I Love You Too, by Stephen Michael King

…there’s one thing I know,
You love me and I love you too.

Four animal friends (a rabbit,a mouse, a bird and a fourth which is possibly a cat) play and explore their way through life. Not everything goes their way – their sunny day rolling down hills leads to pollen sneezes and some days are stay inside days – but none of that matters because even when things go wrong, their love for each other is constant.

This is such a simple text, with perhaps a hundred words, but there is so much meaning in those words, which are a pleasure to read, especially aloud. And, like any Stephen Michael King book, the illustrations are breathtaking. The characters are apparently simple, too, but say so much with their expressions and movement. Each friend is very different, which is part of the lovely message of the book. The colour palette is also gentle – pastel colours in watercolours with pencil lines – making this a lovely nap time, cuddle time or any quiet time story.

There is only one Stephen Michael King. His gentle, very canny touch is sheer genius.

I Love You Too

I Love You Too, by Stephen Michael King
Scholastic, 2013

Available from good bookstores or online. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

We're Going on a Croc Hunt, by Laine Mitchell and Louis Shea

We’re going on a croc hunt.
We’re going to find a big one.
I’m not afraid.
We’re as brave as brave can be!

This fun read-aloud offering uses the rhythm and refrain of the popular ‘We’re Going on a Bear Hunt’, but gives it a distinctly Aussie feel. The animal characters search for the croc in Australian settings – a reedy waterhole, trickly desert sand, red rocks and so on – and each time youngsters will be keen to join in the refrain:

We can’t go over them.
We can’t go under them.
We’ll have to go through them.

The final line of the story gives a little twist which will leave readers giggling.

Illustrations, by Louis Shea, feature a range of uniquely Australian animals – the croc is joined by (or, at least pursued by) a Tassie devil, a koala, a cassowary and more. The only one that is perhaps not native is a very cute cattle dog. There are lots of other Aussie animals throughout including birds, lizards and marsupials and eagle eyed readers will love searching for the crocodile who is hidden on each spread.

Accompanying the book is a recording of the song performed by Jay Laga’aia and a group of chidlren, as well as an instrumental version of the track, suitable for classroom use.

Lots of fun.

We're Going on a Croc Hunt

We’re Going on a Croc Hunt, by Laine Mitchell and Louis Shea
Scholastic, 2012
ISBN 9781742832487

Available from good bookstores or online

Behind the Sun, by Deborah Challinor

Producing a tiny compendium, the girl stood, took out a Congreves match and struck it against the attached strip of sandpaper. The flame flared hugely, singeing her hair. Managing to swear roundly and light her pipe at the same time, she drew on it and coughed until her eyes watered. She coughed again, then hoicked and spat.
‘Beg pardon. I’m Friday Woolfe. And you should cheer up, because it could be worse…’

Harrie (Harriet) is a good girl in a desperate situation. Since her father’s death, she has been the sol income earner for her ill mother and younger siblings. In a moment of desperation she steals a bolt of cloth, planning to make clothing to begin her own business. But she’s no professional shop lifter, and she is caught, finding herself locked in Newgate Gaol awaiting trial. There she meets Friday, a worldy prostitute, who takes her under her wing. They are soon joined by thief Sarah Morgan and the naive young Rachel Winter.

Found guilty of their various crimes, the four soon find themselves aboard a convict transport ship bound for New South Wales. Their friendship grows, but it isn’t always enough to keep the girls safe from danger. Their are enemies amongst the other women on board, and there are male passengers and crew who also have the girls in their sights. When they finally arrive in Sydney they are sent toe grim Parramatta Female Factory where they await assignment, not knowing whether they will be able to look after each other any more.

Behind the Sun is a stunningly moving story of friendship and survival, bringing alive a colourful period of Australian history with an absorbing cast of characters. The key players – the four girls – are diverse, but share a common bond of wanting to survive and make their lives, and that of their friends, better. The enemies they make are well rendered, including the mysterious, powerful and vicious criminal Bella Jackson, and the sleazy Gabriel Keegan, with a vile taste for very young girls. Their other friends, too, are varied, including the ship’s doctor, fellow convicts and paying passengers.

