Captain Cal Books 1 & 2, by Jan Dallimore

My name is Captain Cal and I am in charge of The Silver Pig – an Intergalactic Probe Spaceship.
My crew and I keep planet Earth safe from evil aliens and other space terrors. We were also the official tasters of my mum’s secret recipe chocolate cake.

When the call comes from BAIT (Bureau Against Interplanetary Trickery), Captain Cal and his crew, Co-pilot Ebby and Chief Navigator Dan, are ready for their first adventure. They launch The Silver Pig and set off to save the Earth from total destruction by the evil Bloggs (Biggest Losers of the Greater Galaxies). They land on Capricorn as an overheating The Silver Pig struggles to survive a massive space storm. The valiant crew must disable the Blogg spaceship and repel a multitude of the evil Bloggs.

The second adventure sees Captain Cal and his crew called on to save Earth from being buried beneath mountains of rubbish. The Grotts, messiest aliens in the Galaxy, keep sending all their junk to earth. The brave crew use the Centro-sucker Magnetised Vacuum Maximiser to suck up all the rubbish and dump it in a Black Hole. Unfortunately, they accidentally suck up a Grott. With the Grott headed for the Black Hole, it looks like the crew could be in strife.

This is a new series, pitched at emergent readers (particularly boys), with illustrations on every page. Exciting adventures are launched from the backyard, using simple props and a healthy dose of imagination. High tech solutions are achieved using low tech components. The main characters are introduced in each book and a Contents page lists chapters like ‘The Slosher Washer’ and ‘Hopping Mad’. The final pages offer extras like a quiz and space information. Add shiny covers and cartoon-like illustrations to the exciting and satisfying stories, and it’s easy to see these short chapter books finding a devoted readership. Recommended for 6-8 yo readers.

Captain Cal Space Warrior, by Jan Dallimore, ill Richard Morden
black dog books 2007
ISBN: 9781921167812

Captain Cal and the Grotts by Jan Dallimore, ill Richard Morden
black dog books 2007
ISBN: 9781921167829

Sea Secrets, by Gillian M. Wadds

We climbed over the rocks and at last sank into the cool water. Lazily we swam out through the narrow entrance looking down through our masks at the slowly moving underwater world: little brown waving trees, bunches of green lettuce, long strands of brown leather kelp. I hung there, weightless, floating in the clear water until I noticed something strange wedged into the rocks. I surfaced and dragged off my mask.
‘Hey, Jodie,’ I yelled. ‘Come over here!’

It’s school holidays and summer is well and truly here. While swimming with Jodie, Zena discovers a bag of abalone on the floor of Stingray Pool. She takes some home and shares them with her friends. Sean’s policeman father warns her to be careful, abalone poachers can be dangerous. Zena and her friends are uneasy but not too worried until their friend Tran disappears. They learn more and more about abalone and the risks poachers will take to harvest it. Summer is about to get much more exciting than they expected.

The front cover of Sea Secrets shows a view from underwater looking upwards. A diver floats next to the reef and seems oblivious to a shark swimming nearby. But it is the human ‘sharks’ who present most danger for Zena and her friends. Like the shark, danger circles closer and closer as they search for their friend. Gillian Wadds’ characters reflect the ethnic diversity in an urban environment without making a feature of their similarities and differences. They are just children, experiencing and responding to their environment, alternately excited by and fearful of what they find. There are family and cultural elements interwoven with the story, providing many topics for further discussion. Recommended for upper primary and early secondary readers.

Sea Secrets, by Gillian M Wadds
Hachette Children’s Books
ISBN 9780734409782

Pearlie and Great Aunt Garnet, by Wendy Harmer

Pearlie was busy hanging her beautiful clothes, frilly pillow cases and feather curtains in the warm sun, when her friend Jasper the elf flew straight into her wet pyjamas.

