry and banter between boarders and riders is realistic and the description of boardriding is detailed. Other characters, like Seal’s dad Joe and his grandmother Ruby play their roles convincingly.

There are plenty of themes to be explored here, yet the themes sit lightly on an adventure base. Recommended for upper primary/early secondary readers.

Surfing Goliath by Michael Hyde
Lothian 2006
ISBN: 0734409060

The Omega-3 Diet Revolution, by Shamala Ratnesar

The prevalence of diet books on bookstore shelves are testament to the very human desire to lose weight and/or live a more healthy lifestyle. Of course, these books range from the kooky fad diets to highly practical and effective diets. This book sits at the better edge of the spectrum, giving scientific explanation as to why Omega-3 is an essential part of the human diet, and why we need to eat more foods high in Omega-3.

The Omega-3 diet is not simply a weight loss formula – it is a guide to better health for life, including weight loss for those who need it. As well as plenty of recipes, there is loads of information about which foods are high in Omega-3, how to shop for and prepare these foods, and how to bring balance into a diet within the demands of a busy lifestyle. There are sample meal plans for children and a handy list of extra resources for further reading.

Whether you are trying to lose weight, or simply want to improve and maintain your health, this is a handy book.

The Omega-3 Diet Revolution, by Shamala Ratnesar
Macmillan, 2006