Tev, by Brendan Murray

My parents call me Tev, usually, and Tevita when they’re annoyed with me. There’s been a lot of ‘Tevita’ lately. That’s the reason I’m being packed off to my mum’s family in Tonga, to ‘sort me out’, get rid of a few demons,’ as Dad put it.

Just before his fifteenth birthday, Tev finds himself on a plane bound for Tonga, to stay with his extended family, whom he hasn’t met before. His mother is Tongan and his father Australian, meaning that Tev often feels he doesn’t belong anywhere. In Australia he’s a ‘Choco’, but when he lands in Tonga he stands out as not being the same as other Tongans.

Despite this, his family are delighted to see him – his Uncle Maka, his grandfather Pita, and numerous cousins, all hug him and welcome him into their family life. He is also welcomed by Siale, a beautiful friend of the family who he admires from afar.

Yet, welcomes aside, life in Tonga is not always laid back and simple. He clashes with another family friend, Tui, and has to deal with the culture shock of a whole different way of life, not to mention the forces of a destructive cyclone, a death in the family, his growing feelings for Siale, and more.

Tev is an outstanding story of coming of age, of dealing with being different, and of adventure. It will appeal to both boys and girls of fourteen and over.

Bendan Murray is a Western Australian-born teacher of English, currently based on Christmas Island. Tev is his first novel.

Tev, by Brendan Murray
Fremantle Arts Centre Press, 2002

Firefighters, by Gary McKay

At 32 minutes past midnight on Friday morning, 23 June, 2000, the Childers Auxiliary fire brigade received a 000 call that ‘the backpackers at 72 Churchill Street was on fire.’ The first truck pulled up in front of the hostel five minutes after the fire call was sent. It was a dramatic scene, fleeing occupants were streaming out of the burning building, and the Childers crew were facing a big fire with limited resources.

The dramatic Childers fire was one of more than 50 000 calls for assistance made to the Queensland Fire and rescue Authority every year.

In Firefighters, Gary McKay delves deep into the important work of the men and women who attend these fires. He explores what it takes to become a fire fighter and what it takes to stay one.

With chapters on recruit training, fire fighting, rescue, auxiliary fire fighters, rural and urban firefighters and more, the book gives a rounded view of the highs and lows of the lives of the firies.

One chapter of the book is devoted to the tragic Childers story and its aftermath, demonstrating just how difficult the firefighters’ job can be, and the courage and dedication demonstrated by the members of the Queensland Fire and rescue Service.

On a lighter note, another chapter recounts some of the humorous anecdotes shared with Gary McKay by the firies.

Whilst researching the book, McKay attended the 12 week fire fighting training course and served in many fire stations to gain an understanding of the different techniques utilised by firefighters, as well as interviewing over 75 firefighters of all ranks and experience. McKay is the author of several bestselling books, including In Good Company: One Man’s War in Vietnam.

Firefighters, by Gary McKay.
Allen and Unwin, 2001. rrp AU $29.95

The Great Australian Book of Limericks, by Jim Haynes

Ask any Australian to tell you a limerick and chances are that they’ll happily oblige. Whilst not an Australian invention, the limerick is certainly a much loved poetic form in this country. Now, in celebration of the art, Jim Haynes brings together over a thousand limericks in one volume.

The Great Australian Book of Limericks is more than just a collection of limericks – Jim Haynes provides an insight into the history of the form and prefaces each section with his humorous commentary. In the opening chapter The Limerick: A Brief and Inaccurate History, Haynes explores the question of when and where the limerick originated –

One expert says, ‘If you please,
I think old Aristophanes
First mastered the trick
Of the true limerick,’
But not every expert agrees.
(p10)

as well as looking at the progress of its popularity.

The remainder of the book presents limericks classified by type and subject matter. With twenty categories there is a huge array of limericks, from the childish and charming:

There was a young man who asked ‘Why,
Can’t I look in my ear with my eye?
I’m sure I can do it
If I put my mind to it,
You never can tell till you try.’
(p20)

to the Obscene and Odious, with categories in between including a section devoted to immortalising every Australian Prime minister from Barton to Howard in Limerick form.

This is not a children’s book – many, many of the limericks are suitable only for adult readers. Alongside offerings from Edward Lear are bawdy, risque and downright rude offerings.

