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

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 Slightly True Story of Cedar B. Hartley, by Martine Murray

Cedar avoids the main swell of action in her street, and drifts instead towards the puddles. In Cedar’s puddle there’s Cedar, who’d really like to be called Lana Munroe since it has a famous kind of ring to it, her friend Caramella Zito, who lives opposite and Ricci, a fifty year old Yugoslavian lady.

But suddenly, things seem to change. Maybe it’s because her dog Stinky disappears, or maybe it started back when her brother Barnaby ran away. Either way, things change. Cedar meets a boy called Kite, who swings from trees and does hand springs.

Now her puddle is bigger and more complicated. As well as Kite, there’s his father Ruben, who used to be in the circus, his friend Oscar, who wobbles, and his mother, who has run off with a man called Howard.

There are also new experiences – learning balances and tumbles with Kite, attending Oscar’s birthday party, trying to run away. And, when Ricci’s dog needs an operation, Cedar finds herself organising a circus to raise the money needed.

Told in the delightful first-person narrative of Cedar herself, The Slightly True Story of Cedar B. Hartley (who planned to live an unusual life) is an outstanding debut novel from Australian author Martine Murray. Young Cedar’s take on life provides both humour and insight.

Martine Murray is the talented author and illustrator of the acclaimed picture books A Moose Called Mouse and A Dog Called Bear. She has studied art, writing, acrobatics and dance and live sin Melbourne. She says that this book is “about belonging exactly as you are, without having to tone down or change.”

The Slightly True Story of Cedar Blue Hartley (who planned to live an unusual life), by Martine Murray.
Allen and Unwin, 2002.

Loopy Locusts, by Jennifer Clutterbuck

Emma remembers when the farm was full of thick, green grass and fat, happy sheep. But now there’s a drought and there’s just dust and dead or dying sheep. She knows she has three choices – she can make it rain, she can invent a stock feed that doesn’t need water, or she can make money.

So make money it is, but somehow Emma’s money making schemes don’t seem to work out like she plans. When she tries carving sheep bones for scrimshaw, she ends up with a bag of maggots, and when she decides to make coats out of dead mice, she ends up with hundreds of mouldy mice.

Somehow, Emma is going to help pay the bills and stop her parents from sending her to boarding school, but things seem to be going from bad to worse. The final straw is when they get invaded by locusts. Something has to give. Strangely, it is the arrival of these locusts which provide a humorous, if surprising, change in fortune.

Loopy Locusts, by Jennifer Clutterbuck, with illustrations by Dale Leach, will tickle the funny bone of eight to twelve year old readers, whilst also touching on the serious problems of the farming life.

Loopy Locusts, by Jennifer Clutterbuck
Greater Glider Productions, 2002.

A Taste

My next idea came from TV. An animal sanctuary in the city which was about to go bust convinced local businesses to sponsor the animals. For their money a business got a sign wired onto a cage, saying how wonderful they were. I figured that if there were people in the city willing to pay for a wombat or a kangaroo, there were bound to be people willing to pay for a starving sheep.

I wanted to help people to see my vision, so I invented some satisfied customers. I needed them quickly…

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…

Shooting Stars – Maddy's Big Break

Maddy wants desperately to score an acting role. She’s always landing jobs to sing jingles, but she just wants a real acting job. So when she finds out she has an audition for Halfway Hospital, she is determined to get the role.

This is not as easy as it seems. Her Dad doesn’t even want her to attend the audition. He thinks the role is disgusting and inappropriate. Then, when she does get the job, Maddy discovers that the acting business does not always go as it should. Her friends try to warn her, but will she still be disappointed?

Maddy’s Big Break is the second title in scholastic Australia’s new Shooting Stars series. Writer Tempany Deckert is better known for her acting roles – she appeared in Australia’s Home and Away for several years, before her more recent role in The Secret Life of Us.

Maddy’s Big Break is especially likely to appeal to girls in the 10 to 14 year old age range.

Maddy’s Big Break, by Tempany Deckert
Scholastic Australia, 2001

Shooting Stars – The Green-Eyed Monster

Louise can’t stand the Billingham twins, Evie and Cameron. In fact, she thinks they’re vomitus. So when they join the Shooting Stars acting school, Louise does nothing to help them fit in. Her friends feel the same way.