The adventures – and misadventures – of these four young was they struggle to survive their time as convicts, is moving and, with the promise of three further titles to come in the series, readers will be keen to stay with them to see what their futures hold.


Behind the Sun

Behind the Sun, by Deborah Challinor
Harper Collins, 2013
ISBN 9780732293062

Available from good bookstores and online.

Man Drought, by Rachael Johns

The pub had definitely seen better days, and she knew not everyone would see it how she did when she closed her eyes, but just looking at the old place made her heart feel lighter than it had in years. Two years, five months and four days to be precise. But no more counting. No more dwelling on the past.
Her new life started today.

Still hurting from the loss of her husband two years ago, Imogen Bates decides it’s time to make a fresh start far from the city. In the town of Gibson’s Find, three hours East of Perth, she comes across a country pub which is for sale, and sees an opportunity. The pub may be run down, but she has grand plans for getting it up to scratch. Most of the locals are pretty happy to have a new woman in a town which has a serious gender imbalance, but Gibson Black doesn’t seem to share the other men’s enthusiasm.

Gibson used to believe in love, and dreamt of starting a family. Now he’s sure that women – especially city women – are trouble. He has no intention of falling for anyone, even a hot redhead like Imogen.

Man Drought is a warm, endearing rural romance set in Western Australia. The fictional town of Gibson’s Find is set on the border of the farming country and goldfields region on the way to Kalgoorlie. As well as the central romance, there are issues explored including the gender imbalance in regional Australia, family dynamics, ageing and friendship. As a result, the sizzling romantic tension between Imogen and Gibson is set against the backdrop of a sense of community and character development.

Man Drought

Man Drought, by Rachael Johns
Harlequin Mira, 2013

Available from good bookstores or online.

The Romance Diaries: Ruby, by Jenna Austen

And that’s when it hits me like a thunderbolt. The REAL reason people make mistakes in romance is that they imagine they’re in one kind of story but actually they’re in another!

Ruby believes that real life romances, like romantic stories, fall into two categories – the Jane Austen-esque romantic comedy, or the Jayne Eyre gothic romance. The problem, though, is that people think they’re in one kind of romance when really they’re in the other – and so they fail. But because she knows so much, Ruby has the solution a Romantic Action Plan (RAP) to help her best friend Bella, her sister Jo, and even her mum find true love. What could possibly go wrong?

The Romance Diaries: Ruby is a sweetly romantic diary format offering with a Jane Austen-esque mix of comedy, cads and drama. The first in a new series from ABC Books and Jenna Austen (a pseudonym of award winning author Sophie Masson), the story is told over three months of narrator Ruby’s life as she navigates the challenges of friendship, family and first love.

Aimed squarely at tween readers looking for gentle romance novels, the series is sure to be a hit.

The Romance Diaries - Ruby

The Romance Diaries: Ruby, by Jenna Austen
ABC Books, 2013
ISBN 9780733331527

Available from good bookstores or

A Very Unusual Pursuit, by Catherine Jinks

When the bogle hissed, she knew it was caught. She knew she was safe. And she turned just in time to see Alfred strike his blow.
He speared the monster from behind, while it was still intent on reaching Birdie. But it couldn’t. The salt was stopping it. And before it could even try to retreat, Alfred thrust his staff into its flank.

Birdie’s has a beautiful voice – which is good, because it is this voice which allows her to make a living. But she’s not onstage, nor even singing on street corners or in public houses. Instead, Birdie makes her living singing for bogles. When Alfred Bunce, the bogler, needs to lure a bogle out from hiding so it can be destroyed, Birdie is the bait, singing it out of hiding. It’s dangerous work, but Birdie is happy.

But two very different women threaten Birdie – and Alfred’s – way of life. Miss Eames is a well to do lady who is intrigued by the study of bogles, and wants to learn more – but also wants to remove Birdie from the danger of the bogles’ path. Sarah Pickles is not a lady. She runs a gang of pickpockets and wants Alfred to destroy the bogle that has taken three of her best boys. But when he’s done that, she may destroy Alfred, too. Bridie soon finds that she may need Miss Eames’ help to save Alfred.

