Possum Magic, by Mem Fox and Julie Vivas

Grandma Poss made bush magic.
She made wombats blue and kookaburras pink.
She made dingoes smile and emus shrink.
But the best magic of all was the magic that made Hush INVISIBLE.

For thirty years Possum Magic has been delighted young readers from Australia and around the world. The delightful, magical tale of a possum named Hush whose Grandma makes her invisible to keep her safe, then forgets how to make her visible again is one that is so very Australian and never fails to delight.

To celebrate the thirtieth anniversary of its release, Omnibus Books have produced a gorgeous anniversary edition, in hardcover with a slipcase. The red cover is embossed with silver stars, and a front cover picture of Grandma Poss poring over her magic book as Hush sleeps, with a back cover embossed image of Hush reaching for one of the stars.

For collectors, this is a beautiful new edition, but for readers of all ages, it’s a sturdy, long-lasting format which is a fitting tribute to one of Australia’s best-loved children’s books.


Possum Magic, by Mem Fox & Julie Vivas
This edition Omnibus, 2013
ISBN 9781742990002

Available from good bookstores or online. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

Three Hours Late, by Nicole Trope

Once, so very long ago, she had watched him like this when he came to pick her up for a date…Her stomach fluttered and burned with infatuation and desire. She would watch him walk up the path and think, ‘This must be love.’

Liz is afraid. She’s taken her son and fled a violent marriage. Now her precious son, Luke, is out on an access visit with his father – and they’re late home. She’s always been sure Alex would never hurt Luke, but today she’s no so sure. Today she’s told him, once and for all, that she isn’t coming back to him. Is this the news that will push him over the edge? As he minutes turn to hours, Liz knows something terrible has happened. The trick is getting anyone else to believe her.

Three Hours Late is a wrenching tale of marriage break up, love and desperation. As Liz waits, we learn the tale of her own marriage as well as those of hers and Alex, building a picture not just of what has happened but, to some extent, why. The story blends suspense with empathy in a mi which keeps the reader guessing right till the end.

Three Hours Late

Three Hours Late, by Nicole Trope
Allen & Unwin, 2013
ISBN 9781743313152

Available from good bookstores or online.

What the Raven Saw by Samantha-Ellen Bound

He sat perched on the bottom gable of the church’s roof, a smudge of glossy blue-black with a tiny, alabaster eye.

The raven was trying to watch the funeral below, but he had to keep looking back to check the weatherhen wasn’t giving him the eye.

Oh, the shame of it.

He sat perched on the bottom gable of the church’s roof, a smudge of glossy blue-black with a tiny, alabaster eye.

The raven was trying to watch the funeral below, but he had to keep looking back to check the weatherhen wasn’t giving him the eye.

Oh, the shame of it.

She had the act down pat – pretend to be all nice and silent and still. The perfect little weathervane, pointing from north from south. No problems here. But as soon as the raven let his guard down, there she was with her beady eyes.

She was after something of his. He knew it. But no amount of razzle dazzle would get her anywhere near his treasure.

What the Raven Saw is narrated, as the title suggests, by a raven. Raven lives in a church yard. It’s generally peaceful, people mostly left him alone, and that suited him just fine. It was a great place to hide his treasure too. Then there was the bonus of the Sunday morning singing, led by his only friend and equal, the splendid-voiced Father Cadman. Then a young boy’s funeral introduces Raven to her sister, the fiercely angry Mackenzie. Raven despises pigeons, is very wary of the obviously-avaricious weatherhen, mostly ignored the moaning ghosts of the graveyard, but Todd, the young boy, is impossible to ignore and Raven’s life begins to change. For reasons he’s not very keen to explore, Raven is the lynch-pin in lives and happenings all around him.

Raven is a delightfully grumpy, proud and self-contained protagonist. He thinks well of himself and apparently not much of anyone else. ‘What the Raven Saw’ is full of lovely language and an unusual observation of life. Raven can speak to and understand fellow birds, scarecrows, ghosts and humans. His musings are wonderfully funny and his pronouncements sometimes absurd. While he observes sadness and anger in the humans, he also experiences their optimism and belief. Those fortunate enough to hear Raven speak seem intent on seeing only good in him, despite his best efforts. Gradually, their belief in him allows him to see beyond his assertions and to live the good they are sure is there. This is a warm and gently humourous look at life through the eyes of a bird. Recommended for mid-primary readers and beyond.