Things start to change when Louise’s brother, Jake, gets teased at school for being in a television commercial. Louise tells him the other kids are just jealous. Then she wonders – is she jealous of Evie and Cameron?

The crunch comes when the twins and Louise go to an audition together and she discovers that these girls aren’t as perfect as she first thought.

The Green Eyed Monster is the first in Scholastic’s new series for teenage girls The Shooting Stars. It is the first series for girls from Scholastic since the phenomenally popular Babysitter Club series.

Author Tempany Deckert will be familiar to many readers. She appeared in Australian television show, Home and Away for three years before heading off to the US more recently appearing in The Secret Life of Us. Her experiences as a child actor make her well qualified to write a series set in the television industry.

The Green Eyed Monster, by Tempany Deckert.
Scholastic Australia, 2001

The Real Facts of Life

FACT: Weekends and holidays go faster than schooldays.
FACT: Dads always read in the toilet – for ages and ages.
FACT: Sisters always try to get you into trouble.

Max loves to collect facts like these. He writes them down in a little notebook. But one busy weekend he overlooks the biggest fact of all.

This delightful children’s book by West Australian author Geoff Havel documents Max’s weekend as he collects facts and tries to figure out what’s going on between his parents. His mother is acting weird and his father is fussing over her. His sister Jess keeps giving him “I know something you don’t know” looks.

It’s a pretty busy weekend for Max – washing dishes, mad dashes to hospital to stitch up his head, Sunday lunch with Grandma. And heaps of facts to gather. Will he find time to solve the mystery?

The Real Facts of Life will appeal to boys and girls aged 10 and over. Even Mum and Dad will laugh at this one.

The Real Facts of Life by Geoff Havel
Fremantle Arts Centre Press, 2001

My Story – Who Am I?

“Matron Rose said I should write in you every day about all the things I do and stuff. And I do lots of things that I’m gunna tell you about.” So begins the diary of Mary Talence, aged 10, Sydney 1937.

Mary’s story, presented via her diary entries, begins at Bombaderry home for Aboriginal children. Mary has been living here since she was five, but remembers another home- with her Mum and Dad and lots of brothers and sisters. Mary likes her family at Bombaderry, including her best friend Marj, and the babies she looks after, but she still misses her Mum and wonders why she doesn’t come to visit.

Mary’s life changes again soon after the diary begins, when she is fostered by a white family. The diary follows her struggle to assimilate into the white society she finds herself living in. Mary is repeatedly told that to be Aboriginal is bad and that she must forget her past. To Mary this is incomprehensible.

Who Am I ? creates an awareness and understanding in young readers of the policies of protection and assimilation of Aborigines which were practiced in Australia until 1969. By using the intimate first person format of the diary, readers are given a first-hand experience of the emotional effects on the children from the ‘stolen generation’ of being removed from their families and stripped of their identities.

Who Am I? is part of Scholastic’s ongoing My Story series, presenting the stories of young people in different periods of Australian history. A quality read for readers aged 10 and over, and also suitable for study as an in class text.

My Story: Who Am I?, by Anita Heiss
Published by Scholastic Australia, 2001

Whoppers

Mrs Silverstein is a teacher with a difference – she believes children should be seen and heard. This makes life in her classroom very interesting – and very noisy. Today the year sixes have to tell their life stories. Just to make it more interesting, Mrs Silverstein has asked them to tell ‘whoppers’ – tall tales to make their lives sound as interesting as they can. The best ‘whopper’ will win a giant box of smarties.

When it is Mark’s turn, however, he says he doesn’t want to tell a whopper. The time has come, he says, to instead tell the world the truth. He is really a Martian. As the class listens intently he gives more and more details of life on Mars and his secret life here on Earth. None of Mark’s classmates are sure whether to believe him or not – except for his girlfriend Deborah, who hangs on every word he says.

By the end of the day, no one has managed to tell a story more interesting than Mark’s. His classmates keep looking at him, trying to figure out if he’s telling the truth or not. And to top it all off, Deborah has asked him to come home with her after school – for a special kiss, perhaps? Will Mark win the kiss and the contest? Or will his tale-telling backfire?

Whoppers is a lively read for eight to eleven year olds. One of Puffin’s popular Aussie Bites books, it could be devoured by an advanced reader in one sitting, or savoured in smaller nibbles by a reluctant reader.

Whoppers, by Moya Simons
Published by Puffin Books, 1998