Pearlie and Jasper decide to host a surprise birthday party for their friend Opal. They write invitations for everyone except Scrag and Mr Flea. Next there are games to organise and food to order. Of course there must be a big birthday cake too. Scrag and Mr Flea hear about the party and decide to hold their own. Pearlie takes Jasper to Great Aunt Garnet’s wonderful shop. Great Aunt Garnet will deliver the cake later. Scrag and Mr Flea have a shopping list too, which also includes an enormous birthday cake. Great Aunt Garnet has two cakes to deliver. What could possibly go wrong?

Pearlie and Great Aunt Garnet is the latest in the ‘Pearlie’ series from Wendy Harmer. The illustrations are bright and the text accessible to readers making the transition from picture books to less illustrated works. Younger children will also enjoy having the story read to them. The book is a good size for small hands to hold. The credits refer to the animation experience of the illustrator and it’s easy to imagine these stories as an animated series. The story is simple, with a positive resolution and is sure to appeal to young readers.

Pearlie and Great Aunt Garnet, by Wendy Harmer
Random House 2007
ISBN 9781741667316

Songlines and Stone Axes, by John Nicholson

English-speaking people talk about ‘Dreaming tracks’ or ‘songlines’ when referring to the many pathways that criss-crossed ancient Australia. These are rough translations of Aboriginal words. People used the Dreaming tracks for everyday travel or trade, but originally these pathways followed mythical journeys of ‘Dreamtime’ ancestors.

Traders exchange shells for hunting spears. The shells are exchanged again, until they have been traded all the way to central Australia. Canoes are ordered, manufactured and delivered without the buyer ever meeting the manufacturer. Trade or exchange, ceremonial and spiritual, these transactions were governed by complex cultural understandings. Exchanges established or extended trust, or signified extra-clan patronage arrangements. Gatherings might be cued by need or by annual periods of plenty, for example the arrival of Bogong moths in the mountains of Victoria. Trade would follow the feasting. In the far north-west, traders from Sulawesi came annually and brought with them canoes, beads, belts, fish hooks and alcohol. They even brought Dutch coins, long before the First Fleet landed on the east coast of Australia.

Songlines and Stone Axes is the first in a new series, Transport, Trade and Travel in Australia. It provides a wide-ranging view into the culture of the first Australians. John Nicholson shows relationships between clans and between clans and their environment. These relationships shaped trade, travel and transport across the continent. Songlines and Stone Axes is a rich, rewarding read. There is a contents page, general and language group index. The narrative is interspersed with smaller information bites, encouraging and rewarding the ‘flitting’ reader as much as the more traditional reader. Nicholson’s drawings are almost photographic in detail. Recommended for upper primary readers.

Songlines and Stone Axes, by John Nicholson
Allen & Unwin 2007
ISBN9781741750027

Night of the Fifth Moon, by Anna Ciddor

Every day Ket raced around doing all the tasks that Faelan bid him. He picked nettles till his arms stung with pain from the pricking of the thorns. He clambered up the highest trees and crawled on swaying, brittle branches to fetch feathers from the birds’ nests for the druid’s cloaks. he stood for hours in freezing mountain streams trapping fish with his bare hands, while his legs turned to ice and leeches sucked his blood.
And every day he watched for a sign from the druid. For he knew that one day the druid would make him an assistant – an anruth. One day he would learn the druid’s secrets and take part in the mystic ceremonies. One day…

Set in early, pagan Ireland, Night of the Fifth Moon is an adventure. It tells of a time when druids were more powerful than warriors. Ket is one of six foster-children in the camp of the druid. They are surprised when Faelan, the druid, tells them that only one will become an anruth, a druid’s assistant. Each full moon, one of them will be sent away until only one remains. On the fifth moon, the final two will attempt to read a message written in ogham, the secret code of the druids. Ket is desperate to become a druid, but each moon he feels sure he will be the one sent away. He listens to the land, watches the birds and insects, learns as much as he can. But with each new moon he holds his breath, lest he be the one sent away.

