Sheep, Goat and the Creaking Gate, by Claire Saxby & Judith Rossell

Sheep lived in a grassy green paddock complete with everything a happy, contented sheep could possibly want. But sheep wasn’t happy. Or content. In Sheep’s paddock, there was no Jellagong tree.

Sheep is happy living in her paddock until she notices the Jellagong tree in Goat’s paddock. Goat tells her the leaves of the Jellagong tree are delicious – and Sheep wants desperately to taste them for herself. But Goat won’t give her any and fiercely guards the creaking gate between the two paddocks. Finally, Sheep comes up with a plan to trick Goat into letting her in – only to find out that the Jellagong Tree isn’t as good as it looks.

Sheep Goat and the Creaking Gate is a gently humorous look at the nature of happiness, exploring the theme of the grass is always greener in a way which will make youngsters giggle whilst giving a subtle message about being satisfied with what you have.

Judith Rossell’s illustrations are delightful, using bold greens, blues and yellows to offset the white sheep and brown and white goat, as well as little collage embellishments.

This is a beautiful offering which will be treasured by children and parents.

Sheep Goat and the Creaking Gate

Sheep Goat and the Creaking Gate, by Claire Saxby and Judith Rossell
Windy Hollow Books, 2009

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

The Sisters Antipodes, by Jane Alison

We had the same birthday, but she was a year older, and we looked alike enough to be sisters – little girls with wavy hair and bright staring eyes, although mine were blue and hers were brown. I see us in the bath gazing at each other over sudsy water, our wrinkled feet pressed together and pushing, as music and smoke drift under the door. We don’t know that soon she’ll live with my father and I’ll live with hers, that for seven years we’ll shadow each other around the globe, that the split will form everything about us, that we’ll grow up as each other’s antipode.

Born in Australia, Jane Goodman spent her early years travelling with her family – her mother, father and older sister. But back in Canberra they met another family that was almost a mirror – a father also in the Foreign Service, a beautiful mother and two little girls, almost the same ages. When the two sets of parents first had affairs and then exchanged partners, Jane and her now step-sister Jenny were thrown into a state of wordless combat for the love of their fathers, a battle which ebbed and flowed for many years.

The Sisters Antipodes is a memoir of the author’s childhood and early adulthood, focussing on the impact of the dual marriage breakup, her subsequent childhood, and her tumultuous relationship chiefly with Jenny but also with other members of the family. In parts harrowing but always compelling, this is an absorbing tale.

The Sisters Antipodes: A Memoir

The Sisters Antipodes: A Memoir, by Jane Alison
Allen & Unwin, 2009

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

The Sea Bed, by Marele Day

The monk wondered if, in the semi-darkness of the room, he had dreamed her pale presence, a ghost swimming by like the ephemeral thoughts that arose from his own watery places.
He sat on a bench, a multitude of feelings thronging inside him like the fish at her feed basket. He couldn’t tell if he wanted to be her, be the fish fed by her, or the water in which she swam. What he did know was that he wanted to be on the wet side of the glass. What did it feel like to be in that liquidity, to be brushed by fish, have them clamouring?

When the monk leaves his mountain monastery and ventures into the outside world, he is intent only on carrying out his assigned task – to scatter the remains of a fellow monk in the ocean. But when he encounters abalone diving women first in an aquarium and then in a fishing village he is distracted from his task.

One of the sea women, Chicken, is also distracted. She is worrying about the way her family and her community is changing, fading as it is battered by the modern world. Her sister Lilli has moved to the city and Chicken is sure that if Lilli returns things will improve.

The two stories in The Sea Bed overlap but are, for much of the book, quite separate, with the reader being given glimpses of the non viewpoint character in the instances where their paths cross, and being tantalised by the parallels and connections between the stories. As the two become increasingly one, there is a satisfying feeling of rightness.

This is a powerful novel, an observation of place, circumstance, and change which takes the reader on a journey.

The Sea Bed

The Sea Bed, by Marele Day
Allen & Unwin, 2009

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

Swerve, by Phillip Gwynne

The Monaro was a spaceship hurtling through the intergalactic, a submarine slicing through Atlantic depths. Inside, the milky light from the dashboard; outside, headlights punching holes in the outback night.