What the Raven Saw

What the Raven Saw, Samantha-Ellen Bound
Woolshed Press 2013
ISBN: 9781742757353

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author


Available from good bookstores or online.

Meet My Book: Clementine Rose and the Perfect Present, by Jacqueline Harvey

I’m having lots of fun ‘meeting’ the new releases of wonderful Aussie authors. Today it’s time to hear from the wonderful Jacqueline Harvey, here to tell us about her latest book. Welcome Jacqueline.

  1. Give us the details – title, publisher, illustrator, release date.

My latest book is Clementine Rose and the Perfect Present; Random House released 1 May 2013.  This is my third book for the year and it’s the third book in the Clementine Rose series.

Clementine Rose and the Perfect Present

2. Why did you write the book?

Clementine Rose and the Perfect Present is the third book in a series about a very sweet little girl and the adventures she has with her family and her teacup pig called Lavender.

3. How long from idea to publication?

I started writing the book in November 2012, although the idea had been percolating for a couple of months before that.  It has been a very fast turnaround as there are eight Clementine Rose books currently contracted with Random House and the release dates are only three months apart.
4. What was the hardest thing about writing it?

Time!  I’ve got two characters, Clementine Rose and Alice-Miranda on the go at the moment and this year there will be 6 new books including the Alice-Miranda diary for 2014.  Until  November last year I was working full time as the Director of Development at a school for girls in Sydney and writing on the weekends, in the evenings and during my holidays (basically anytime I wasn’t asleep or at work).  When I finished up at work I went on tour with Random House straight away so it really wasn’t until early December that I could get my teeth into the book properly.  Then it was incredibly intense with lots of writing and re-writing over the next month or so – I basically locked myself away for the summer and wrote.
5. Coolest thing about your book?

I think the coolest thing about my book is that there is a wedding at Clementine’s house in a huge marquee in the back garden.  Many of the guests are Sri Lankan and wear beautiful saris.  Clementine is very impressed by the fact that there is a wedding and with her penchant for clothes, she adores seeing the bride and guests.  The wedding planner, Sebastian Smote is pretty funny too.
6. Something you learnt through writing the book?

I had to do some research about Sri Lankan customs and what their flag looked like too.  I also learned about different types of cicadas but I can’t tell you why or it would give away the surprise.

7. What did you do celebrate the release?

Alice-Miranda in Paris was launched on the 1st March and we had a huge afternoon tea party at Shearer’s in Leichhardt with delicious French food, a fashion parade and craft activities where the girls fashioned colourful berets for Alice-Miranda to wear.  We had a second party at the Children’s Bookshop at Beecroft a couple of weeks ago.  Clementine’s book, coming hot on the heels of Alice-Miranda has been a little more low key but I’ve been touring schools and last weekend spent a couple of hours at the PLC Croydon Fair promoting both books.  In a couple of weeks we’ll celebrate at the official reopening of a lovely bookshop in St Ives called Book Review.
8. And how will you promote the book?

On my blogs and website, the Random House website, touring schools, visiting bookshops and any other publicity opportunities that come along.
9. What are you working on next?

I have just finished the structural edits for Alice-Miranda Shines Bright and Clementine Rose and the Farm Fiasco a week apart.  Now I am starting on the ninth Alice-Miranda title but at the moment I’m still debating exactly what it’s going to be.
10. Where we can find out more about you and your book?

I have a website www.jacquelineharvey.com.au and two blogs, http://alice-miranda.blogspot.com and http://jacquelineharvey.blogspot.com They are all linked and I try to update the blogs as often as I can.

Thanks Jacqueline. Clementine Rose and the Perfect Present is available now in good bookstores or online.

Bureau of Mysteries and the Mechanomancers, by HJ Harper

I was about to take refuge under a table when a shadow fell across the hotel room, and I looked up to find a bull picking its way down Main Street. But this was no regular bovine: it stood three stories tall and was made of metal. Its iron hide glinted in the bright sunlight as clouds of steam snorted from its nostrils. The bull pawed at the earth and let out a bellow so loud it hurt my ears.

The land of Obscuria is in trouble once again. as crafty Mechanomancers wreak havoc. Blending magic with technology the giant trouble makers seem usntoppable. Even George and his partner Imp Spektor, and their fellows in the Bureau of Mysteries, are struggling to find a mix – but the heroic adventurer Lord Perwinkle Tinkerton seems to know how to overcome the menace. Could he be that with Tinkerton on the job, the Bureau is no longer relevant?