Night of the Fifth Moon gives a fascinating picture of a society which appears simple yet is governed by quite sophisticated rules. Sacrifices and offerings are made to ensure the moon will return each month and spring will follow the long winter. Law is supported by brehons, who arbitrate disputes. Druids are revered as having power over the elements and the ability to predict the outcome of battles. Ket discovers the responsibility that comes with power and what can happen when power is used unwisely. Other themes include bullying, definitions of strength and the power of observation. There are strong male and female role models. Girls are as capable as boys and the same opportunities are available to them. Recommended for upper-primary to early-secondary readers.

Night of the Fifth Moon , byAnna Ciddor
Allen & Unwin 2007
ISBN: 9781741148145

Lucky Baby Yak, by Helen Manos

…Pema lay wide awake in the nomad tent and watched the flickering butter lamp through soft shaggy shapes on the wall. She listened to the noises of the grunting, growling night.

Pema and her brother Tenzin are part of a nomadic mountain culture. They are excited when Baby Yak is born. The first yak born for the summer will bring good luck. Good luck butter, good luck tent ropes, good luck bridle and saddle bag. But change is coming to the mountain people. Soldiers come from the east, calling for an end to nomadic life. The mountain people must find a way to protect their way, or lose it forever.

Lucky Baby Yak shines a warm light on an ancient way of living. The story is told with sympathy for all those who have lost their homes and way of life. But there is some understanding too for the soldiers imposing the will of others. Max Maxfield’s illustrations are simple and colourful, styled almost like photos in an album. There is sadness and hope. Grandmother is philosophical, Baby Yak has brought them luck, a chance to live on. This is a picture story book for a broad age range. It has much to say about endurance and acceptance as well as showing readers another way of living.

Recommended for 5-8 year olds.

Lucky Baby Yak, by Helen Manos and Max Maxfield

Lothian Children’s Books

ISBN 9780733621604

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Kenny's Big Adventure, by Philip Garside

Mr Butler is my English teacher and he has given me a lot of help and advice about how to write this book. He says that the first two chapters are where you put all the stuff that helps readers know who is who and what is what in your story.
Hi, my name is KB and this is my autobiography. I am thirteen years old and I am an only child except for my younger brother Martin.

Kenneth Boyd LeMesurier (KB) is so sure that his trip to Tasmania will be the most boring ever, that he only agrees to go if his friend Josh can come too. KB’s Dad and his mate Jim are on a field trip determined to find evidence that Thylacines still exist. KB, Dad, Josh and KB’s brother Martin fly to Tasmania where they are met by Jim. Their adventure begins almost immediately when they are followed from Launceston airport. Things become steadily more challenging the further they progress into the wilderness. But nothing could prepare them for what they find.

Kenny’s Big Adventure is written as though the nearly fourteen year-old main character is also the writer. There are comments about discussions with Mr Butler the English teacher and with the editors who help him find a shape for his story. This is an exciting, crazy adventure, made even funnier by KB’s ‘asides’. From his responses to a suggestion that he use more active dialogue tags, and that he describe the flora (‘We saw a lot of trees in the forest,’) and fauna (‘I’m glad that we didn’t’ see any snakes. I think Josh would have died had we seen snakes.’), the reader is offered another dimension on KB’s character. A wild and funny read. Highly recommended for mid- to upper-primary readers and early secondary.

Kenny’s Big Adventure, by Philip Garside
Hachette Children’s Books 2007
ISBN: 9780734410115

Going Bush, by Nadia Wheatley & Ken Searle

Ngurra means country and homeland.
Ngurra means campsite and cave.
Ngurra means nest and burrow.
Ngurra means home.

Nadia Wheatley and Ken Searle were asked to devise a project to build harmony among inner city children of diverse backgrounds. They took 16 children from Muslim, Catholic and public schools on a walk through the local bush. Over a number of weeks, they introduced them to the land and its traditional owners and to each other. Going Bush is a journal of their experience, including artwork, prose and poems from the children, tied together by Nadia Wheatley’s words and Ken Searle’s artwork and photos.

