My Candlelight Novel, by Joanne Horniman

And so this is my story. I will make it something after my own heart, tender and dark, a little candlelight novel, started this late summer night as my baby daughter sleeps in the big bed in the corner, and my sister Kate leans thoughtful and sleepless against the railing of the dark verandah outside…

Sophie is a single mother intent on loving her child and making a life for them both. Her family consists of her baby, Hetty, her younger sister Kate, and Lil, the woman who had taken Sophie and Kate in after they were abandoned by their parents. As Sophie’s world expands, she makes new friends and acquaintances and grows in new directions.

Following on from Horniman’s earlier novel, Secret Scribbled Notebooks, told by Kate, Sophie’s story is not so much a sequel as it is a companion to the earlier book, but can equally be read on its own. The events of the novel are sequential, but whilst the plot is absorbing, the beauty of the story lies in Sophie’s honest first person narrative. She is introspective, innocent and unassuming, learning to live and love as she raises her daughter, attends university and spends time with her new friends.

This is a beautiful read, the sort of book that you wish would never end.

My Candlelight Novel

My Candlelight Novel, by Joanne Horniman
Allen & Unwin, 2008

This book can be purchased online at Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

The Sweet Life, by Rebecca Lim

Skin crawling, Janey clicked on Fellini’s profile. All it said was that ‘Fellini’ was male, twenty-one and Italian, and had logged in as recently as today. His page was largely blank, as he had no blogs, blurbs or other photos posted. Which said exactly zero about him. Scanning the rest of his meagre page, she saw that the guy had just one friend and that one friend was…her.

When her mother dies, Janey is all alone in the world. Well, not completely alone as she is fortunate enough to have some really good friends. But she has no family at all. Until, as she cleans up her mother’s belongings, she discovers a secret. Soon, she is contact with an aunt she didn’t know she had, who lives in Italy. When Janey goes to Rome for a holiday with the aunt, she gets more than she bargained for – an absentee aunt, a resentful cousin, and her very own stalker. Who is following her around Italy, and what do they want?

The Sweet Life is an interesting blend of teen fiction. Part romance, part mystery and part realistic, the story deals with the issue of cyber stalking at the same time as providing a gentle romance and a mystery for the reader to solve.

Part of the Girlfriend Fiction series, The Sweet Life is aimed at teenage girls of all reading abilities and is sure to find an eager readership there.

The Sweet Life (Girlfriend Fiction)

The Sweet Life, by Rebecca Lim
Allen & Unwin, 2008

This book can be purchased online atFishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

Pete the Sheep, by Jackie French & Bruce Whatley

‘That sheep-sheep is nothing but a troublemaker!’ yelled Ratso.
‘He has to go!’ cried Big Bob.
‘Too right!’ shouted Bungo, who never said much.
‘If Pete goes, I go!’ said Shaun.
‘That suits us fine!’ yelled the other shearers.

The new shearer, Shaun, doesn’t have a sheepdog, like the other shearers do. Instead he has a sheep-sheep, Pete. And Pete the Sheep is nor ordinary sheep. He wins over the sheep, but not the dogs or the other shearers. And soon Shaun and Pete are out work – until Pete has an idea.

Pete the Sheep is a hilarious book, with a funny storyline and comic illustrations which will have readers of any age giggling. First published in 2004, it has been rereleased in a sturdy hardcover edition.

From the award-winning team who created the bestselling Diary of a Wombat, Pete the Sheep is a must have book.

Pete the Sheep, by Jackie French, illustrated by Bruce Whatley
This edition Angus and Robertson, 2008

The paperback edition of Pete the Sheep is available from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

Audrey Goes to Town, by Christine Harris

Audrey Barlow bounced as the wheels of the wooden cart hit a pothole. Although the floor was padded with blankets and what was left in the food bags, each bump jarred Audrey and her brothers.
Douglas fell sideways, giggling. He was only three, so he giggled at nearly everything.
‘Sesiting, isn’t it?’ said Audrey.

Audrey has never been to town, and she can’t wait to get there. There will be houses and trains and even cars. But she isn’t so sure about staying with Mrs Paterson, a strict old lady who looks like a burnt stick. When Dad and Price go off dogging, the rest of the family must board with Mrs Price. Then Mum falls ill and Audrey and her little brother Dougie are alone with Mrs Paterson.

