April, by Gabrielle Lord

I was finally free to stand up. I stretched out my arms, and clenched and unclenched my aching fingers, sore from bearing the weight of Lachlan’s head. While the cop had been talking, my mind had been racing in overdrive – desperately thinking of a way to get my stuff and get out of there. More cops were coming and I knew that if I didn’t run, I’d be recognised and cuffed in no time. Psycho Kid, public enemy number one…the guy who’d attacked his uncle and put his sister in a coma.

Callum (Cal) Ormond has been on the run for three months, suspected of having tried to kill his sister and uncle, and being pursued by police, a private investigator and groups of baddies who want to kill him, for reasons he can’t grasp. What he does know is that he needs to keep on the run if he wants to stay alive. In the meantime, he must also solve the mysterious Ormond Riddle, which is his only chance at having a normal life again.

April is the fourth title in the Conspiracy 365 series, a fast paced action series from author Gabrielle Lord. With each of the eventual twelve titles being released in the month which bears its title, this series is both unique and satisfying in its blend of action and adventure. Like its predecessors, this title offers twists and turns and ends with a cliffhanger which will leave the reader looking forward to the May instalment.

April (Conspiracy 365)

April (Conspiracy 365), by Gabrielle Lord
Scholastic Australia, 2010

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

Blue Skies, by Fleur McDonald

Amanda sat next to her father in the church, her mother’s coffin resting on a gurney in front of them, her uncle speaking at the pulpit. Although cheerful flowers matched her mother’s vibrant personality, Amanda had to close her eyes against the pain she felt looking at them atop the coffin. She could hear her mother’s laughter, see her flashing eyes and feel her arms around her.

Amanda has long dreamt of returning home to put her university studies to use and help on the family farm. But when her beloved mother dies suddenly, things start to change. Her father, unable to cope, wants to sell the farm and, in financial crisis, it seems there may not be much choice. But Amanda is determined to keep Kyleena and make it a successful business once more.

As she struggles, without her father’s help, things start to look up, until a series of unexpected obstacles look set to pull her even further down.

Blue Skies is a tale of life on the land, with a strong female lead character, some elements of romance and mystery and plenty of twists and turns to keep the reader guessing and turning pages.

Set in rural Western Australia.

Blue Skies

Blue Skies, by Fleur McDonald
Allen & Unwin, 2010

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

A Ute Picnic, by Lorraine Marwood

The sound of heat,
a roar like a sawmill
hungry for wood
that day,
that forty-five degree day

(Black Saturday)

From confronting, but very real, explorations of the realities of bushfire, as above, to the silliness of passersby mistaking a milk tanker for party lights, this poetry collection captures the highs and lows of rural Australian life.

Award-winning poet Lorraine Marwood offers a collection that is very Australian, and which delights in its variety. What is common across the collection is the excellence which makes each poem give the reader pause to consider, to enjoy, to celebrate.

Spiders are made fascinating:
of spider
curled against the daylight
waiting for the moon


and cows, which feature prominently (as is to be expected in a rural-themed collection) play follow-the leader (Cow Tracks and Facts) and swing hips in joy of gourmet anticipation (They Buck Only for Oats).

In a classroom setting rural youngsters will delight in the familiarity of the subject matter, and the accuracy of its portrayal, whilst city kids will delight in the novelty of the images. In private, readers will enjoy dipping into the poems one at a time, or reading cover to cover.

A Ute Picnic and Other Australian Poems is an outstanding poetry collection from an outstanding poet.

A Ute Picnic and Other Australian Poems

A Ute Picnic and Other Australian Poems, by Lorraine Marwood
Walker Books, 2010

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

Look See, Look at Me, by Leonie Norrington & Dee Huxley

Look see, look at me,
I’m so much bigger now I’m three.
I can run, I can jump, I can skip, I can bump…

This exuberant picture book is a delightful exploration of childhood, particularly within an Aboriginal community. As the young protagonist cavorts through the pages, he is watched – and helped – by a variety of doting family members. Most of the experiences and actions expressed in the text are ones which children and parents of every background will relate to – running, jumping, copying, giggling, bumping – but the illustrations set the action outdoors in a remote community with trees, ochre landscapes, even crocodiles adding interest for children from other parts of Australia and, importantly a setting to which children from such isolated communities will relate.

The creators, author Leonie Norrington and illustrator Dee Huxley, visited three northern communities and workshopped ideas for the text and illustrations, creating a delightful celebration of childhood and community life.


Look See, Look at Me!