Author Jim Haynes has a background as a teacher of literature and history, with two Masters degrees in literature. He has won the Comedy Song of the Year title at the Tamworth Festival four times, including Don’t Call Wagga Wagga Wagge and Since Cheryl went Feral. As well as regular television and radio appearances he has been awarded the Bush Laureate of the Year Award for his collections of poetry, I’ll Have Chips and An Australian heritage of Verse. The Great Australian Book of Limericks is sure to be another favourite.

The Great Australian Book of Limericks, by Jim Haynes. RRP $19.95
ABC Books, 2001.

Fairy Tales for Grown Ups, by Jennifer Rowe

If you grew up with your head full of handsome princes, magic frogs and happy endings, then the child within you is probably still craving a fairy tale. And if you didn’t, then you probably love a good laugh. Either way, Fairy Tales for Grown Ups is a little book which is likely to appeal to you.

This collection of seven slightly twisted fairy tales combines fantasy with a wicked sense of humour. In The Magic Fish a woman is offered three wishes by a goldfish she meets in a dentist’s waiting room – on the condition she sets the goldfish free. The dentist who owns the fish appears in a later story, Angela’s Mandrake, where a pretty merchant banker called Angela searches for happiness in her life.

In The Lonely Prince, the heir of a fast food chain also searches for happiness, – desperate to be loved for more than just his prospects. Is pizza and cheap wine the way to test the love of his beautiful suitors? The heroine of The Fat Wife also searches for happiness after her husband trades her in for a younger, slimmer model. Is it possible to be fat and victorious?

These new-millenium characters with their modern dilemmas are gorgeously supported by a cast of frogs and trolls and dragons, set amongst happy endings and hilariously funny twists.

Jennifer Rowe, best known for her serious crime novels, proves her versatility as a writer with this wickedly funny offering. Fairy Tales for grown Ups would make an excellent Christmas gift.

Fairy Tales for Grown Ups, by Jennifer Rowe (rrp$12.95)
Allen & Unwin, 2001.

A Taste

Once there was a young woman whose name was Annabel Smudge. She was small and slightly untidy-looking with gentle, widely spaced hazel eyes, curly, mouse-brown hair and a sweet, hesitating voice. She was not exactly simple, but she was not what most people would call a bright spark, either. Six days a week she worked as a cleaner in a factory that made staples, paperclips and metal edges for hanging files. Monday to Thursday evenings, after cooking dinner for her live-in boyfriend, Lawrence, who was an out-of-work security guard in delicate health, she would hurry to her local shopping centre to wash dishes at Tony’s Good Eats, the café beside Pompey’s Family Hair Salon…

Selby's Selection, by Duncan Ball

A talking dog? Of course there is no such thing – no one you know has ever met one. Or is it, perhaps, that one exists, too cunning to let his secret slip?

Selby is Australia’s most famous dog, yet no one knows his true identity. After he cleverly taught himself to talk, he realised that a talking dog wouldn’t’ get much privacy -–scientists would want to study him, his owners would want him to run errands, and everything would be different. So Selby keeps his identity a secret, sharing his experiences with the children of Australia through the Selby series of books.

Each of the nine previous books shares tales of Selby’s exploits as he leads a double life and gets into some hilarious scrapes. Now in Selby’s Selection he shares the best of his previous adventures, interspersed with some special treats” Selby’s favorite jokes, funny poems and songs, as well as profiles of Selby’s human friends and more.

Long time Selby fans will love this collection and newcomers will find this alluring enough to seek out the rest of the series.

Duncan Ball has won numerous awards and accolades for the Selby books, as well as for his many other books for children and adults, including the Emily Eyefinger series about the girl with an eye on the end of her finger. The Selby books have been published overseas.

For more information, visit Selby at his web site.

Selby’s Selection, by Duncan Ball
Angus & Robertson, 2001.

A Taste

On opening night a full house watched in silence as the Stage Stompers performed the first act of The Enchanted Dog and Selby waited behind the rock for his big moment. The magic of the play began to bring out the actor in him and he felt his heart throb when Postie Paterson gagged on the enchanted pawpaw and staggered towards him.

Not waiting to be pushed, Selby leaped out from behind the rock as soon as Postie fell behind it. He jumped into the spotlight and stood there on his hind legs, turning from side to side so the audience could get a look at him.

