The Figures on the Lake, by Peter O’Shaughnessy

What are these ghostly figures?
Stark, angular and bright
against the salt lake’s crystal surface
they disturb its blinding light…

Since 2003, a remote salt lake near Wiluna, in Western Australia, has hosted a set of sculptures installed, as part of the Perth Arts Festival’s 5oth anniversary, by internationally renowned artist Antony (now Sir Antony) Gormley. based on the townsepople, the figures dot the crystal white sal lake and attract visitors from around the world, drawn to this remote part of the country to view and talk about art.

The Figures on the Lake a selection of poems, sketches and paintings recording and responding to the beauty of the figures. Artist and poet Peter O’Shaughnessy has visited the sculptures many times, and, following the success of an exhibitions of paintings interpreting the sculptures, was moved to produce a book honouring the sculptures and their story.

The idea of a series of art and poetry inspired by another series of artworks is a wonderful one, and the book is a delight to browse. Proceeds from sales of the book help to support cancer charities.

Available from the author, in Bunbury Western Australia, or through the Wilunatic Press Etsy Store.

The Figures on the Lake, by Peter O’Shaughnessy
Wilunatic Press, 2017
ISBN 9780648055914

Can You Find Me? by Gordon Winch & Patrick Shirvington

I am a platypus.
I live in the muddy water and on the grassy bank.
I look like the muddy water and the grassy bank.
That is why I am hard to see.
Can you find me?

Can You Find Me?’ features a collection of Australian animals (large and small) living, hiding, in their particular environment. Each double page spread draws their home, and suggests why they might be hard to find. The final line on each spread then asks ‘Can you find me?’ Endpapers show ‘specimens’ from a range of Australian native plants set in white paper. Illustrations are watercolour and realistic in style.

Camouflage is a great tool for survival, particularly if an animal is not the fastest, biggest or top of their food chain. Each of these Australian animals from the echidna on the cover to the leaf moth and stick insect has adapted to be able to hide in plain sight. The invitation is explicit in the title and young readers will enjoy finding each animal. Text spells out why they are hard to see: ‘I live in the … I look like the …’ and then asks the reader to search the image. An introduction to camouflage and Australian creatures large and small. Recommended for pre-schoolers.

Can You Find Me, Gordon Winch & Patrick Shirvington
New Frontier Publishing 2017
ISBN: 9781925059793

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller
www.clairesaxby.com

Amazing Australians in their Flying Machines by Prue & Kerry Mason ill Tom Jellett

If only it took a week to travel between Australian and England instead of three months. If only the ship voyage wasn’t so dangerous. If we didn’t live at the end of the world in this outpost – this Colony of Australia. It’s not I who says this but my fellow Sydneysiders who wish for one last sight of England before they die. As their doctor, I can diagnose illnesses perform surgery and prescribe medication but what can I do for those who are homesick?
There’s just one thing: I can invent a flying ship. And I’ve done it!
Or at least, I’ve drawn the pictures. All that’s left to do is build it and watch it fly.

The dream of flying has motivated many thinkers and inventors across many years. In the Age of Machines, eyes turned to the sky for a way to travel through the air. There were many naysayers who considered flight a ridiculous and foolish notion, but the dreamers persisted, trying and failing, trying again. Little by little, they overcame the barriers to flight. Meet some of the Australian pioneers and the thinking that contributed to the advent of aviation. ‘Did you know?’ boxes offer some of the science of flying. Illustrations, photos and fact boxes intersperse the biographical text.

Successful flight was not an overnight achievement, nor the achievement of a single individual. Around the world, across many years, many thinkers and doers were moving closer and closer, learning from the successes and failures of others. ‘Amazing Australians in their Flying Machines’ showcases Australians who contributed along the way. Readers will discover the history, the people, the science and the politics of flying, told from a particularly Australian viewpoint. Recommended for budding pilots, engineers, historians and mid-primary readers.

Amazing Australians in their Flying Machines, Prue and Kerry Mason ill Tom Jellett
Walker Books Australia 2017
ISBN: 9781922244635

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller
www.clairesaxby.com

Finding Nevo,: How I Confused Everyone, by Nevo Zisin

Apparently, the moment I was born, she anxiously asked her mother, “Well, what is it?” To which my grandmother replied, “It’s a boy!” My mum was horrified, but the doctor interjected and explained I was indeed a girl. My mum was relieved. I wish I could have spoken on behalf of myself back then and there; I could have avoided a lot of issues down the track.