A Very Unusual Pursuit is the first in a fabulous new fantasy series from Catherine Jinks. Setting the story in Victorian London, Jinks does a superb job of bringing the time period to life, with poor houses, sewers, a grubby underworld and the contrast between rich and poor, combined with the fantastical element of gruesome, truly frightening bogles.

Whilst suitable for younger readers, the execution and subject matter mean the story will appeal to teens and adults, too.

A brilliant start to an exciting new series.

A Very Unusual Pursuit (City of Orphans)

A Very Unusual Pursuit (City of Orphans), by Catherine Jinks
Allen & Unwin, 2013
ISBN 9781743313060

Available from good bookstores or online.

Of Poetry Collections

I’ve been pondering poetry of late, particular poetry for children, inspired both by some study I’m doing and by the rediscovery of some of the poems of my childhood, including that of A. A.  Milne, some of the earliest poetry I remember loving  (along with Dr Seuss).

So I’ve been thinking a lot about what it is that makes a poem, the different forms used, and the ways that poetry is collected.  The poetry I’ve been sampling is pretty varied – from Blake, to Ted Hughes,  to AA Milne , to Michael Rosen and more. And, of course, because I’m a proud Aussie, I’ve been revisiting some of my favourite Australian poets. Which has reminded me that there aren’t a lot of children’s poetry books published in Australia, particularly single author collections. For now I’m not going to attempt to analyse why – that’s perhaps a whole series of blog posts.  Instead, I thought I’d start with a list of the poetry collections published in recent years. Initially I looked for those published in t past 5 years, and asked friends on Twitter and Facebook to help.  I ended up with a few titles that were more than five years, but in order to prevent the list being too depressingly short, I’ve kept those in.

So, here it is, my list of single-poet poetry collections for children published in recent years.  I’m hoping I’ve missed some, and that this post will draw some comments from those who remember what I and my friends haven’t.

From Lorraine Marwood:

A Ute Picnic (Walker Books, 2010)

Note on the Door (Walker Books 2011)

Guinea Pig Town  and Other Animal Poems (Walker Books, 2013)

Redback Mansion (Five Islands Press, 2002)


Elizabeth Honey

Mongrel Doggerel (Allen & Unwin, 1998)

The Moon in the Man (Allen & Unwin, 2002)

Honey Sandwich   (Allen & Unwin, 1993)

I’m Still Awake Still  (Allen & Unwin, 2008)


Steven Herrick

Untangling Spaghetti (UQP, 2008)


Doug McLeod

 Sister Madge’s Book of Nuns (most recently Working Title Press, 2012)


Colin Thompson

 There’s something really nasty on the bottom of my shoe (Hodder, 2003)

My Brother Drinks Out Of The Toilet (Hodder, 2000)

The Dog’s Just Been Sick in the Honda (Hodder, 1999)


Meredith Costain

Doodledum Dancing (Penguin, 2006)


Anne Bell

Muster Me a Song (Triple D Books, 2002)


Christobel Mattingley

Nest Egg: A Clutch of Poems (Triple D Books, 2005)


Max Fatchen

Poetry Allsorts (Triple D Books,  2003)


Andrew Lansdown

Allsorts: Poetry Tricks and Treats (Wombat Books)


Rosemary Milne

There’s a Goat in My Coat (Allen & Unwin, 2010)

Duncan Ball

My Sister Has a Big Black Beard (Harper Collins, 2009)

Michelle A. Taylor

If the World Belonged to Dogs (UQP, 2007)


Janeen Brian

By Jingo! (ABC Books, 2005)


Geoffrey McSkimming

Ogre in a Toga (Scholastic, 2007)

John Hay-Mackenzie

Cautionary tales for boys and girls (Murdoch Books, 2009)


Jill McDougall

Anna the goanna: and other poems (Aboriginal Studies Press, 2008)


So, have I missed any? If you know of any single poet collections published in Australia in recent years, do drop me a line and I’ll add them. I haven’t included verse novels here, because I’m intending to compose a separate list of these, and perhaps also  of anthologies.

