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)

Candle Iron, by Sally Odgers

Allyso of Torm is nearly fourteen, but doesn’t look older than eleven. Even those who know her have trouble remembering her age. Yet Allyso is the heir to Torm, and knows she will one day have to lead as Merritt, her uncle, does now.

Merritt is known for his generosity and good nature, but this generosity is pushed too far when a stranger comes to their home. Soon the castle is under siege and Merritt is dying, cursed by the very stranger he so generously gave lodging.

Only the Gem of Time can save Torm and its inhabitants, but Allyso is the only one with opportunity to leave the castle and find the gem, and the sorcerer who can use it, The Master of Time. Does this slip of a girl have the courage and the strength to survive this dangerous quest and save Merritt and her inheritance?

Candle Iron is an outstanding fantasy novel, combining the best elements of the genre – a quest, an adventure, strange and unknown lands, and a satisfying ending. It is little wonder that author Sally Odgers was the recent recipient of the Aurealis Award for Best Long Fiction (Children’s) for this novel.

Although not a sequel, Candle Iron is set in the same reality as two of Ms Odgers earlier books, Amy Amaryllis and Shadowdancers. Though billed as a young adult title, the book will appeal to fantasy lovers of all ages.

Candle Iron, by Sally Odgers
Angus & Robertson (an imprint of Harper Collins Publishers), 2001.

Knightfall by Sally Odgers

When Simon’s stepmother gives him three choices for the holidays, none of them appeal very much. She says he can find a useful job, take up a creative activity or join his stepsister Reba’s swimming club. At first there seems little option but the third, but Simon dreads going to the pool with Reba and the girls.

So when a stranger offers him another choice – the chance to do something useful by exercising his pony – Simon jumps at the chance. After all, how difficult can it be.

Simon soon learns just how difficult the task he is given can be. From the time he gets on to the horse, things turn weird. One minute he’s a boy riding a horse, the next he’s been transported to the land of Bravena, a land of dragons and damsels knights and kings.

The residents of this strange land believe Simon is a brave knight, sent to be their champion and defeat the dragons. The dragons in turn think he is there to help them. And all Simon wants is to get home safely.

Knightfall is the first in a new humorous trilogy by talented Australian author Sally Odgers. Part of the Tadpole label from Koala Books, Knightfall is suitable for independent readers aged 9 and over.

Sally Odgers is an award winning writer of numerous books for readers of all ages. She lives in Tasmania. Other Koala books by Ms Odgers include Guess My Friends, The Ringmaster and The Case of the Disappearing Dog. The second book in the reluctant Knight trilogy, Knight Errand will be released in late 2002.

LINKS
Visit Koala Books at www.koalabooks.com
Visit Sally Odgers at www.sallyodgers.com

The Australian Guide to the Internet, by Tony Stevenson

If you are reading this review, then you probably already have basic internet skills – you have, after all, connected to the ‘net, opened a browser and typed in the URL, http://www.aussiereviews.com (or, alternately, clicked on a link from an email or other website). Having these skills, however, does not mean that The Australian Guide to the Internet is not for you. This book is packed full of useful information for internet users of all abilities and experience levels.

Expert Tony Stevenson provides a concise explanation of the many facets of the internet in easy to follow language, suitable for even the least tech-savvy reader. The first part of the book is geared towards the novice internet user, providing a basic history of the internet, and going to explain how to connect to, and use, the net, including finding an ISP and setting up . Part Two continues in this vein, introducing novices to using a browser, communicating via email, and using newsgroups and mailing lists.

With the essentials covered, parts three and four of the book delve a little deeper into the wonders of the web, dealing with effective searching, downloading files and software, and using the net for entertainment. For those wary of using the internet for shopping, there is a whole chapter devoted to the hows and whys of online shopping, including security issues.

The final two parts of the book deal with creating a web presence, through starting your own web site, and avoiding net nasties such as viruses. For parents the chapter about protecting your kids online will be invaluable.

Throughout the book, Stevenson’s clear explanations are aided by screen shots, simple exercises and web references to get more out of the internet experience. The book is a must for all Australian internet users and would make a great gift idea for a computer novice.

The Australian Guide to the Internet
, by Tony Stevenson
Prentice Hall, 2000

Interview With Beverly Paine, Author of The Chimaera Conspiracy

Aussiereviews spoke to new author Beverly Paine about her new novel The Chimaera Conspiracy This is what she had to say.

AUSSIE REVIEWS: How does it feel to see your first novel in print?

BEVERLY PAINE: I am trying not to get over-excited and to take it in my stride, but every one around me, all my friends and family are over the moon. It’s a relief, after all the hard work, to finally hold the novel in my hand, but I haven’t read more than a few pages yet myself. The cover illustration by Perry Mallet is beautiful, just what I imagined. My lifelong ambition was to write science fiction novels and now it’s realised. I like that.

AR: The Chimarea Conspiracy has both an interesting setting and a controversial topic. Where did the idea come from?

BP: My interest in genetic engineering and cloning stems from my adolescent years. I was an avid science fiction writer, but over the last ten years I have followed the scientific developments with interest. The actual idea to set the story underwater came from encouraging my children to enter a short story competition staged by Lego as a promotion of their new Aquazone sets several years ago. As a child one of my favourite television shows was Marineboy, about a boy who could breathe underwater. The Chimaera Conspiracy is a blend of many ideas, nurtured over a lifetime.

AR: Tell us the story of The Chimarea Conspiracy ‘s creation – the process from first idea to publishing. Was it easy?

I began writing in 1995 and worked on the story off and on. Initially I wrote it using a third person and past tense and spent a lot of time working out the back story and the history of the characters. As the story grew I thought I had a trilogy on my hands. I rewrote and polished the first manuscript endlessly, and changed to first person, then finally sent it out to publishers in 1999. It was rejected by one publisher because they didn’t do series, but Jill Morris from Greater Glider Productions read it and offered a contract. Jill suggested a few changes, including a change of tense. Reworking the first chapter in present tense tightened up the story, and brought the main action in the second novel, already written, into the first in a way that surprised and delighted me.

I have learned a great deal about the craft of writing during the process of writing this novel. I think it is the hardest thing I have ever done, the most frustrating and the most exhilarating. I’ve plunged into the depths of depression, doubting myself as a writer, when faced with rewriting major sections; glided on wings of excitement and joy when it all worked well and new ideas or ‘perfect’ sentences appeared on the page; and impatiently waited out writer’s blocks – one went for six months after a major character unexpectedly wrote himself into the story! Greater Glider have worked patiently with me for over two years to produce the best story we could.

AR: As an experienced home school educator, do you have suggestions about how The Chimarea Conspiracy could be used for lessons in literature or other curriculum areas?

BP: I’d like to see young people explore where Katya, Coen and Edan go next – do they keep their heritage a secret and hide from the world, or do they declare their uniqueness and use their extraordinary abilities to help society? What would be the consequences of either action? There is great scope to explore the moral and ethical implications involved with human genetic engineering in the classroom. If my book excites young people to write stories of their own I would be very happy.

AR: Do you have any advice for other aspiring writers of young adult fiction?

Don’t spend too much time worrying about publishing during the writing process. Barbara Kingsolver said close the door and write with no one looking over your shoulder. Resist the temptation to put the work ‘out there’, even for feedback from family and friends, until you’re finished the first draft. Don’t even talk about the main ideas or characters unless you really need to – keep the energy bottled up for the fingers to use when playing on the keyboard or on the page.