Nevo Zisin was born with a girl’s body, to a mother desperately hoping for a daughter. But before they had reached school, Nevo was convinced they were a boy, and wanted to dress in boy’s clothes, and be referred to as ‘he’. Growing up in a traditional Jewish community, this presented difficulties both within their own family, at school, and beyond. At 14, feeling pressured to identify with how they felt, Nevo came out as a lesbian, but was still not convinced this was the right term for how they felt. At 18, they announced their intention to transition to being male, and soon after began hormone therapy, and then to plan for chest reduction surgery. By the age of twenty, they had realised that they were neither male nor female, and now identify as nonbinary transgender.

Finding Nevo is an honest, enlightening story of one person’s quest to understand who they are, and to overcome the prejudices and pressures which that can entail. Nevo is honest and open, offering readers the chance to understand the issues faced by Nevo, and also by other nonbinary young people. As they say (Nevo’s preferred pronoun is they/their), it is unusual to write an autobiography at the age of 20, but Nevo’s willingness to do so will help to educate and inform people of all all ages and gender identities.

An absorbing, open, book.

Finding Nevo, by Nevo Zisin
Black Dog Books, 2017
ISBN 9781925381184

The Fabulous Flying Mrs Miller, by Carol Baxter

Mrs Keith Miller, internationally known aviatrix, was taken to the county jail here today and held for investigation by State Attorney’s investigators. Jail attendants said they understood she was held in connection with the shooting of an airline pilot.

Jessie Miller, known to those who loved her as Chubbie, has a thirst for adventure. Married far too young, and very unhappy, she holidays in England where she soon manages to sign up for an almost unfathomable quest – as a passenger flying from London to Australia for the first time. Although she and her pilot partner Bill Lancaster are beaten by another plane, Chubbie becomes famous as the first woman to complete the journey. Unable to settle back down to life in suburban Australia, she and Bill travel to America where her various flying feats included flying in the first air race for women with Amelia Earhart. But along with the many highs of a career as a pilot, CHubbie also finds herself facing terrible lows – crash landing in the Flroida Straits, being accused of faking her disappearance for publicity, and finding herself at the centre of a murder trial.

The Fabulous Flying Mrs Miller is an absorbing tale filled with twists and turns. As fiction it would seem almost implausible – but this is a true story, set in England, Australia and the United States in the 1920s and ’30s, the golden age of aviation, where adventurous flyers – and the manufacturers and fledgling airlines behind them – pushed themselves to do what no one else ever had. History buffs, aviation enthusiastis will find this story of a remarkable woman fascinating.

The Fabulous Flying Mrs Miller, by Carol Baxter
Allen & Unwin, 2017
ISBN 9781760290771

Rock Pool Secrets, by Narelle Oliver

Down on the rocky shore,
waves crash and smash.
Then the tide goes out and the sea is calm.
It’s a good time to explore rock pools.

At first glance, there isn’t much to see in a rock pool, but a closer look reveals lots of interesting creatures, from anemones, to crabs, shrimp, tiny fish and more.

Rock Pool Secrets is a divine non-fiction picturebook, taking youngsters inside the secrets of a beach side rock pool. the text is informative, but also beautifully crafted, enticing readers to keep exploring. the use of large flaps on most spreads is similarly enticing, with left sized text hinting and encouraging readers to look closely at the outside of the flap before opening it to see what new creature is there.

One of the last picture books created by the late Narelle Oliver, Rock Pool Secrets was crafted from beautiful lino cut and watercolour illustrations, with beauty and detail which offer much to explore.

Divine.

Rock Pool Secrets , by Narelle Oliver
Walker Books, 2017
ISBN 9781922179357

Looking for Rose Patterson by Jennifer Gall

Who was Rose Paterson?
Most readers will be introduced to Rose Paterson by reading the poems and stories written by her son, Barty, better known to the world as Andrew Barton ‘Banjo’ Paterson. But so subtle are the references that readers may not realise they have made her acquaintance. She is there in Banjo’s turn of phrase, his sense of humour, his resilient spirit and in some rare direct references to her as she was in his childhood. But Rose Paterson, in a series of little-known letters written to her younger sister, Nora, provided her own account of her life.

Meet Rose Paterson, mother of A B ‘Banjo’ Paterson. ‘Looking for Rose Paterson’ chronicles Rose’s life as daughter, sister, wife and mother. It also examines the life of a farmer’s wife in a time very different to now. Rose’s letters to her younger sister reveal a world of challenge, from the regular and protracted absences of her husband, to the isolation and inadequacies of her home. Yet she managed to retain a sense of humour, raise and educate her children. She also kept in touch with her family and friends, even when poverty dictated that she cross-write her letters. ‘Looking for Rose Paterson’ includes photos, letters, posters and extracts from Paterson’s poetry.