Going Bush brings the classroom to the environment, sharing its many faces with a group of children, many of them seeing it closely for the first time. There are stories of the Eora, traditional owners, and stories of white settlers and what they brought with them. This is living history, walking the path walked by others, stopping and feeling their presence, their knowledge, their legacy. By understanding the past, and the diversity of the land and its people, there is hope that the future can bring harmony. Going Bush contains many narrative forms, and must touch on every possible curriculum area. But its overwhelming message is about the power of the connection between people, and between people and land. Recommended for primary readers.

Going Bush, by Nadia Wheatley and Ken Searle,
Allen & Unwin 2007
ISBN 9781741149111

The Mystery of the Golden Crocodile, by Judith Rossell

Dear Explorer,

This appeal for help just arrived from an archaeological dig in the Valley of Giants, near el Ephant. A student has gone missing, along with an artefact which may be one part of the broken Seal of Sobek.

The Archaeology Department at The Valley of Kings has sent a letter to the president of Explorers Club, asking for help in finding a lost student. The student was apparently taken by a group of mummies said to be guardians of Sobek’s (the crocodile god) tomb. The president in turn, asks her members to help find the lost student and perhaps the tomb with its marvellous treasures. The scene is set, the clues are there. All The Mystery of the Golden Crocodile needs is a sharp-eyed explorer to make their way through the numerous dangerous paths. If successful they will find the student, and gain access to the tomb of Sobek and its unbounded wealth.

The Mystery of the Golden Crocodile is the third in this series of maze books from Judith Rossell. This, like previous offerings, is full of Rossell’s trademark drawings, colourful and intricate. Maze books are a great way of engaging all manner of readers, from reluctant to confident. For the reluctant reader they are accessible, encourage observation and reward effort. For the confident reader they enrich visual literacy. The Mystery of the Golden Crocodile introduces readers to Egypt and the wealth of history there. There are tit-bits about archaeology, villagers, gods and kings, burial tombs, landscape and fauna. Recommended for 5 yo + readers.

The Mystery of the Golden Crocodile, by Judith Rossell
ABC Books 2007
ISBN: 9780733319433

Drama Queen and Extreme Girls, by Sue Lawson

I’m Mickey Farrell, youngest girl in a family of three. My sisters, Sam and Gemma, are sports-tragics.
They dream of being sporting legends.
I dream of being a singing star.

And now she’s on TV.

The singing contest, Dream Diva, is over and Mickey is co-hosting TV series ‘Girls Stuff TV’ with winner, Skye and fellow finalist, Coco. In Drama Queen, the three girls visit a working dairy farm. Mickey and Skye are keen to experience everything they can, but Coco is less thrilled. As Eloise shows them around the farm, it seems that Coco is a magnet for everything from chook poo to…well…cow poo. It’s hard to feel sorry for Coco when she seems so mean.

Extreme Girls sees the trio, photographers and crew head to the river for a jet boat ride. Everyone is excited except Mickey who gets more anxious as the time approaches for the ride. Skye and others notice her discomfort and try to help. Coco notices Mickey’s discomfort and does all she can to rub it in. But there are underlying reasons for Coco’s behaviour.

Many young girls dream of winning a song competition and of being on TV. Drama Queen’and Extreme Girls show what it could be like to live that dream. But there is more to the series than make-up and fancy clothes. Inside each is an opportunity to learn about something new as well as to experience some of the challenges that come when you spend time in the spotlight. Mickey and Skye come to see through Coco’s prickly façade and to realise that some things are not quite as they seem. With short, active chapters and colourful covers, this series will appeal to collectors and girls who fancy a life in the spotlight. There is a quiz at the end of each book, tied to the content. Recommended for girls 8 years +

Drama Queen, by Sue Lawson
black dog books 2007
ISBN 9781921167706

Extreme Girls, by Sue Lawson
black dog books 2007
ISBN 9781921167713