The Legend of Lasseter's Reef, by Mark Greenwood

In 1887 seventeen year old Harold Lasseter, searching for adventure and fortune, stumbled on a gold reef which would consume him for the rest of his days.

Having drawn himself a map of the reef’s location, Lasseter was forced by need for food and water to leave the reef. Although he visited it a second time, the difficulties of mapping and access of such a remote area meant that it was 30 years before he could get the backing needed for a large expedition to recover the gold.

Unfortunately, that expeditionwas doomed and Lasseter died in the Outback. No other person has ever managed to lcoate the reef.

The Legend of Lasseter’s Reef is the first picture book to be written about Lasseter and his quest. Author Mark Greenwood uses a combination of historical recount, diary extracts, photographs and maps to impart the story and to lend an air of the mystery surrounding Lasseter’s reef.

An excellent read for the young historian or adventure fan, as well as an outstanding classroom or library resource.

The Legend of Lasseter’s Reef, by Mark Greenwood
UWA Press, 2003

Horrible Harriet, by Leigh Hobbs

Horrible Harriet lives in a tower in the school and spends her days being truly horrible. Only the teacher, Mr Boggle, who can’t see very well, thinks Harriet is good. Whenever Mr Boggle isn’t looking, Harriet is truly horrible to the other students.

When a new boy comes to the school, Harriet takes it upon herself to make him feel welcome. But her plans don’t all go according to plan.

Horrible Harriet is a truly memorable picture book. Author/illustrator Leigh Hobbs creates a character who is at once horrible yet almost likeable and tells a story which will make kids laugh.

Horrible Harriet, by Leigh Hobbs
Allen & Unwin, 2001 (reprinted 2003)

Dabu – The Baby Dugong, by Selena Solomon

Reviewed by Tash Hughes

Although not a happy story, this book is a vivid recounting of a baby dugong’s growth to adulthood.

Dabu is born and finds comfort in his mother’s presence. His mother teaches him survival means and the strength of family, as Dugongs travel in great family herds.

Each page is predominantly blue, with clear pictures to enhance the story. The first half of the text is in English, followed by a repetition of the story in Kala Lagaw Ya. This language is the traditional language of the Western Torres Strait and is slowly becoming extinct.

The Dugong, or sea cow, is also facing extinction. Traditionally, hunting the dugong was dangerous but very prestigious, and young men still hunt them with traditional methods today.

As Dabu grows, he learns about the dangers of mankind and actually sees his mother speared by men. She cries, tells Dabu to get away, and swims for her life. Dabu stays with his mother until the end, before finding his family again and realising he is no longer afraid of the ocean.

Although this story could happen anywhere tropical, Solomon set it in the Western Group of Torres Strait Islands. The Dugong was named, via an anagram, after Badu Island.

The book includes a full list of Kala Lagaw Ya words used in the story with an English translation beside each word.

Dabu – The Baby Dugong (kazi dhangal), by Selena Solomon, Illustrated by Dennis Nona, Translated by Ephraim Bani Magabala Books, 1992

Rhyme and Song Singalong, with Matthew Perry

Want to get your children or preschool students up and marching to the beat? Rhyme and Song Singalongwill help you to do just that. This fun new book and CD set, from Matthew Perry and Jane Curry Publishing, provides an excellent introduction to music for babies, toddlers and kids up to age five.

The book offers mainly familiar rhymes and songs, including favourites like Old MacDonald, Twinkle, Twinkle, Hickory Dickory Dock and more. For parents and teachers, each song is supported by a page of activity suggestions. From simple ideas such as rocking a baby in time to the beat, to suggestions for introducing concepts such as ostinato to older children, these pages are a valuable addition which make the set different from other nursery rhyme collections.

The accompanying CD is suitable for playing by itself as well as with the book. Each song is performed in an echo-response format with loads of repetition, encouraging children to participate and learn.

Activites in this set facilitate early music skill development, enhancing listening skills and laying a foundation for future music skills. The use of familiar rhymes, repetition and movement will also help develop early literacy, communication and motor skills. Importantly, the book and CD are also great fun.

Childhood music educator Matthew Perry has worked in schools for 20 years, teaching music to all ages. He has also written musicals and music education resources and worked as a composer, conductor and pianist.

A valuable resource for school and home.

Rhyme and song Singalong, with Matthew Perry
Jane Curry Publishing, 2003

ISBN 1-920727-03-5

Baby Boomsticks, by Margaret Wild

When a teeny-tiny mum and a teeny-tiny dad have a great big baby, they are very proud. He is a wonder and a joy. But Baby Boomsticks is so big that the other villagers won’t let their babies play with him. They are scared of a baby who is bigger than the houses and bigger than the trees.

So Baby Boomsticks has no friends, which makes him very sad. But one day, something happens. The village is flooded and only Baby Boomsticks can save his mum, his dad and all the other villagers. The other villagers soon see that Baby Boomsticks is a hero.

Baby Boomsticks is the latest picture book offering from award-winning Aussie author, Margaret wild. The illustrations by David Legge are a delight, with gouache and oil paintings of a delightfully cherubic Baby Boomsticks and his dwarfish neighbours.

Lovely!

