Spirit of the Deep, by Margaret Beames

I know they say that twins have this mysterious bond. One breaks a leg and the other a hundred miles away does the same, but I always thought it was a myth.

Jess and her twin sister Andy fall out over a boy. Then Mum gets a call to say her operation is scheduled and the girls are to fly to Sydney to stay with Dad. When there’s a problem with air flights, Jess takes the opportunity to be apart from her twin and books a bus to go and stay with her grandmother. Easy, except that Jess has never met her grandmother. Her mother left the small seaside town at eighteen and never went back. Jess discovers that there are many secrets behind the fight that precipitated her mother’s departure all those years ago. Will she make the same mistakes her mother did?

Jess, in her mid-teens, is a gutsy and likeable main character, not unlike the grandmother she goes to meet. Spirit of the Deep examines a family and its pecadillos, unravelling their stories one by one. The narrative is all from Jess’ point of view except for the first page of Chapter 9, where the voice is Gran’s. This is disconcerting but only briefly so. Beames weaves the story threads to a dramatic and satisfying conclusion without tying it up too neatly. Recommended for readers 13 and up.

Spirit of the Deep, by Margaret Beames
Lothian Books 2006
ISBN: 0734408579

My Big Birkett, by Lisa Shanahan

Some people are more prone to birketts than others. Those sorts of people are also usually easily provoked. It’s like they have a San Andreas Fault running through their personalities and even the slightest thing can set them off.

Fourteen year old Gemma Stone vomits when she speaks in public. Just ask Mr Daihatsu. But when the gorgeous Nick asks her to come along to auditions for the school play, Gemma agrees. It helps take her mind off her sister’s weird wedding and her sister’s fiance’s even weirder family. Raven, of the infamous De Head family decides to audition too. Her mother tells her about the ‘dog poo’ test for love, a cake stall becomes something more and Gemma meets a family of boys all named for birds. In the small community of Buranderry the scene is being set for the biggest birkett of them all.

my big birkett is pitched at lower secondary readers although there is much in here for readers either side of the target readership. This novel is wonderfully funny and sad, over-the-top and very real. It’s about learning to tell the difference between what’s right and what just seems right. Along the way, Gemma discovers Shakespeare’s language and the world of themed weddings. Not to mention the power of a well-timed birkett.


This is Lisa Shanahan’s first book for older readers. Some of her other titles include Gordon’s Got a Snookie and Bear and Chook. my big birkett, by Lisa Shanahan
Allen & Unwin 2006
ISBN: 1741145872

Readers who enjoy this book might also enjoy:

The Slightly True Story of Cedar B Hartley, by Martine Murray
The Wanderer, by Sharon Creech
The Family Tree, by Jane Godwin

It’s True! Women Were Warriors, by Carol Jones

Who said power was for pussycats?

This is title 20 in the ‘It’s True!’ series. Carol Jones introduces warrior women through history. From Ancient Greece to not-so-long-ago Russia, it races through the lives of some amazing and influential women. There are tales of Amazon women warriors who trained their daughters to fight and banished their sons. Read about an Irish goddess who could kill with the power of her battle cry. These powerful women used traditional battle strength as well as a plethora of other skills to achieve their aims.

This is an entertaining look at powerful women in the distant and not so distant past. It tells of their ambition, greed, legacies, strengths and weaknesses. As well as more familiar characters, the author has sourced lesser-known (outside their countries) warrior women from all over the world. There is detail enough to guide the reader who wants to know more. Text boxes and Elise Hurst’s illustrations add to the reading experience.

It’s True! Women Were Warriors, by Carol Jones, with illustrations by Elise Hurst
Allen & Unwin 2006
ISBN 1741147344

The True Adventures of John Nicol, edited, condensed and illustrated by Julian Bruere

I have set down an account of my life at sea.

Julian Bruere offers a condensed version of John Nicol’s seafaring stories and illustrates them in wonderful detail. John first went to sea at age fourteen although it wasn’t until he completed his apprenticeship as a cooper that he sought work on ‘Proteus’. He shares his recollections of adventure and disaster that accompanied his travels. He takes a wife and fathers a child on the journey to the colony of Port Jackson. Unable to stay, he promises to return as soon as he can. Time passes and John crews many other ships, in his attempt to join his wife and son.

This is a deceptively simple story, but rich in detail of the journeys John Nicol made and the countries he stopped in. The reader experiences Canada, Britain and Australia through John’s eyes, and also a detailed account of life as a merchant seaman. Julian Bruere’s illustrations are wonderful. There are labelled diagrams of ships from outside and in cross-section, world maps, detailed representations of ports and a memorable illustration of an encounter with a sea lion. Recommended for all sailors and adventurers.

The True Adventures of John Nicol, edited and illustrated by Julian Bruere
Black Dog Books, 2006
ISBN: 1876372176

Surfing Goliath, by Michael Hyde

Every three years this mammoth surf appeared. It was the stuff of legend among bodyboarders in the area – particularly those who lived at Brown’s Beach. Locals called the waves, some bigger than four metres high, Goliath.