Look See, Look at Me! by Leonie Norrington and Dee Huxley
Allen & Unwin, 2010

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

Where There's Smoke, by John Heffernan

‘A little old bushfire,’ Brian Smith continued. ‘Don’t get your knickers in a knot, mate. She’ll be right. The red steer’s been through here before, plenty of times. We know how to handle it. Don’t we, boys?’
A group of local men agreed loudly.
‘No, she not be right!’ Tiny shouted. ‘Not this time. You got it wrong. Already there is smoke in the air.’ He pointed at the sky. ‘What they say? Where’s there smoke…’

Luke and his Mum have been moving around for as long as Luke can remember, hiding from his violent father. In Edenville, though, Luke finally feels safe, and his mum is starting to build a new life, too. But the summer is hot and the bush is as dry as it’s ever been. Luke’s mate, old Tiny, is sure that disaster is coming, but the locals aren’t worried. They’ve seen fires before. It is up to Tiny and Luke to convince them that this time is different.

Where There’s Smoke examines two important topics – the effects of family violence and breakup, and the devastation that bushfire can wreak. Both are couched within the exploration of the way friendship and community can help both battle through tough times and heal afterwards.

Inspired by the Victorian bushfires of February 2009, Where There’s Smoke is an excellent offering.

Where There's Smoke

Where There’s Smoke, by John Heffernan
Omnibus, 2010

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

The Encyclopaedia of Australia's Battles, by Chris Coulthard-Clark

More than just a record of the battles in which Australia and Australians have been involved, The Encycopaedia of Australia’s Battles, provides an intresting insight into Australia’s history as a whole.

As well as detailing the many battles Australians have joined on war fields overseas, the book details the many battles fought on Australian soil in the two hundred years since white settlement. These include battles fought between European settlers and Aboriginals resisting colonization and battles such as those on the goldfields, including the Eureka Stockade.

The book includes chronological entries of over 300 battles in which Australians or Australian troops have been involved – at sea, in the air and on the ground. Each entry provides the date and location, the main units and commanders involved and an account of the course of the battle. ENtries are illustrated with maps, drawings and photographs.

The author, historian Chris Coulthard-Clark is an expert in Australian defence history. A graduate of Duntroon and the Australian Dfence Force Academy, he has worked as a government policy analyst, historical consultant and a research editor.

The Encyclopaedia of Australia’s Battles is an outstanding resource for historians, writers, teachers, an anyone with an interest in Australian history. First published in 2001, it has been rereleased in 2010.

The Encyclopaedia of Australia's Battles

The Encyclopaedia of Australia’s Battles, by Chris Coulthard-Clark
Allen & Unwin, 2010


This title can be purchased online from Fishpond. Buying through these links supports Aussiereviews.

Australian Classics, by Jane Gleeson-White

This useful reference explores fifty classic pieces of Australian literature, discussing the influences which shaped each book, the author’s background, events of the day and more. The fifty chosen books range in time from Rolf Boldrewood’s 1882 novel Robbery Under Arms to Tim Winton’s 1991 offering Cloudstreet, and in form from fiction and nonfiction prose, to children’s books and poetry.

Whilst readers may have their own ideas about which fifty Australian books should be included in such a collection, the author acknowledges that many worthy offerings have been exclude by inviting other Australians – including Frank Moorehouse and David Malouf – to share their own lists of favourite Australian books.

Lovers and students of Australian literature will find much to absorb here –new aspects of old favourites as well as perhaps an awareness of gaps in their personal reading or home libraries.

An excellent reference. First published in 2007, and rereleased in 2010 in paperback format.

Australian Classics: 50 Great Writers and Their Celebrated Works

Australian Classics: 50 Great Writers and Their Celebrated Works, by Jane Gleeson-White
Allen & Unwin, 2010

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

Moment of Truth, by Michael Pryor

‘I have some distressing news.’ She took a breath. ‘Holmland has invaded the Low Countries.’
George smothered an oath. Aubrey clenched his fists and his heart pounded inside his chest…
‘At ten o’clock,’ Lady Rose continued, visibly growing paler, ‘your father is due in the Lower House. He is going to announce that we are at war.’
There it is, Aubrey thought numbly. Such a simple statement: we are at war. Nation against nation, and misery would be the only inevitable outcome.

Aubrey is only days into his training at the Magic Department when everything changes. His father, the Prime Minister, declares Albion is at war. Aubrey and his best friend George are left unsure whether they should enlist against the wishes of their parents.

Soon, though, they are a part of the Special Services, on a mission to gather intelligence. They are reunited with Caroline and are sent to Gallia to investigate mysterious magical emanations. What they find there is horrific – Holmland, and Aubrey’s nemesis Dr Tremaine – is about to unleash an unstoppable horror on the world. Aubrey and his friends must do their best to stop them.