‘This is wonderful!’ Selby thought…

Luna-C by Jutta Goetze

In small town Lima (NOT Lima, Peru), two friends dream. Phoebe and Dale are singers who dream of being discovered – of being something, somebodies, away from the small town of their childhood where they work as strawberry pickers.

When Luna-C visits the town, that dream becomes stronger. Drawn to the band and especially its lead singer, Ric, Dale decides to pursue her dream of being a professional singer. Afraid of losing her friend and hoping for adventures of her own, Phoebe (Fee) joins her.

Making it in the city isn’t as easy as it seems. Initially unwelcome guests in the house shared by Ric and other members of Luna-C, Jane and Dan, Dale and Phoebe have to fight to be accepted. Making their mark as singers is even more difficult.

The other members of Luna-C have problems of their own. Jane is an alcoholic who struggles to cope with the real world, Dan is a drug dealer, and Ric attracts more women than he knows what to do with, including both Dale and Phoebe.

Luna-C is an absorbing tale of friendship, love and life in the alternative music scene. At times funny, at others tragically sad, it carries the reader along on its waves of emotion. Ostensibly a book for young adults, it will appeal to much older readers as well.

Jutta Goetze is an Australian writer of varying genres – including screen writing credits, a series of picture books and junior fiction titles. This is her first novel for young adults.

Luna-C, by Jutta Goetze (rrp$17.95)
Allen & Unwin, 2001

A Taste

And then its my turn. Me, in the spotlight. I can’t see anything out there, except what’s in my memory from the rip in the curtain; and memory turns the audience into cut-out silhouettes. I sing as low as I can, to be as manly as I can be, but as soon as I open my mouth one of those cows in the paddock outside bellows. That’d be right, upstaged by a cow. My slippers are too big and my belt’s slipping and so are the notes – they’ve suddenly eluded my range and have dropped into some cacophony of sound that isn’t mine, yet it’s coming from my mouth …

Starry Nights

Jess was happy living at Avalon, their old home by the bay, but now they’ve moved and something is wrong with their new house. Since they’ve moved, her sister Vida is wild and furious and believes in strange magic. Her brother Clem hasn’t even got around to unpacking and their mum doesn’t get out of bed – instead lying sick and silent in her bedroom upstairs.

Soon Jess realises something even more disconcerting. Someone is following her – running after her don the street, waiting out in the garden in night. But whoever this someone is, they seem to be invisible – Jess hears them more than sees them, catching only glimpses of a blue hem and a pair of legs.

But who can Jess turn to for help? Her father is busy working and caring for her mother, Clem doesn’t seem to be around and she daren’t tell Vida. Vida is already worried enough about all sorts of things, dragging Jess to seances and begging her to part in elaborate rituals to solve her problems. Of course her mother can’t help, lying cocooned in her bed. Jess may have to solve this mystery herself.

Starry Nights, by Judith Clarke, is a haunting mystery of a family caught in a twilight zone. Teenage readers will find themselves unable to put the book down and will find the ending satisfying. Judith Clarke has a long history of producing quality novels for young adult readers, including Friend of My Heart, Night Train and Wolf on the Fold, Winner of the 2001 Children’s Book of the Year for Older Readers.

Starry Nights, by Judith Clarke
Allen & Unwin, 2001.

A Taste

These last few months, Vida had started believing in all kinds of strange things she’d have laughed about when they lived back at Avalon. She’d tried every spell she could find in the dusty old books she brought home from op shops and garage sales; none of them ever worked and it was awful watching her try. Last Friday night when the moon was full Vida had run out into the garden, right down to the place where the big fir tree grew. From the window Jess had watched her sister walking around it backwards …

The Artist is a Thief

Jean-Loup’s task seems simple. A Melbourne-based financial advisor, he has been sent by ATSIC to Mission Hole Community to conduct an audit of its art centre. But Jean-Loup soon realises that nothing in this community is as simple as it appears.

The community’s most noted artist is Margaret Thatcher Gandarrway, whose works have achieved international recognition and attracted high prices. But something disturbing has happened. At the unveiling of her latest painting, the picture was found slashed and with the words “the artist is a thief” scrawled across it. The shock of this act and the implications of the message has sent shock waves around the art community. Is Margaret Thatcher Gandarrway a thief? And what exactly is it she has stolen?