Seal and his mates, Nuts, Crab and Dolphin love to body surf. As the time of the mammoth surf approaches, they practise every day. Seal learns that Goliath is also the name of an enormous bronze whaler shark who visits the area every three years with the freakish surf. Still, the friends are determined to pit their skills against Goliath, just as Angelo, shark-catcher, is determined to capture the bronze whaler. News of the surf and the plan to ride it filters out to the city media and the little town is overrun with journalists keen for the big scoop. Seal wishes they would understand it wasn’t about being seen to do something, it was about doing it.

Surfing Goliath is an exciting, action-packed story. Seal and his mates are fearless and apprehensive by turns as they contemplate Goliath. The rivalry and banter between boarders and riders is realistic and the description of boardriding is detailed. Other characters, like Seal’s dad Joe and his grandmother Ruby play their roles convincingly.

There are plenty of themes to be explored here, yet the themes sit lightly on an adventure base. Recommended for upper primary/early secondary readers.

Surfing Goliath by Michael Hyde
Lothian 2006
ISBN: 0734409060

Glow, by Kathryn Deans

Take two humans, a gnome, a couple of trolls and one very mean fairy. Give them a task that compels them to work together. Not much is at stake…only the end of the world as they know it. Sit back and watch the fun begin. There are harpies and witches, tiny arrows and giant guardians. Each step of the way for this intrepid crew is dogged by traps and disasters as they race toward the beginning of the world.

This is the second instalment in ‘The Troll’s Tale’ trilogy, but there is enough of a summary throughout the first chapter to allow it to be a stand-alone read. There are multiple characters here, but Deans juggles them deftly. Pitched at mid- to upper-primary aged reader, this story is full of adventure and humour and all manner of odd creatures.

Glow, by Kathryn Deans
Pan Macmillan Australia 2006
ISBN: 0330422278

T-Bird and the Island of the Lost Cats, by Tonia Stagherlin

T-bird and her cat Soot are staying with her auntie for the holidays. They meet Rexie and discover the local cats are disappearing one by one. Add some strange neighbours, a touch of magic, a forbidden island and the mystery begins. Together, T-bird, Soot and Rexie work to solve the mystery of the missing cats.

This in an interesting story with some unusual twists. It begins slowly but builds pace in later chapters. There are a lot of characters and some distracting point of view slips. This book is described as being for 7-12 year old readers but would probably suit the older end of this range.

T-Bird and the Island of the Lost Cats by Tonia Stagherlin
www.t-bird.com.au ISBN: 1411666976

Half the Battle, by Don Henderson

‘Being hit in the goolies is probably number one on the list of things that are real funny when they happen to someone else and real not funny when they happen to you.’

Life used to be good for Sean Watson. Then his family lost their farm. Sean and his dad move to the city and Sean goes to Port Road High. When the school enters a team in the local football competition no one, least of all Sean, expects them to do well. Their coach is a lunatic and they can only scrape together fifteen players. Can they find a way to work together and make a team?

This novel, told through the eyes of the main character Sean, is fast moving and funny. Characters are well-drawn and convincing. As the football season progresses and the players begin to work as a team, Sean learns how to manage some of the challenges in his own life. Never heavy-handed, Half the Battle touches on many issues relevant to the target readership. Recommended for upper primary and early secondary readers.

Half the Battle, by Don Henderson
Omnibus Books (Scholastic), 2006
ISBN: 1862916772

It’s True! Everest Kills by Kim Wilson. Pictures by Andrew Plant

Here are some ways Everest can kill you: Avalanche; mountain illness; falling; freezing.

Despite the dangers, the hunger to reach the summit of Mt Everest continues unabated. This non-fiction title charts the history of man’s quest to reach the highest point on earth. Wilson assembles a fascinating collection of facts and anecdotes for this new offering in the ‘It’s True!’ collection. Fact boxes and often humourous cartoons by Andrew Plant enhance the reading experience.

It’s True! Everest Kills tells how to breathe where there is no oxygen and how to dress for success. It includes many tips for the aspiring climber. This book is light-handed but never underrates the challenges faced by those who would conquer the mighty mountain. Upper-primary readers will enjoy this book

It’s True! Everest Kills by Kim Wilson
Allen & Unwin 2006
ISBN: 1741144140

Flight of the Falcon by Susan Geason

Sybilla, daughter of a knight, has spent the past three years living in the Duke of Normandy’s castle. Here she and her cousin learn the skills required of a noblewoman. Their settled life is disrupted when war threatens and Sybilla is sent home to her mother. She sets off on her journey, little prepared for the challenges she will face.

Susan Geason takes a detailed look at history, bringing political and domestic details to life through the eyes of an adolescent girl. This story is appealing and fast moving. It will appeal to upper-primary readers. One small quibble is that the girl on the front cover looked thoroughly modern despite the internal descriptions of the restrictive veils that were worn in public.

Flight of the Falcon by Susan Geason
Little Hare 2006 isbn:1921049367