Moment of Truth is the fifth instalment in the steam-punk series, Laws of Magic. Like its predecessors it is a clever blend of wry humour, action and intrigue. With parallels with real-world history, likeable characters and an absorbing plot, this is fantasy as it should be done. Best read in sequence, the titles can be read as stand-alone, but readers who read out of order will likely go looking for the earlier ones.

Great stuff for teens and adults.

Moment of Truth (Laws of Magic)

Moment of Truth, by Michael Pryor
Random House, 2010

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

Peeking Ducks, by Krista Bell & Sally Rippin

Zhang, Mulong and Langshi lived on a quiet stream, not far from the busy Li River. They lived with their mother, their father and their sister, Poh Poh.
For months it has been foggy, dark and cold but now the sun was shining over the mountains.

After a long winter of cold and fog, finally it seems like Spring might be coming. Sick of being restricted by the weather, three young ducklings take advantage of an early spring day to go exploring. Their parents and sister remind them to stay close, but gradually they move further and further towards the big Li River. Along the way they encounter dangers they’d not expected but are assisted by other river creatures. Sally Rippin’s endpapers show misty Chinese mountains and set the scene for the illustrations to follow. Her palette of greens and greys evokes the misty light of the Chinese mountains and the rivers that feed from it. The ducks are brilliant white, perhaps indicating that they still have something to learn about blending in. Peeking Ducks is a large portrait format hard back with lovely heavy paper.

Young children often have no context to understand danger. They don’t know what they don’t know and can put themselves in situations of risk. So it is with Zhang, Mulong and Langshi. All they know is they are sick of being cooped up and want to get out and play. They are fortunate enough that although they encounter potential danger, they also encounter other animals who help them avoid capture. Even little Poh Poh, who at first advocates caution is seduced by the pull of the ‘outdoors’ and the notion at ‘peeking’ at new sights. Krista Bell shows that some lessons can be learnt by experience, while also reminding that sometimes parents do know what they’re warning about!

Peeking Ducks

Peeking Ducks, Krista Bell, ill Sally Rippin
Windy Hollow Books 2010

Reviewed by Claire Saxby Children’s book author.

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

Bindi Wildlife Adventures – Trouble at the Zoo, by Chris Kunz

As the sun rose on another beautiful day on the Sunshine Coast, an enormous Burmese python slithered slowly into a bedroom. In the distance, the call of the ring-tailed lemurs signalled the start of a new day. Lying asleep in bed, the young girl didn’t notice the snake’s progress.
Hisssssssssssss. The snake took a leisurely route towards the bed, slowly winding up the bedpost until its head came to rest on the pillow. The snake’s tongue flickered in and out, touching the girl’s face.
The girl’s face twitched a little, but her eyes remained closed. The snake let out another quiet hisssssssssssss.

It’s Bindi’s eleventh birthday and it’s not only a big day for her, it’s a big day for everyone at Australia Zoo. Her birthday will be celebrated with everyone at the zoo, animals, staff and visitors too. The theme is underwater and everyone is dressing up in costume, including Bindi, her brother Robert, her mum Terri and all the staff. It’s going to be a big event. But there’s one visitor, Zac who really would rather be somewhere else. His sister is thrilled to be here, but it’s his birthday too and he wouldn’t have chosen this for his birthday party. His grumpiness is noted and Bindi and Robert both try unsuccessfully to cheer him up. Zac cooks up his own plan, but Robert, Bindi, with the help of macaw, Chilli, find a way to keep the zoo animals safe and improve Zac’s day.

Australia Zoo is well known as being the home of the Irwin family as well as for its collection of animals, particularly crocodiles. Terri, Robert and particularly Bindi are well known personalities, both at the zoo and beyond. This is Bindi’s first adventure of four, with a second four released in August. Bindi provides a foreword, but the story itself is written by Chris Kunz in third person. Although there is a conflict with a grumpy ten year old, the resolution has been carefully tailored so that Zac escapes the potentially serious consequences of taking an animal home. Trouble at the Zoo concludes with Animal Fact Files on the two animals featured: the Eastern Water Dragon and the Green-winged Macaw. There’s also an invitation for young people to join Australia Zoo’s Wild life Warriers. Recommended for mid-primary readers.

Trouble at the Zoo (Bindi Wildlife Adventures)

Trouble at the Zoo , Chris Kunz
Random House 2010

Reviewed by Claire Saxby Children’s book author.

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