Space Pirates on Callisto, by Jackie French

Sam’s friend Cherry is bored. It is school holidays and nothing exciting is happening. That’s because nothing exciting ever seems to happen on Callisto. Everyone there is so nice to everyone else. And that’s the way Sam like sit – she’s had enough adventures in her life. But Cherry wants more. She wants to have adventures like her hero Hildegard has in the adventures novels she reads.

In the absence of such adventures, Cherry and Sam decide to go camping, and it is while they are camping that Cherry’s big chance for adventure arrives.

Space pirates land on Callisto, looking for the Golden Queen, a treasure they believe is here on Callisto. The pirates are mean, and what’s worse, they have taken Sam and Cherry hostage – refusing to release them until they have the Golden Queen. Sam and Cherry have no idea what this Golden Queen is. They are at the mercy of the two pirates, their two-headed dog Snarkle, and the goodness of their fellow residents of Callisto, who say they will hand the Golden Queen over, just as soon as it’s ready.

Space Pirates on Callisto is Jackie French’s second book about the fabulous world of Callisto, where the most important decision to be made is whether to have your pineapple pizza with or without the onions. Kids will love this hilarious world filled with chocolate peanut muffins, giant hamburgers and incredible fresh produce.

Space Pirates on Callisto is a Blue Level Tadpole for independent readers, from Koala Books. Jackie French’s earlier title Café on Callisto was the winner of the Aurealis Award for Children’s Short Fiction (2001).

Space Pirates on Callisto, by Jackie French, illustrated by Sarah Baron
Koala Books, 2002

Sleepless in Space, by Sally Odgers

If it wasn’t for Grandad, Jed wouldn’t be in this predicament. It is Grandad who invented the Starspinner Drive which makes spaceships do so fast. And because they can go so fast, they can go long distances. And because they can go such long distances they can take people to far away planets.

So it is because of Grandpa that Jed finds himself on the spaceship Starbringer, on the way to the distant planet Serendipity. Jed has always had trouble sleeping, but now he is supposed to sleep in a hypno-bed for a whole year – the time it will take to get to Serendipity.

But Jed can’t stay asleep for a whole year, and one day when he wakes he hears a strange noise. Space pirates have taken over the ship and Jed is the only one awake. It is up to him to figure out a way to get rid of the pirates.

Sleepless in Space is a fun title from outstanding Australian children’s writer, Sally Odgers, with excellent ‘spacey’ illustrations by Judith Rossell. An Orange Level Tadpole from Koala Books, for early independent readers, this fun book will appeal to 6 to 10 year olds, although older reluctant readers will also find the story enjoyable.

Sally Odgers has a great feel for the science fiction genre, which reflects in her ability to adapt the genre for a range of ages and abilities.

Sleepless in Space, by Sally Odgers, illustrated by Judith Rossell.
Koala Books, 2002.

Two for Older Readers

Two newly released picture books are challenging the perception that picture books are just for preschoolers. Both books will appeal to older children and would be useful in the school setting.

In Kaffy Meets the Doomie, by Brendan Doyle (Banana Books), a dog named Kaffy explores an abandoned brickworks, where he meets an old man who once worked in the brickworks. The man speaks to Kaffy of his loneliness and loss of purpose. The magical events which follow, lead to Kaffy helping to get the brickworks reopened in a different guise, and the Doomie to find a sense of purpose.

Told in a simple rhyming structure and complemented by simple sketches and colour illustrations by Harold Tiefel, the story combines a sense of history with a feeling of fantasy and fun. This would be an excellent book for exploring subjects of aging, redundancy, and valuing our past.

From Fremantle Arts Centre Press comes In Flanders Fields by Norman Jorgensen, another book with a historical focus. This story provides a compelling counterpoint to images often seen of war, depicting its senselessness and inhumanity. The book tells the story of a homesick soldier who , in the temporary ceasefire which comes with Christmas day, spies a robin caught on some wire in no man’s land. One wing flaps helplessly as the robin tries to escape.

Rather than enjoy the lull in fighting and remain in safety, the soldier risks walking towards German trenches to rescue the robin, which would die without help. Soldiers from both sides watch in disbelief as he risks his own life to save that of the robin.

The story is presented in picture book format, with beautiful illustrations from Brian-Harrison-Lever, perfectly complementing the text . Again, this book would be an excellent classroom tool, especially when dealing with topics relating to war.

Kaffy Meets the Doomie, by Brendan Doyle, Illustrated by Harold Tiefel
Banana Books, 2002.

In Flanders Fields, by Norman Jorgensen, illustrated by Brian Harrison-Lever
Fremantle Arts Centre Press, 2002.

Snake Dreaming – Autobiography of a Black Woman, by Roberta Sykes

Roberta Sykes is one of Australia’s best-known black activists. The story of her life’s journey was first presented in Snake Cradle in 1997, and followed by Snake Dancing (1998) and Snake Circle (2000). Snake Dreaming brings together these three books in one complete volume.