Hugh Twycross is a 16 year old nerd with a bright future – everybody says so. One of Australia’s best young cellists, he is preparing for an audition at the prestigious conservatorium. But Hugh is harbouring a secret. Beneath his neat uniform, his nerdy hair, and his passion for music lies another passion – for cars and motor racing. So when his newly-discovered grandfather, Poppy, asks him to come on a road trip to Uluru in his 1970 Monaro, Hugh can’t refuse. Soon Hugh and Poppy are hurtling across the country, getting into all sorts of tangles, and having the time of their lives.

Along the way, Hugh and Poppy make some new friends – and tangle with new enemies. But Poppy is hiding his own secret, a secret which will rock Hugh’s world.

Swerve is a fast moving, funny but also touching story of self-discovery, family, and friendship . As Hugh travels with the grandfather who has been estranged from the family for many years, the pair build a bond which seems initially unbreakable, but which is tested by both revelations and the events of the trip. The use of an opening chapter which flashes forward gives the reader an insight into a possible outcome, but doesn’t blow the ending.

Young car-lovers will love the road trip, but there is something for every teen, with issues, humour, adventure and even mystery.



Swerve, by Phillip Gywnne
Penguin, 2009

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

The Lamington Man, by Kel Richards & Glen Singleton

I’ve outrun Matilda’s kitchen cat,
At only half speed, I can do that.
So run, run as fast as you can.
You can’t catch me. I’m the lamington man.

When Matilda makes a little man out of lamington mix, she doesn’t expect him to run away. But that’s just what happens – the little man jumps off the tray and outruns first Matilda and then her cat, a dog, and the postman. But will he outrun the crocodile basking by the river?

The Lamington Man is an Australian take on the classic Gingerbread Man tale. Told in rhyming verse, by Kel Richards and illustrated with plenty of quirky humour by Glen Singleton, this is a fun addition to the Aussie Gems series from Scholastic.

Whether young readers are acquainted with the Ginger Bread story or not, they’ll enjoy this new version.

The Lamington Man (Aussie Gems)

The Lamington Man (Aussie Gems), by Kel Richards & Glen Singleton
Omnibus, 2009

The Ballad of Les Darcy, by Peter Fitzsimons

Put Les Darcy in a uniform and the men of Australia will march to hell behind him.

Les Darcy was arguably the greatest boxer Australia ever saw. A good Catholic boy from a poor rural family, he began his boxing career in the years before World War 1, and captured the imagination, and hearts, of the Australian public. But when war broke out, Les was not ready to sign up until his family, who relied on his winnings, was provided for. As the conscription debate raged, Les found himself an unwitting target of those who believed he should sign up. Torn between his duty to his family and his love of his country, Darcy struggled to balance the two, with a tragic outcome.

The Ballad of Les Darcy tells the story of one of Australia’s greatest sporting heroes. Previously ranked alongside Donald Bradman and Phar Lap as Australia’s leading three sports legends, Darcy’s name has perhaps faded a little from the public spotlight. In this well paced biography, author Peter Fitzsimons brings his story to life both for those who perhaps who already know something of Darcy’s tale, as well as for those who perhaps may not have heard it previously.

Darcy’s life was remarkable – and deserves to be remembered.

The Ballad of Les Darcy

The Ballad of Les Darcy, by Peter Fitzsimons
This edition Harper Collins, 2009

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

Bye Bye Baby, by Fiona McIntosh

And with the memories came a white rage that burned away the terror. Suddenly I was calm and precise; there would be no sympathy for my victim. I knew that killing the members of the mocking Jesters Club was the only way I could kill the suffering of so long.

There is a serial killer on the loose, murdering middle aged men in meticulously planned attacks. DCI Jack Hawksworth assembles a team of Scotland Yard’s best talent to try to catch, and stop, the killer before anyone else dies. But there are few clues and no apparent motive for the killing, making this is a difficult case to solve.

