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 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

Aussie Pony Tales (No 2) by Sheryn Dee

Two new adventures with Jessie and her pony Magic.

After the Storm
A storm has come and gone in the night. Jessie and her pony Magic have a job to do. They ride around the fence line, making sure broken branches haven’t damaged the fence. In this second book of Pony Tales, Jessie finds a bird’s nest, blown from a tree during the storm. Nearby is a tiny bird, too young to be on its own. Jessie wants to carry it home in her riding helmet, but knows she mustn’t ride without her helmet. It’s a long tiring walk home, carrying the bird and leading Magic, but Mum knows just how to help.

Helping Out
There’s always plenty to do around the farm, especially now there’s a new baby on the way. When a water pipe bursts in the yard, it’s one more job for Jessie’s dad in an already busy day. Jessie decides to help out. She and her pony, Magic will move the sheep from one paddock, up the track a bit, and into another paddock. Jessie has often helped Dad and is sure she’ll be able to manage on her own. She successfully moves most of the sheep, but a few stragglers refuse to do what they should.

Aussie Pony Tales (No 2) by Sheryn Dee from ABC Books, gives us the next two adventures of Jessie and her pony Magic. These stories, written for 5-8 year olds, show what it’s like to live on Jessie’s farm. The distinctive bright cover is very similar to that of the first book, suggesting the next of these engaging story twins will be easy to spot.

Aussie Pony Tales (No 2), by Sheryn Dee
ABC Books 2003

Aussie Pony Tales (No 1) by Sheryn Dee

Two pony stories for the price of one:

The Best Day
Jessie wakes early on her seventh birthday. She can hardly believe that the pony outside the window is really hers. It seems to take a lifetime until she can have her first ride on her very own pony. Jessie and her pony walk around the horse paddock, getting used to each other. The pony must also become familiar with all the sights and sounds of the farm, including Max, the dog.

Sleepy Lizard It’s a beautiful Spring day and Jessie is planning to spend all day riding Magic, her pony. After helping Dad with some of the farm chores, finally Jessie can saddle Magic and begin. They ride around the horse paddock for a while then through an open gate, ready for their first adventure. Jessie spots a lizard on the track and dismounts for a closer look. She strays into the bush and loses sight of Magic and the track. The adventure has a happy ending, but Jessie learns some new rules that will help to keep her safe.

These pony stories are full of details and instructions sure to delight the young horse-lover. The joy of owning a horse is clearly communicated, but the writer is careful to include the responsibilities too. The reader making the transition to first chapter books will find these stories a manageable length, with detailed black and white illustrations on most pages. Cover art and numbering suggest there will be more of these stories and they are sure to develop a following in their intended 5-8 year old readership.

Aussie Pony Tales (No 1), by Sheryn Dee
ABC Books, 2003

Think Smart, Hazel Green, by Odo Hirsch

Hazel Green is back, ready for another adventure and another problem to solve. This time, Hazels’ favourite baker, Mr Volio, is told that he has to leave his shop. Someone had brought the premises and the new landlord is not renewing his lease. If Mr Volio goes, so too do Chocolate Dippers, Strawberry Combers and Caramel Crunchers. Worst of all though, there would be no Mr Volio.

Hazel Green and her friends must figure out why Mr Volio is being asked to leave and then what can be done to keep him in his bakery. To do that, Hazel must think smart.

This is the fourth story about Hazel Green and her friends by award winning author, Odo Hirsch. Hirsch uses a delightful mix of humour, narrative and feeling to create stories that kids love. Another winner.

Think Smart, Hazel Green, by Odo Hirsch
Allen & Unwin, 2003