Great Anzac Stories, by Graham Seal

Talk about go! We did go. We could only just see the enemey, as it was only break of day. You ought to have heard the cheer when they gave us the word to charge. You could have heard it for miles if you could have stopped to listen. Some were saying (or roaring), ‘Come on Australia!’ and others ‘Australia for ever!’…

For almost 100 years the story of the first Anzac Day has been told. Even before that day in 1915, Australian soldiers were making a name for themselves, and in the years since brave Australian men and women have continued to fight, to heal, to serve and to survive, on the battlefield and at home, in times of conflict.

Great Anzac Stories: The Men and Women Who Created the Digger Legend shares stories of Gallipoli and beyond, using first person accounts, news stories of the day and recollections of those who were there in the years that followed. There are stories of bravery, of tragedy and of humour joined by Graham Seal’s narrative and comment, in a form accessible to the layman readers.

This is accessible history.

Great Anzac Stories: The Men and Women Who Created the Digger Legend

Great Anzac Stories: The Men and Women Who Created the Digger Legend, by Graham Seal
Allen & Unwin, 2012
ISBN 9781743310595

Available from good bookstores and online.

February Reads

Another month has passed, and so it’s time to have a look at what I read for February. Pleasing to see my balance being restored towards my chief love – books for children. This month I indulged my six year old self and tracked down old copies of AA Milne’s poetry from Ebay. I loved rediscovering them and have moved from there to lots of other verse and poetry, so look out for them in my March list and beyond.

I only read 12 books, and several of them were short, which is a reflection of how busy my life has been of late. I’m a so reading a lot of journal articles which don’t make it into this list.

Those I’ve reviewed I’ve linked to, as always.

In Falling Snow Mary-Rose MacColl Allen & Unwin Adult
Red Fox Sandy Fussell Walker Books Children’s
Lost Voices Christopher Koch Fourth Estate Adult
The Rosie Black Chronicles Lara Morgan Walker Books Young Adult
When We Were Very Young AA Milne Dean Children’s Poetry
The Girl From Snowy River Jackie French Harper Collins Young Adult
Now We Are Six AA Milne Dean Children’s Poetry
Stories for 7 Year Olds Linsay Knight (ed) Random House Children’s
Unreviewed Adult
Rocket Into Space Ragbir Bhathal and Johanna Davids National Library Children’s NF
Topsy-Turvy World Kirsty Murray National Library Children’s NF
Catch the Zolt Phillip Gwynne Allen & Unwin Young Adult

Catch the Zolt, by Phillip Gwynne

As the van got closer, my brain started whirring, making that noise that a hard disk makes when you dump a load of data on it.
What to do next?
Suddenly, a swoosh sounds, and then blackness. Just like when I’d had my appendix out a few years ago and had been ‘put to sleep’ by the anaesthetist.
When I regained conciousness, I was lying on the footpath.
Out of the corner of my eye I could see the white van disappearing around a corner.

When Dom turns 15 he expects to get a few presents. But what he doesn’t expect is that on the day of his fifteenth birthday he inherits The Debt. An ancestor made a promise to a powerful secret organisation, and because he didn’t fulfil that promise, his descendants must pay. Dom must perform six tasks or lose a pound of flesh.

When he gets his first task, Dom is flummoxed. He must catch the Zolt, a teenage fugitive with a thing for stealing cars, boats, even planes, from rich families. He has a cult following amongst young people, but lots of enemies too. Dom is not even sure he wants to catch him – but he has no choice. The Debt want their first payment – now.

Catch the Zolt is the first instalment in Phillip Gwynne’s new series, The Debt. The action and pacing are good, taking the teen reader along on a fast moving journey with plenty of twists and unforeseen developments. Dom is a chatty first person narrator who allows the reader in to the action and his thought processes, allowing for connection. Readers will care about Dom and look forward to the second instalment.

Catch the Zolt (Debt)

Catch the Zolt (The Debt), by Phillip Gwynne
Allen & Unwin, 2013
ISBN 978174237844

Available from good bookstores or online.