Mrs Paterson’s project is to try to turn Audrey into a lady – and Audrey’s project becomes finding something good about Mrs Paterson. Fortunately, Audrey has new friends to make her life easier.

Audrey Goes to Town is a funny tale of outback life. Audrey is a likeable main character – honest and with a humorous take on life, she is also compassionate. Even the dour Mrs Paterson can’t help but like her, even if it takes time.

A sequel to Audrey of the Outback, this story stands alone, likely to be equally as enjoyable to a reader new to the series.

Lots of fun.

Audrey Goes to Town

Audrey Goes to Town, by Christine Harris
Little Hare, 2008

This book can be purchased online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

The Back Leg of a Goat, by Penny Reeve

Reviewed by Dale Harcombe

It is good to read a book about young people who are pro-active in caring for others. The first chapter sets up the problem, which is that 10 year old Tania Abbey does not have enough money to do what she wants to do. Worse still, her best friend Sue, who usually helps her with money making schemes, has moved.

So how is she going to raise the necessary money and what does she want it for? She wants it to buy a goat for Shanti who is part of a poor family in India. With what she has in her money tin, Tania has only about enough for ‘the back leg of a goat.’

Together with her brother Daniel, friend Sam and an unlikely ally in Sam’s older sister, Emily, they toss around a few ideas. Ultimately it is Emily who comes up with an idea to raise the necessary funds. At first the boys are taken aback by her idea of a fashion parade, until Emily presents an innovative suggestion that captures all their imaginations.

Of course they encounter more than a few problems along the way. Not everyone is so impressed with the idea, they discover when Mr Campbell appears. But they are not deterred.

The characters in this story are believable in their interests and the way they proceed to handle the problem as well as the way the respond to biblical truths which are woven naturally into the books. The biblical parable of the pearl of great price fits neatly into the story and challenges Tania Abbey in her thinking.

This book tells a simple but good story with interesting characters. The characters of the children are reflected in their dialogue and in the creative costumes they come up with for the parade.

At the back the author tells a little her own experience and gives an appendix of organizations like Tear Australia as well as a sample chapter from Water or Goo. Published by Christian Focus publications they suggest a reading age of 7-11. I’d be more inclined to say 6-10.

The Back Leg of a Goat, by Penny Reeve illustrated by Fred Apps
Christian Focus Publications, 2008 ,
ISBN 978 1 84550 340 6

Owl Ninja, by Sandy Fussell

Something is wrong. Usually, the Sword Master likes to chat and joke, to tell us stories of the days when he was a boy listening to Ki-Yaga’s feet. Sensei was old, even then.
Across the valley a drumbeat echoes. Thum. Thum.
“What’s that?” Nezume asks.
Ta-thum. Ta-thum. Thum

A drum beat is echoing across the mountains, calling the mountain ryus to war. The samurai kids don’t want to fight. Their sensei can stop the war, but there isn’t much time, and first they must travel across the land for an audience with the Emperor. Only he can silence the drum. But will they reach him safely and on time?

Owl Ninja is the second in the wonderful Samurai Kids series from talented new author Sandy Fussell. Featuring the wonderful cast of characters from the first story as well as some colourful new ones, the story is self contained but will be enjoyed most by those who read the first.

Readers are transported into the world and time of the Samurai, with the landscape coming alive through Fussell’s carefully wrought text, and the characters delightfully illustrated in the manga-style plates of Rhian Nest James.

This is an outstanding series and readers will look forward to the third instalment.

Owl Ninja (Samurai Kids)

Samurai Kids: Owl Ninja, by Sandy Fussell
Walker Books, 2008

This book can be purchased online at Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

Hamlet, by John Marsden

Horatio stared at him. The flickering light of the candles in the dark draughty room made the prince’s face almost demonic. Through the cloverleaf window in the stone wall Bernardo saw one distant star. Then it went out.
Hamlet was staring back at Horatio.
At last Horatio said, ‘We think we saw your father.’

Something is rotten in the state of Denmark. Hamlet’s father, the king, has died, and Hamlet’s mother has quickly remarried, to the new king, Hamlet’s uncle. But Hamlet has been visited by the ghost of his father, who claims he has been murdered and urges Hamlet to take revenge.