In Snake Cradle we meet Sykes, growing up in Northern Queensland in the 1940s, the daughter of a white mother and an unknown father. Sykes grows up aware that her dark skin marks her as different than other children, an awareness that is proven correct by many of the events she recalls. Probably the major formative event is a harrowing and horrific rape when Sykes is a teenager living away from home. Snake Cradle was the winner of the Age Book of the Year award and Nita Kibble prize.

In the second book, Snake Dancing, Syke’s experiences lead her into the political arena. Sykes works to fight for justice and equality for all black people, among other things playing a formative role in the setting up of the Tent Embassy outside Parliament House, and becoming the first Aboriginal columnist for Nation Review.

In the third and final book, Snake Circle, Sykes embarks on a more personal journey. She fights for, and wins, funding to attend Harvard University, where she overcomes personal doubts, feelings of isolation, and other obstacles, to complete a Doctorate. At the same time, she works to ensure that this is not a one off achievement for herself, but an ongoing opportunity for others.

Snake Dreaming is an incredible journey. Readers are swept into the struggles, the highs and the lows, learning not just about Sykes, but about the struggles of Australia’s black community. An essential read for every Australian.

Snake Dreaming: Autobiography of a Black Woman, by Roberta Sykes
Allen &Unwin, 2001.

A Glassful of Giggles, by Elaine Forrestal

Everyone knows that you can’t catch the giggles – they just happen. Or do they? When Jarrad has a glassful of giggles for breakfast, everyone – everyone – seems to catch them. First his Mum and Dad, then, when he gets to school, all his school mates, and his teacher. The giggles keep spreading through the school, until finally, even the principal catches them. Whatever will they do?

A Glassful of Giggles is the title story in a new collection of short stories for young readers. Filled with giggles, green pigs, giants and noisy cupboards, these stories will appeal to children in the early years of primary school.

As a series of self contained stories, this type of book is excellent for children making the transition from picture books to chapter books. the large print and abundance of illustration serves a bridging function between the two formats.

Elaine Forrestal has won awards for her previous works, including the Australian Book Council Book of the Year Award for Younger Readers, for Someone Like Me. Illustrator Sharon Thompson is, in addition to being an illustrator, a kindergarten teacher.

A Glassful of Giggles
is a great offering for young readers.

A Taste

Grundle went walking, to see what was happening. The countryside trembled, he shook all the trees. But that wasn’t good enough. Not really scary. The magpies kept chattering and refused to be teased.
How could an apple green pig frighten anyone?

A Glassful of Giggles, by Elaine Forrestal
Fremantle Arts Centre Press, 2002

Eating Out Again, by Natalie Scott

The art of a good short story is to provide the reader with a total experience in a form much more brief and concise than in a novel. Australian author Natalie Scott has developed this art to become a master of the form.

In Eating Out Again and Other Stories Ms Scott shares twenty stories which readers can savour individually, or devour in a few sittings.

And savour and devour are fitting words, for, as the title hints, there is a recurrent motif in the collection, of food being shared. Many of the stories take place in restaurants or cafes, with tensions and intrigues playing out over a table shared by the players.

In Kissy-Kissy a man meets his ex-wife in a restaurant to discuss their son. In The Loft, a woman reaches a deciding point in her marriage over dinner with her husband, and in An Apple From the Teacher, a teacher deals with a child who does not have lunch to bring to school. This recurrent theme is complemented with a selection of recipes from the stories included at the back of the book.

A second common thread is that of the challenges of aging. Characters in several of the stories are faced with the realisation that they are no longer young, and need to confront where they are in their lives. Many characters have been betrayed by other players and are facing the need to rely more on themselves.

Ms Scott’s first short story collection, Eating Out was the winner of the National Library Australian Book Award in 1997. She has also published novels for both adults and children.

Lovers of the short story will be impressed by the quality of this outstanding collection.

Eating out Again and Other Stories
, by Natalie Scott
Otford Press, 2002

The Space Bug, by Jackie French

’Rory?’
“Mmmm? Emily’s brother didn’t look up from his book. ’What’s big and gold and goes boo?!”.
‘Dunno.’ Rory turned the page. ‘A bomb?’.
Emily shook her head. ‘It came from the sky!’

Emily is the only one who sees the meteorite hit the school toilets, which gives her plenty of time to check out the site, discover the big gold and blue egg in the crater it has left behind, and resuce it. Now she’s hiding the egg, and she won’t let Rory tell anyone. If he does, she’ll tell everyone that he wears ink flowery underpants.

When the egg hatches, a space bug appears, and suddenly things stop working – car engines, refrigerators, lawn mowers, computers. The space bug, it seems, is very hungry, and electrical motors are what it needs to survive.

When things start to get out of hand, Rory insists that Emily is going to have to tell, but then the space bug goes into hiding. What can they do now?