Looking for Rose Paterson’ is much more than a story of an individual life, though it is that too. It’s a rich portrait of a colonial world, with a focus on the often invisible women who helped shape it. In addition, it chronicles the world that nurtured Banjo Paterson and set the foundations for his writing. Rose’s letters offer an intimate peek into matters personal and domestic, while other elements reflect on childbirth, education, women’s rights and more. ‘Looking for Rose Paterson’ is a fascinating read, a chocolate box of delights for anyone interested in Rose herself and in learning about the lives of colonial women. Highly recommended.

Looking for Rose Paterson, Jennifer Gall
NLA Publishing 2017
ISBN: 9780642278920

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller
www.clairesaxby.com

Line of Fire, by Ian Townsend

On the afternoon of Monday 18 May 1942, Richard Manson, Dickie to his family, sat in the back of an uncovered utility truck belonging to the Japanese Navy and watched the river of dust swirl and tumble away behind him.
He might have imagined, as 11-year-old boys sometimes do, that the road was moving and he was not, and that if he jumped it would carry him away to the mountains, where no-one would find him.
Last chance, then for this story to end differently.
His mother, Marjorie, took his hand and wouldn’t let go

In 1942, in the midst of world War 2, five Australian civilians were captured by Japanese soldiers and later driven to a pit at the base of a volcano and executed as spies. The civilians included a woman, her brother, husband and friend – and her 11 year old son. How did a child end up in such a situation? And why did even his family not know the full story?

Line of Fire traces the stories of the five civilians, with particular focus on the stories of Marjorie Manson and her son Dickie, detailing the events that lead to them being in Rabaul and, ultimately, executed. Using a combination of documents research, visits to Rabaul, interviews of the few people still alive with memories of the events, and some guesswork, the story is pieced together in a a work that will both appall and fascinate history buffs.

Compelling reading.

Line of Fire, by Ian Townsend
Fourth Estate, 2017
ISBN 9781460750926

The Book That Made Me, edited by Judith Ridge

We were all hooked (and a bit unsettled) from the outset, so there was no turning back. My brother and I looked forward to each progressively disturbing chapter: conniving pigs, brainwashed sheep, a horse carted off to something called the “knackers”, and poor Mum had to field all of our questions. (Shaun Tan)

From acclaimed authors from around Australia and overseas, The Book That Made Me offers a glimpse into the formative years of the creators, and of the book (or books) that shaped who they are – as authors, as readers, as people. From early readers and picture books to graphic novels, science fiction, to medical encyclopedia, each author’s preference is different and their tales behind why and how these particular books stayed with them are sometimes funny and other times very moving, but always intriguing.

Editor Judith Ridge is a passionate children’s literature advocate and has brought together a wonderful array of authors, including Shaun Tan, Julia Lawrinson, Sue Lawson, Markus Zusak, Ted Dawe and many more – thirty-two authors in total.

 

This is a book for book lovers of all ages and, with all royalties going to the Indigenous Literacy Foundation, purchase supports a really important cause.

The Book That Made Me
Walker Books Australia, 2016
ISBN 9781922244888

The Game of Their Lives, by Nick Richardson

While the match was, at one level, an exhibition for the Diggers and the curious onlookers, for the players it was something else – a chance to run around in the open air, to play the game they loved and test themselves in the way that they knew, body on body, running, jumping and kicking. It was a wonderful antidote to the dull routine of training and the anxiety of anticipation about what was ahead.

Australian Rules Football has a long history here at home, but has often been an enigma to people in other countries. For one day in 1916, though, football took centre stage when two teams of Australian soldiers played an exhibition match in London. The teams, drawn from soldiers waiting to be called to the Western Front, comprised men who had played football in teams across Australia, some of them big name players. In the weeks leading up to the match they trained hard and, on the day, for just a few hours, they could play the game they loved almost as if they were back home in Australia.

The Game of Their Lives tells the story of the game, and of the men who played in it. Starting before the war, and tracing through to the years following, readers are introduced to the players, umpires and officials as well as to men who made the game possible, including General Monash and YMCA man, and Australian swimmer, Frank Beaurepair. There is also close exploration of the impact of the war on sport at home in Australia, particularly the pressure for sportsmen to enlist, and the conscription debate.

For anyone with a love of football or war history.

The Game of Their Lives , by Nick Richardson
Pan Macmillan, 2016
ISBN 9781743536667