The Mechanomancers is the second in the Bureau of Mysteries series, a fast paced, code-cracking, humorous adventure for primary aged readers. With a steam punk flavour, and plenty of weird characters and messy scrapes, there’s a lot here to like.

Told from the first person perspective of George Featehr, a former chimney sweeper who has been taken into the Bureau because of his abilities to crack codes, the story moves quickly, encouraging readers to stop and have a go at cracking various codes, but allowing them to also progress without doing it for themselves.

Although this is the second in a series, it can be read independently of the first.

Bureau of Mysteries 2 (Bureau of Mysteries)

The Mechanomancers (Bureau of Mysteries), by HJ Harper, illustrated by Nahum Ziersch
Random House, 2013
ISBN 9781742756486

Available online or from good bookstores.

Horizons, edited by Janette Fernando

Reviewed by Dale Harcombe

One again Poetic Christi Press has come up with an anthology that represents a cross section of poets and poetry. The striking photograph the front cover beautifully illustrates the theme of the 2010 Poetica Christi poetry contest from which these poems have been selected.

From the personal and poignant picture presented in the winning poem Earthly Ending with its subtle internal rhymes to Miriam, which gives another insight into the story of Moses found by the Pharaoh’s daughter, there is much to like about this book.  It is one I found myself dipping into again and again.

I liked the profound simplicity of To See Further, which was a highly commended entry as was City’s Edge, another highly commended poem. Backyard Horizon: Arundel Street focuses on the small and seemingly insignificant aspects of creation often overlooked. The photograph on the same page compliments it perfectly.

Like any anthology there is a little unevenness in the quality of the poems chosen, but there are still a majority of accomplished poems that resonate with the reader. Some others I particularly like were Horizons. I loved the idea of the sun and the way the poet sees it soak the city salmon pink at sundown. The wonder of a young child’s view is evident in Z in the Sky, a commended poem. But it’s not just the winning and commended poems which are worth reading. You could almost feel the rhythm of the water in Floodtide. Rained-in and But the Sun is a Stone, and The Road to the Coast were others among many favourites. However on further readings I’m sure I’ll find other favourites.


Edited by Janette Fernando

Published by Poetica Christi Press


RRP $20

The Reunion, by Joanne Fedler

Helen and I have different parenting styles. Hers is the ‘let them get on with it’ kind. Mine is the type where I’m always graduating from one worry (like SIDS, choking on small objects and drowning in shallow water) to another (crossing roads, going unaccompanied into public toilets and getting rides with friends’ boyfriends who’ve only just got their license). Which, if you think about it, says more about the society we live in – that rapists and appalling drivers coexist with my children – than it does about me.

The Reunion

Jo, Helen, Ereka and CJ have been friends since they joined a mothers’ group, but now their kids are teens and almost-teens their lives are very different. It’s been a while since they last had a weekend away together, but it’s finally come together, and, along with some new friends, they’re heading out a luxurious country house for some quality time together – eating, drinking and, importantly talking.But will their friendship survive the weekend unscathed?

The Reunion is a sequel to the 2006 title Secret Mother’s Business, and includes several of the same characters, along with some new ones. In the first book the mothers dealt with issues common to young families. Now, they are raising teens and pre-teens, and facing issues of nearing middle age. Readers who connected with the first book are likely to similarly connect with the second, being  likely that they have faced this new group of situations, too. The characters are as likeable as they are varied, and it isn’t hard to connect with them.

Whilst Fedler takes the time to explain that the work is mostly a work of fiction, it was inspired by a weekend away with friends, and many of the situations and conversations used are based on real experiences.As a result, it is easy to relate to the women of The Reunion.

The Reunion, by Joanne Fedler
Allen & Unwin, 2012
ISBN 9781742375595

Available from good bookstores or online from Fishpond.

Waiting at the Gate, by Robyn Caughlan with Jason K Foster

Every day, I’d watch to see if Mum was coming to get me like she’d promised. I’d counted out the fourteen days, and then some, but still no cars. I stopped counting and began to wonder when Mum, if ever, was going to come for me.
Waiting at the gate became a vigil.

Waiting at the Gate

When Robyn’s mother sends her for a holiday with a childless couple, she tells her it will only be for two weeks. but the two weeks pass, and then two more, and soon Robyn comes to realise that no matter how long she waits at the gate, her mother won’t appear. But the couple who have taken her in, the Reids, love her like a daughter, and work hard to win her trust and repair the damage which her father’s abuse has done.

