Hello God, by Moya Simons

Reviewed by Dale Harcombe

I came to this book sceptically, not sure what to expect, but from the opening sentence the narrator’s voice grabbed hold and did not let go. Twelve year old Kate, the narrator, is honest, funny, wise, thoughtful and extremely natural. When explaining about that her name is not short for anything like Katherine or Katrina, she says, ‘I’m just Kate. My parents say it’s a strong and wonderful name, like me, but I don’t feel strong or wonderful a lot of the time.’

Kate looks at life and the world as one who is part of the ‘in’ crowd. Every child will know how much being part of the ‘in’ crowd rather than on the outer, can affect behaviour and the way they’re treated at school and out of it. The comparison to the game of Snakes and Ladder on page 8 is inspired writing.

The struggle within Kate not to put herself on the ‘outside’ by befriending the new girl, Stephanie, is real and one many children will be able to relate to. So are Kate’s questions about life as she struggles to understand why God gave people free will, why He allows people to mess up the planet, why He doesn’t act in certain situations and most of all why He doesn’t give her a sign that He’s listening.

I loved the way when considering the planets and stars she says, “God, you have a great imagination’ ( page 16). The book also contains incidences of humour like Nan’s teeth in the freezer and the face Kate creates with the teeth in the glass (page 14).

When she learns she is to have a new baby brother or sister, Kate has even more questions for God. Her initial response to her parents’ remark that it will make the family ‘complete’ is to be insulted. ‘It seems I wasn’t enough for them my myself.’ (page 40).

Throughout this book Kate learns a lot about the choices we all make as humans. Kate finds, as she come to know Stephanie better, her attitude towards many views she previously held starts to change.

The blurb on the back says, ‘This is a book that will sneak into your heart, touch your soul and stay with you a long time.’ I agree. I don’t often endorse a book unreservedly. But this is one of those books.

Moya Simons says, ‘I think of this book as a child’s introduction to philosophy rather than a book about religion.’ As well as being a terrific read with believable characters, the questions raised by Kate would make good discussion points for a parent or teacher to use. Or you could simply read it as a great book. Highly recommended.

Hello God by Moya Simons
Harper Collins, 2007

Wombat and Fox Summer in the City, by Terry Denton

Wherever Wombat and Fox go, trouble is never far behind. How hard can it be to take a bus to the beach? What can go wrong at the sandcastle competition? Surely crab-hunting is a safe activity…

Wombat & Fox: Summer in the City is the eagerly-awaited sequel to Wombat & Fox: Tales of the City It provides a zany, carefree look at Wombat and Fox’s summer holiday, as they tackle a stressful bus trip, a wacky sandcastle competition and a crab-hunting expedition not to mention the five cheeky monkeys intent on ruining their holiday.

This is a story that children of all ages can enjoy. Terry Denton tells the story in his own unique way, and humorous black and white pictures on every page complement the story perfectly. This book is great for beginning readers aged 7-11 and also for reading aloud.

Great stuff.

Wombat and Fox: Summer in the City Wombat & Fox: Summer in the City, by Terry Denton
Allen and Unwin, 2007

You can but this title online at Fishpond.

Hal Spacejock Second Course, by Simon Haynes

The interstellar freighter Volante powered through space, her streamlined flanks speckled with points of light from distant stars. In the flight deck, Hal Spacejock was studying the main viewscreen from his customary stance in the pilot’s chair – hand clasped behind his head, boots up on the flight console and a cup of coffee at his side.

We first met Hal Spacejock in the book of the same name, as he travelled through space in a rusty ship trying to avoid debt collectors, and getting into scrape after scrape. Now he’s back in a second instalment of his adventures – still just as gung-ho and gullible, but now with a new ship and a new set of challenges.

In Hal Spacejock: Second Course, Hal is offered a job delivering some bank documents – but when he accepts it he makes himself an enemy. Rex Curtis owns a huge freight line and he’s not happy that Hal has undercut him. He will stop at nothing to destroy Hal and regain the contract – he even wants Hal’s ship!

Hal and his sidekick, aging robot Clunk, must overcome a mischievous orange ape, a mysterious female passenger with links to Curtis, accidental teleportation to another galaxy and grumpy customs officers who want to borrow Clunk for a museum display.

Often sequels to successful first books can be downright disappointing or repetitive, but this sequel is better than the first, with more development of Hal and Clunk as characters and an interesting cast of supporting characters, as well as a plot with twists and turns, and plenty of humour. Bobby the Briefcase, a talking computer invented by a loony inventor, offers the reader a sardonic take on modern ‘helpful’ software, with his regular ‘it looks like you are trying to…’ and ‘would you like to…’.

Readers will be glad to know there is a third book in the series, as there is still so much of the universe for Spacejock to bumble his way through.

Hal Spacejock: Second Course, by Simon Haynes
FACP, 2006

Guess Who Just Moved In! by D G Harris

A couple of things caught my eye. Sitting on the coffee table was one of those weird pipe things that have long bendy tubes coming out of them, I remembered seeing the caterpillar in the Disney movie of Alice in Wonderland smoking one, but I didn’t know they existed in real life. And next to it in a glass case was one of those great big silver cutlasses that pirates usually have hanging from their belts.

When a new family moves into Orsom Towers, not everyone is keen to welcome them. They are Muslims and their strange comings and goings have some of the residents worried. Ben and his mates know that looking different does not make a person a terrorist, but when they find evidence of criminal activity, they start to wonder about the new family.

Guess Who Just Moved In! is the third title in the Snott Henderson and the Orsom Towers Gang series. This entertaining offering includes a blend of mystery, humour and friendship in a story which will be enjoyed by boy and girl readers aged 9 to 12. The story is self contained, so readers new to the series won’t be confused.

Guess Who Just Moved In, by D. G. Harris
ABC Books, 2007

This title can be purchased online at Fishpond.

The Hairy Legs Heist, by Sue Whiting

She had only finished two bags when a dreadful chill crept through her. It was too quiet. Something was wrong.
She wandered outside. Hairy Legs wasn’t there. She wandered back in; he wasn’t on his inside stand either.
‘Where’s Hairy Legs?’
Leo scratched his beard. ‘He’s outside.’
‘No, he’s not,’ Britt said, her cheeks flaming.
Hairy Legs was gone.

When Hairy Legs, the foul-mouthed galah who sits outside the pet shop, is stolen, the residents of Tompkin Park are devastated. Everyone loves Hairy Legs – well, nearly everyone. And no one loves him more than Britt Brady does. She is determined to figure out what happened to the galah, and to get him back. But when Britt finds herself in as much danger as Hairy Legs is, she wonders if either of them will survive this ordeal.

The Hairy Legs Heist is an exciting and humorous adventure for primary aged readers. It is wonderful to see a strong girl character at the centre of a mystery story, especially for this age group. Britt is feisty and likeable, and she doesn’t give up.

It is hoped that there will be more stories in the Britt Brady series.

The Hairy Legs Heist, by Sue Whiting
New Frontier, 2007