When Jean-Loup Wild arrives at the community to investigate the running of the arts centre and to try to reinstate its credibility following these events, he meets with unexpected obstacles and opposition. On his first night in the community he comes across the murdered corpse of the person most likely to help in his investigation. No one else in the community even wants to talk to him, let alone help him.

Not only is the investigation proving difficult, but Jean-Loup has to face personal conflicts as well. he has a personal link to the community – his mysterious older sister Duchess whose history he would like to trace and who is partially the reason for his accepting this job. He also finds himself increasingly attracted to Petra, the beautiful Aboriginal woman who helps him in his investigations.

As he confronts his past, Jean-Loup must also confront the present. He must try to unravel the mystery of the murder, the elusive Margaret Thatcher Gandarrway, and the message on the painting, whilst working on a playing field where everyone but him seems to know the rules. Whilst piecing together the puzzle he gets to know himself and the society in which he live son a more intimate level than ever before.

The Artist is a Thief, winner of the The Australian/Vogel Literary Award, is a philosophical detective novel with a difference, sure to provoke thought as it entertains.

The Artist is a Thief, by Stephen Gray
Allen & Unwin, 2001.

Jenny Spaghetti

Jenny is five years old, and what she likes to eat, more than aything else, is spaghetti. Lots of it. She asks for spaghetti for breakfast, lunch and dinner. But she eats so much spaghetti that one morning she discovers that her hair has turned into spaghetti.

Jenny Spaghetti, the first book by writer and illustrator Karen Margaret, is the cute story of what happens as Jenny tries to solve her problem.

At the spaghetti factory where Jenny goes, looking for help, Jenny finds herself grabbed by a spaghetti machine and squished into a can. A journey through the production line follows and Jenny finds herself on a supermarket shelf, where she is a bought by a little old lady.

Imagine the lady’s surprise when she finds Jenny in her bowl at lunchtime. Together they try to solve Jenny’s dilemma – until the little old lady comes up with a very clever solution.

Children aged three to eight will enjoy this quirky tale. They will especially enjoy the fun and bright illustrations.

Jenny Spaghetti is the first publication of new Western Australian publisher Blossom Books. The quality of this hardback edition is to be applauded.

Jenny Spaghetti by Karen Margaret
Blossom Books, 2001.

Ideas For Parents and Educators

1. The first time you read the story, stop on the page before the old lady comes up with the solution (But it just grew back). Ask your child/ren for suggestions how they could solve Jenny’s problems. Discuss each one. Then finish reading the story.

2. Make a collage picture of Jenny. Draw her face then glue pieces of uncooked pasta or wool for her hair. If you are using pasta, have fun with the shapes and colours of different pasta – spaghetti, spirals, vegeroni and so on.

3. Discuss each child’s favourite food. For older children, have them write a story or draw a picture of what would happen if they turned into their favourite food.

4. For the littlies: Give children tubular pasta shapes for threading necklaces and bracelets. To make it more fun, dye the pasta with food colouring first.

5. Use a garlic press to make ‘spaghetti’ out of play dough. Make a ball of dough for jenny’s head and attach the spaghetti.

6. When you’ve finished reading and playing, have a big bowl of spaghetti for lunch and dinner.

Six White Boomers

If you are an Australian parent then there is a good chance that you grew up singing Six White Boomers at Christmas time. This song, and the legendary singer Rolf Harris, have been a art of Christmas in Australia since 1960. This Christmas you can share the magic with your children.

Rolf Harris and Scholastic Australia (under its Margaret Hamilton imprint) have combined to produce the song lyrics in a beautiful picture book with accompanying compact disc.

The book includes the full lyrics to the song, written by Rolf and his friend John D. Brown, with watercolour illustrations by Bruce Whatley bringing the song to life.

The CD includes a recording of the song so that you and your young ones can sing along with Rolf. And, if you want more, there are two bonus Rolf Harris tracks – Christmas in the Sun and Pavlova

An introduction at the beginning of the book explains how Rolf came to write the song. he explains that he was always amazed to hear Australian sing songs about snow and icicles in the middle of Australian, and so set out to write a song more appropriate to our climate and culture. The longevity of this song’s success indicates that he struck a chord with fellow Aussies.

Every Australian child deserves a copy of this book – one of the few Christmas songs written especially for Australian children. Friends and relatives overseas may also enjoy this piece of Australiana.

Six White Boomers by Rolf Harris and Bruce Whatley
A Margaret Hamilton Book from Scholastic Australia, 2001