It is’t easy for Robyn to cope with this traumatic past, and her separation from her large family, and in her young adult life, she finds herself in more difficult situations: married at seventeen, trapped in abusive relationships, and uncertain of her own worth. But when she discovers her artistic abilities she begins to turn her life around.

Waiting at the Gate is a powerfully moving memoir from successful artist and renowned international fashion designer, Robyn Caughlan. Caughlan shares her story with heartbreaking honesty, taking the reader on a troubled journey through experiences no child, or woman, should have to cope with, through to wonderful moments of triumph.

Not an easy story, but an important one, and, ultimately, uplifting.

Waiting at the Gate, by Robyn Caughlan with Jason K Foster
Magabala Press, 2012
ISBN 9781921248528

Available from good bookstores or online from Fishpond.

The Greedy Crocodile, by Sally Morgan

When Shontu the crocodile finally hatched from his egg, his mother thought he was the sweetest of all her little crocs hatched that day. But she soon changed her mind when he sank his sharp little teeth into her tail and began chewing. Imagine being so greedy that you;d take a bite out of your own mother!

Shontu the crocodile is so greedy that even the other crocodiles don’t trust him. Everyone lives in fear of him, but it is only Granny Wongon who can think of a way to stop him. ‘The Greedy Crocodile’ is just one of ten intriguing tales in the collection of the same name. other stories tell of a girl who can’t stop shouting, a boy who nearly wishes his life away and a Good Spirit who tries to outwit a grumpy frog.

The stories are not traditional tales, but draw on author Sally Morgan’s love of such tales, and of Australian landscapes and animals. Some are influenced, she says in the preface, by her own childhood, whilst others have been suggested by family members.  Each story is accompanied by one or more colourful illustrations, adding interest.

An excellent companion to Morgan’s earleir collection, The Flying Emu, The Greedy Crocodile will appeal to primary aged readers and could be used in the classroom.

The Greedy Crocodile

The Greedy Crocodile, by Sally Morgan
Walker Books, 2012
ISBN 9781921720659

Available from good bookstores or online.

My Father’s Islands by Christobel Mattingley

‘Hello! Call me Claesgen.

Do you like islands? Do you wish you could discover a treasure island? What kind of treasure would you like to find? Gold? Silver? Rubies? Sapphires?

My father is very good at discovering islands. Big ones as well as small ones. He has seen more islands than a fish has scales. What is your father good at?

‘Hello! Call me Claesgen.

Do you like islands? Do you wish you could discover a treasure island? What kind of treasure would you like to find? Gold? Silver? Rubies? Sapphires?

My father is very good at discovering islands. Big ones as well as small ones. He has seen more islands than a fish has scales. What is your father good at?

Do you have breakfast with your father? Every day? I wish I did. Does he come home every night? I wish mine did. Do you eat dinner with him?

My mother says I ask too many questions. Do people say that to you too?

Claesgen is the daughter of Dutch explorer Abel Tasman. Abel Tasman was employed by the Dutch East Indies Company, based in what we now know as Indonesia. He was away at sea for many months at a time. His family moved to Indonesia to be closer to him, but he could away at sea for almost a year, so they didn’t see him very often. But when he did return, he was full of stories. Some of these stories were detailed in his ship’s log/diary, but others were just for Claesgen and her mother. Claesgen tells her story and that of her father from her perspective. She also speaks directly to the reader, supposing a reader of her age, from 1642-4. The text is interspersed with paintings, maps, and writings taken from Tasman’s own records.

It’s hard to know where to place My Father’s Islands. It’s written for mid- to upper primary reader, but has resonance for a much wider age-group. Claesgen’s curiosity and unending questions intersperse her retelling of an adventure that is unimaginable to most of us. It is a part of history that many Australians are under- or unaware of. Readers will engage on different levels. Some will relate to the notion of fathers who are not always home. Others will respond to the details of life at sea, and/or to the interactions that Tasman and his crew have with inhabitants of the lands they visit and map. ‘My Father’s Islands’ is a fascinating insight into another time and way of life. Recommended for mid- upper primary and anyone wanting to learn more about Australia.

My Father's Islands: Abel Tasman's Heroic Voyages

My Father’s Islands: Abel Tasman’s Heroic Voyages, Christobel Mattingley NLA Publishing 2012 ISBN: 9780642277367

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author