The Space Bug is a fun reader by talented and prolific Australian writer Jackie French. It is an Orange Level Tadpole Reader from Koala Books. Tadpole readers are graded to reflect the growth of young readers from picture books, through Chapter Books towards first novels. The orange level is for confident readers, with 64 pages of text supported by pictures in each page spread to enhance the reading experience and bridge the gap between picture books and novels.

The Space Bug, and other Tadpole readers, will help young readers enjoy the reading journey.

The Space Bug, by Jackie French
Koala Books, 2002. rrp AU $9.95

Lancashire Legacy, by Anna Jacobs

If you are a fan of the historical saga , then you are surely familiar with the name Anna Jacobs. Jacobs is undoubtedly queen of this genre in Australia, with her stories about her native Lancashire and Australia, her adopted home. Fans of Ms Jacobs will not be disappointed with Lanacshire Legacy, new out in paperback.

The heroine, eighteen year old Cathie, loves her family, but wants desperately to escape the bush home that she shares with them. Life in the bush is hard, and Cathie longs to return to England, to make contact with relatives in Lancashire and to have an adventure.

When Cathie’s Uncle agrees to pay her fare, Cathie travels to England, where she finds that the adventure she has is far removed from the adventures she had hoped for. Attacked on the docks after her arrival, Cathie loses her memory. Rescued by a man with problems of his own, she struggles to remember her past and to find the answers she is seeking about her father and brother. As she does so, she becomes a part of the family of her rescuer, the handsome Magnus Hamilton, towards whom she feels an increasing attraction.

As she learns about her past, Cathie discovers that she is moving in a society where rich established families have the power to destroy her own chances at happiness, and that of those around her, including Magnus, her young brother Francis, and three half-brothers she didn’t know she had.

As we follow the journey of Cathie’s self discovery we also revisit the life of her mother, Liza, who was introduced in Jacobs’ earlier title, Lancashire Lass. Whilst the novel continues the story of Liza and her family, the first title is not prerequisite reading for a full enjoyment of the second. Be warned though, that having read Lanacshire Legacyyou will want to learn more of this family and will, like this reviewer, be looking out for more stories in the future.

Lancashire Legacy, by Anna Jacobs.
Hodder & Stoughton, 2001 (Paperback edition 2002)

Believers in Love, by Alan Clay

Sax is exhausted, from lack of sleep, and from hiding from the vast whirl of experience. Then in one day he meets Zoe and takes his daughter Sarah to Bondi beach to build a sandcastle. Both events change his future.

Sax and Sarah are discovered on Bondi beach and whisked off to build a sandcastle for a festival in New Zealand. This adventure seems set to launch them on other, equally as exciting adventures, along with Zoe and Adam, the festival organiser.

Not all adventures are exciting, however, as Sarah finds out. Her Dad and Zoe are getting closer, and her fairy, Firefly, isn’t always there when she’s needed. For Sax and Zoe there’s the confusion of their feelings for each other, and the discovery that not every project goes as planned. For Adam, the knowledge that politics is not always fair lands him in Australia with the others.

Believers in Love, the third offering by quirky Australian novelist, Alan Clay, is about love, laughter and life. The story is liberally interspersed by anecdotes taking an alternate look at life, sometimes foorm the point of view of the book’s characters, other times from beyond, but always with a depth which gives pause to the reader before the story continues.

This is not just a story; this is an exploration of emotion and philosophy.

Alan Clay grew up in New Zealand, studied clown in Sweden and for the past ten years has resided in Sydney, where he runs Playspace Studio, Sydney’s Physical Theatre Studio.

Believers in Love, By Alan Clay
Artmedia Publishing, 2001

The Magic Hat, by Mem Fox

One fine day, from out of town, and without any warning at all, there appeared a magic hat.

As the magic hat moves through the town, spinning through the air from person to person, its magic causes chaos – and hilarity. Young readers will join in the guessing, with the hat changing each person it lands on into something surprising. Where and how will this magic end?

The Magic Hat is the latest magical offering from renowned Australian children’s author, Mem Fox. Beautifully illustrated by Tricia Tusa, the book continues the fine tradition of outstanding offerings from Ms Fox.

As with earlier books, the charm of this book is in its rhythm and its simplicity. Children will love the repeated refrain which will help them guess what is going to happen next as the magic hat weaves its way through the town.

Mem Fox is one of Australia’s best known and most celebrated children’s authors, with 25 best selling titles to her credit. Her very first picture book, Possum Magic, first published in 1983, remains the best selling ever picture book in Australia, with over 1.5 million copies sold in Australia. Other popular titles include Boo to a Goose, Koala Lou, and Wilfred Gordon Mcdonald Partridge. Outside Australia Mem has also achieved great popularity, having reached Oprah’s list of twenty all-time best children’s books, with her title Time for Bed. For adults, Fox has written Reading Magic, recommended reading for parents and teachers, and Mem’s the Word, her autobiography.

The Magic Hat is wondeful bedtime reading for 3 to 6 year olds.

The Magic Hat, by Mem Fox
Scholastic Australia, 2002. rrp AUD $24.95 (hardback)