This is not a new story – it is, of course, a retelling of the famous play by Shakespeare. Master writer John Marsden remoulds the story staying true to the plot of the play but rediscovering the characters, giving them depth, and retouching the events to give them further layers. Fans of the play will not feel cheated by the changes, but will rather be delighted by the interpretation, whilst those new to the play will enjoy the story for its own sake.


Hamlet, by John Marsden
Text Publishing, 2008

The (not quite) Perfect Boyfriend, by Lili Wilkinson

‘I did meet a Boy. I met him at the library.’ I say. ‘He has wavy brown hair, and he’s English. He’s gone back to England.’

When Midge returns to school after the holidays, her friend Tahni gives her a hard time about still not having a boyfriend, so Midge does what any crazy sixteen year old would do – and makes one up. Soon her imaginary boyfriend has a name, a background, even a Myspace page. But when Ben turns up at school one day, Midge wonders if she could really have conjured up her imaginary boyfriend. Her small lie is becoming a huge one, and the real life Ben seems to be playing along.

There’s another new boy at school, too. Nothing like Ben, he tucks in his shirt, draws pictures of dragons in his text books, and doesn’t fit in at all, but Midge has bene paired with him for a major assignment. As her lies spiral out of control, Midge wonders if George might be her only friend – or does he have secrets of his own, too?

The (not quite) Perfect Boyfriend is a gritty, yet not depressing, read for teenage girls, with Midge facing issues of peer pressure, first relationships, friendship and family breakup. Whilst there is some romance involved, this is not simply a romance book, with the issues being explored far more important than the romantic element. Midge is a first person narrator who admits her flaws, and shares her experiences honestly, even though sometimes the reader can guess at things which are not apparent to Midge.

Part of the Girlfriend Fiction series, The (not quite) Perfect Boyfriend is an absorbing read.

The (not quite) Perfect Boyfriend (Girlfriend Fiction)

The (not quite) Perfect Boyfriend, by Lili Wilkinson
Allen & Unwin, 2008

This book can be purchased online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

501 Great Aussie Jokes

Q. What do you call a platypus trapped under a rock?
A. A flatypus.

Q. What’s green, sticky and smells like eucalyptus?
A. Koala spew.

This is the third joke book produced by Scholastic Australia in recent years to support Camp Quality. Following on from the success of Laugh Out Loud! and Laugh Even Louder, 501 Great Aussie Jokes is full of jokes which will have primary school aged readers laughing out loud. I tried some out on my almost fifteen year old son and even he managed a wry grin (he’s not easily impressed).

There are contributions from famous Australians including Kerri-Ann Kennerly, Steve Jacobs and Adam Cox, as well as cute and humorous black and white illustrations by Louis Shea.

With a cover price of $9.99 and royalties going to Camp Quality, this is a worthwhile purchase.

501 Great Aussie Jokes
Scholastic Australia, 2008

the eleventh sheep, by Kyle Mewburn & Claire Richards

When Sian can’t sleep, she likes to count sheep.
From one to ten, then start again.
The Eleventh Sheep waits, every night. Waits, unwanted, just out of sight.

Sian, a young girl, counts sheep to help her get to sleep. She counts from one to ten while the poor old eleventh sheep waits patiently just out of sight for her to count just one more. Then one night the eleventh sheep can wait no longer. It leaps, unbidden. As Sian has already fallen asleep, the eleventh sheep falls ‘out of her dream and onto her bed’. Together Sian and the eleventh sheep play and adventure. And every night she sleeps cuddled up to the eleventh sheep. It becomes clear that the eleventh sheep is not completely happy. Between them, Sian and the eleventh sheep to find a way to put things right.

Getting to sleep can be a tricky thing sometimes. There are all sorts of strategies employed to facilitate sleep, but one of the most well-known must be counting sheep. Kyle Mewburn has delivered a simple and fun text that invites children to take a leap of faith, just as the sheep do in Sian’s imaginings. Claire Richard’s colourful illustrations are warm and friendly. Sian recognises that although she can now sleep without counting sheep, her companion is not as content. There is a gentle lesson here about how what we do can affect others, even inadvertently. But mostly, it’s a fun story, with some counting opportunities, and a little twist at the end. The Eleventh Sheep is a square format hardback. Recommended for preschoolers.

The Eleventh Sheep, Kyle Mewburn Claire Richards
Scholastic 2008
ISBN: 9781741691337