In the meantime, Jack has a new lady friend, a tenant in his building. Perhaps Sophie might be the woman who can finally get under Jack Hawksworth’s skin. But his colleague, DI Kate Carter isn’t so sure. Her feelings for her boss are strong, and she doesn’t trust Sophie’s motives.

As Hawksworth’s team battle against time to catch the killer and stop more deaths, tension is high both within the team and among those who have reason to believe they, too, could be in the murderer’s sights.

Bye Bye Baby is a thrilling mystery, with readers taken on a roller coaster ride through twists and turns as the horror of a series of gruesome crimes is balanced with the highs and lows of the police characters’ personal lives. The first person perspective of the murderer, offered several times during the book, provides an interesting contrast and sense of difference to the book, with readers invited to feel sympathy for the killer.

A surprising, gripping thriller.

Bye Bye Baby

Bye Bye Baby, by Fiona McIntosh
Harper Collins, this edition 2009

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

Friends for Keeps series, by Emma Quay & Anna Walker

Come and play with Panda, Owl and Sheep!

Friends can come in all shapes and sizes and in this gorgeous trio of books, the three characters, best friends, are a sheep, an owl and a panda, showing how friends play, get along and share.

Each book is a simple story. In Jump Over the Puddle Panda and Owl help Sheep to conquer her (his?) fears about trying something new – jumping over the puddle. In Let’s Play House the three friends build a cubby using a blanket. But when the cubby isn’t big enough they invent a new game. And in Yummy Ice-Cream, Sheep and Panda share their ice-creams with Owl, who doesn’t have one.

All three books are illustrated using gentle watercolours and collage of patterned fabrics. Gentle pastels colours complement the gentleness of the stories. The three characters are nicely non-gendered, both in text clues and in their appearance, so that readers can decide for themselves if they are boys or girls.

These lovely books can be enjoyed individually, but young readers will also enjoying the familiarity of having all three.


Jump Over the Puddle (Friends for Keeps)

Jump Over the Puddle

Let's Play House (Friends for Keeps)

Let’s Play House

Yummy Ice-Cream (Friends for Keeps)

Yummy Ice-Cream

all by Emma Quay and Anna Walker
Scholastic, 2009

What the Sky Knows, by Nike Bourke and Stella Danalis

I want to know what the sky knows
How to be blue
Or grey
Or pink
How to make clouds

This beautiful, whimsical book is an invitation to children and adults alike to share the wisdom of the sky which knows how to change colour, how to be loud and quiet, how to make clouds and rain, and so much more.

With simple, lyrical text and gorgeous collage and bright paint illustrations the book is short and gentle enough for reading with infants, but clever enough to captivate older readers and even adults.

First published in 2005 in picture book format, it has now been rereleased as a board book. A wonderful gift for a new baby or for any lover of beauty.

What the Sky Knows [Board book]

What the Sky Knows , by Nike Bourke and Stella Danalis
UQP, this edition 2009

This book is available online from Fishpond. Buying through this book supports Aussiereviews.

Spineless, by Bronwen Scott

Australian homes and backyards are abuzz with wildlife: flies in the bedroom, possums in the roof, earwigs in the potplants and spiders hanging from windows and racing across walls. There are ticks on the dog, fleas on the cat and nits on the children’s hair.

When you have bugs, insects or spiders visiting your yard or your house, it is not always easy to know what they are, and whether they are harmful or helpful. This little guide will help. Spineless is a useful little offering, helping readers to identify crawlers, jumpers and more, and to understand whether they are pal or pest before giving hints on how to deal with them.

As well as a traditional contents page, a second one, titled ‘What’s Doing This?’ offers an easy way to locate pages about biters, chirpers and more. There is also a useful first aid section and a bibliography of further reading.

Author Bronwen Scott is a zoologist with 25 years of studying spinelss creatures. Spineless shares her knowledge in a form accessible to laymen.

Spineless: Dealing with Pests and Pals in Your Home and Backyard

Spineless: Dealing with Pests and Pals in Your Home and Backyard, by Bronwen Scott
Jacana Books, 2009

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