Baby Boomsticks, written by Margaret Wild, illustrated by David Legge
ABC Books, 2003

Pigtails the Pirate, by David Elliot

Jess’s father is lost somewhere out at sea. She can bear the waiting no longer and so sets out to find him. After a terrible night and day tossed by a storm, Jess finds herself in a graveyard of ships – all wrecked by the giant Pigtails the Pirate. She also finds her father, locked in a cage where he is forced to play music for the pirate.

Using her sharp thinking, Jess frees her father and they almost escape. When Pigtails sees them however, he flies into a rage and seizes Jess’s father. Jess must think fast if she is going to rescue her father and get them both home safely.

There is a retrospective feel to the story and the illustrations of this picture book: it has a feel of a classic fairy tale, with the giant pirate a blundering bully, and the scenes of the tiny Jess and her father trying to escape the eerie shipyard.

Pigtails the Pirate is likely to appeal to a slightly older picture book audience, owing to the length of its text.

Pigtails the Pirate, by David Elliot
Red Fox, 2003

Milli, Jack & the Dancing Cat, by Stephen Michael King

Milli is clever. She can take a thing that is nothing and turn it into something. She finds things that have been forgotten or discarded, gives them a bit of a wiggle, and transforms them into amazing things. But the other villagers don’t ever want anything amazing. What they do want are practical things. They have no time for anything different. So Milli spends her days making what the villagers need – sensible shoes and boots.

Every day is the same for Milli, until the day two strangers come to town. Jack and the Dancing Cat find Milli in her shop and she suggests they need new boots. They have no money to pay, but offer to give her dancing lessons in exchange.

So, Milli has dancing lessons and soon learns tap, jazz, ballet, the two step and more. And Milli is so inspired that she can’t make plain boots for Jack and the Cat. Instead she makes wonderful shoes, with clothes to match. That’s not all – she also makes things for herself. Soon her house and shop are so spectatcular people come from far and wide to see it.

Milli’s life will never be the same again.

Milli, Jack and the Dancing Cat is a whimsical tale with an important message about setting your imagination free and celebrating the joy of being yourself. King’s illustrations, as whimsical as the text, will delight young readers.

Lovely!

Milli, Jack and the Dancing Cat, by Stephen Michael King
Allen & Unwin, 2003

Cat and Fish, by Neil Curtis & Joan Grant

Cat and Fish come from different worlds – he from the land, she from the sea. But when they meet in the park one night they like each other’s looks.

Cat shows Fish his world and teaches her how to climb, how to shelter from rain, and how to keep warm. But Fish misses the sea, so Cat takes her back and meets her friends. Eventually, they reach a decision. They will live where the land meets the sea – at least until their next adventure.

The story of Cat and Fish is whimsical and charming, but the true delight in this book is the stunning illustrations of Neil Curtis. Using pen and ink, Curtis creates engraving style pictures in stunning black and white.Parents and children alike will love the uniqueness of Curtis’s style.

Charming.

Cat and Fish, by Neil Curtis & Joan Grant
Lothian, 2003

The Castaways of the Charles Eaton, by Gary Crew & Mark Wilson

When the ship Isabella sails from Sydney in June 1836, its orders are to search for survivors of the Charles Eaton, a ship which had been missing for two years.

What the crew of the Isabella found was disarming. On Murray Island, known to be inhabited by head hunters, they find just two survivors – a toddler and a young cabin boy – living with the natives. They also find seventeen skulls – the remains of the other victims of the wreck of the Charles Eaton. The islanders have slain these seventeen, but spared the boys because they were believed to be the ghosts of long-lost children now returned to them.

The story of the rescue of the two white boys and subsequent events is told by the fifteen year old clerk of the Isabella, whose job it is to try to keep the two survivors calm and happy on their trip back to Sydney. This chocie of narrator adds depth to the book, with the clerk’s insights and asides proving very telling.

Based on a factual story, author Gary Crew and illustrator Mark wilson weave a story of intrigue.

The Castaways of the Charles Eaton, by Gary Crew and Mark Eaton
Lothian, 2002

Animalia, by Graeme Base

Reviewed by Tash Hughes

One of Graeme Base’s earlier and best known books, Animaliais a treat.

Base himself didn’t think another alphabet book was needed in the world, so didn’t expect much of this book; how wrong he was! Animalia is an alphabet book, with most letters being allocated a single or double page. T and U, N and O share two pages between them.

Each letter has a poem that conjures up bizarre and interesting animal images, yet seems almost insignificant in the face of the illustrations.

Each page of the book is packed with pictures within pictures. The overall page scene relates to the letter’s verse; for instance, “Eight Enormous Elephants Expertly eating Easter Eggs” has a picture of eight elephants with Easter eggs!

Beyond that, the page contains many other items beginning with the letter for the page. In fact, there at least a thousand different alphabetised things in the book to find! Some are subtle, some are well hidden and some may take time to identify (such as the philosopher and politician, or the hamster, Humpty and hook). All are detailed and linked to the letter – even the can is a coke can and the wolf is white!

Like other books by Base, the book can appeal to many age groups, each group looking at the levels that are appropriate and being unaware of shared levels within.

As a final challenge, Base warns, “In Animalia, you see, It’s possible you might find me.” With care and effort, the boy Graeme can be found on each page in the book.

Some of the Animalia pages have also been made into jigsaw puzzles that are both fascinating and challenging because of the depths to each letter’s picture.

Animalia, by Graeme Base
Viking Kestrel, 1986