Grandma Cadbury's Bikie Gang, by Dianne Bates

Cadbury tells all his mates his Grandma’s getting a Harley – and loves their jealous reaction. Soon he’s off cruising the highways on the back of Grandma’s Custom Softail. It’s just one of the wild things his Grandma has done – she used to drive a big rig, and after that a mini bus to take tourists around Australia. Now she’s staying nearer to home to be with Cadbury when his mother is away. And Cadbury couldn’t be happier.

Well, he could be happier – if all the pesky girls in his class would just leave him alone. They seem to think he’s cute and they want to kiss him – yuck.

Outside of school, Cadbury and his Grandma and her biker friends have loads of fun and exciting adventures. Some are more scary than exciting. Perhaps the scariest of all is when a new girl comes to school – and turns out to be part of the gang.

Grandma Cadbury’s Bikie Gang is the third book about Grandma Cadbury and her hilarious adventures. Author Dianne Bates has a special talent for stories which are silly, adventurous and educational all at the same time. Good fun.

Grandma Cadbury’s Bikie Gang, by Dianne Bates
Angus & Robertson, 1993

The Boy Who Loved Chocolate and Other Stories, by Dianne Bates

What would happen if you loved chocolate so much that you stole some from your auntie’s sweet shop? What if she was able to turn you into a statue?And what would happen if your Mum’s new boyfriend was a vampire and crept into your room at night?

Author Dianne Bates knows the answers to these questions – because these and other questions are at the heart of the short stories in The Boy Who Loved Chocolate and Other Stories.

The eight stories in the book are as entertaining as they are different – as well as the chocolate thief and the vampire boyfriend, there are female bushrangers, magician uncles, a dog called Custard and more.

Ideal for classroom use, the stories are also great for readers who like to read just a little at a time – a complete story can be devoured in one sitting.

Published in 1990 and followed by several reprints, The Boy Who Loved Chocolate remains a great collection of short stories for 8 to 12 year olds.

The Boy Who Loved Chocolate and Other Stories
, by Dianne Bates
Omnibus Books, 1990

Rose, by Robert Wainwright

When Lang Hancock married Rose Lacson in 1985 it was a fairly quiet wedding – held in Sydney, away from the glare of the media and with only a few carefully selected guests. It is unlikely that Hancock could forsee that this was the beginning, however, of an increasingly public life. The marriage would send the previously private man into the public eye, a situation which would endure even long past his death.

Since that wedding, Rose Hancock Porteous has become one of Australia’s most recognisable and talked-about women. Known for her lavish parties, expensive tastes and outlandish behaviour, Rose continues to attract media attention. In Rose, Western Australian writer and journalist, Robert Wainwright provides a gripping account of this flamboyant woman.

From her childhood in the Philippines, to her first and second marriages and on to her third – with Lang – and fourth, with Willie Porteous, Wainwright provides insight into Rose’s life and motivations. Wainwright uses his own lengthy media association with Rose, as well as detailed research and interviews, to present an account which is as insightful as it is balanced.

A compelling read.

Rose, by Robert Wainwright
Allen & Unwin, 2002

A Child's True Book of Crime, by Chloe Hooper

Having an affair with a married man is always risky, more so when that man is the father of your star pupil. And when his wife has just written a book about a murder with strange parallels to your own situation, then the affair is positively dangerous.

Kate Byrne is aware of these risks, yet continues her affair with Thomas Marnes, hoping his wife Veronica does not know.

When late-night phone calls and unexplained car troubles begin to effect her, it is too late to tun back. She must weather the storm as she is carried on an unstoppable tide of fear.

A Child’s True Book of Crime
is a stunning first novel, from the talented Chloe Hooper. It is a hard book to classify – part thriller, part satire, part literary fiction – and even part children’s story. But it is the inability to classify the book which makes it so intriguing. It is unlike any other book.

A Child’s True Book of Crime, by Chloe Hooper
Vintage, 2002

The Very Blue Thingamajig, by Narelle Oliver

Creak…crunch…crack! From an egg covered in more spots than you could possibly count, came a very blue thingamajog. The other thingamajigs gathered around to see the new arrival, but didn’t stay long. This thingamajig was just too plain and boring, so he was left alone.

But, one Sunday morning, the thingamajig woke up to find he had a very curly tail. On Tuesday, he found he had a new pair of yellow wings. For the rest of the week, there was some new and interesting addition every day, until the next Sunday he was ready to show the other thingamajigs. Their reaction was not quite what the thingamajig expected.

The Very Blue Thinggamajig
is a fun lift-the-flap book, which teaches the concepts of days of the week and counting, at the same time as providing a gentle lesson on differences. Author/illustrator Narelle Oliver uses simple language and rich pastel colours to create a gentle but fun story.

Oliver is the author and illustrator of many award-winning picture books, including The Hunt and Baby Bilby, Where Do You Sleep?

The Very Blue Thingamajig,by Narelle Oliver
Omnibus, an imprint of Scholastic, 2003

Dancing Night, Tonight, by Ian Bone

Every Tuesday night Millie’s Mama goes out dancing. Millie stays home with Dad, but that’s okay because Millie has dancing night at home.

Mama and Millie put on their matching dresses, their shiny red dancing shoes and put ribbons in their hair. Then Mama goes out while Millie dances with Papa in the loungeroom.

Soon, though, doubts creep in. What if Mama can’t get home, or forgets to come home, or – worst of all – doesn’t want to come home? Gently her father reminds her of the links she shares with her mother, sending the fears dancing on their way, until Millie’s mother comes home with the final reassurance.

Dancing Night, Tonight is a gentle picture book from writer Ian Bone and illustrator Anna Pignataro. Pignataro’s illustrations, using a combination of pencil, water colour, ink and gouache, create an almost dream-like quality to the story and echo the gentleness of the text.

A perfect bed-time story.

Dancing Night, Tonight
, by Ian Bone, illustrated by Anna Pignataro
Scholastic, 2003

Shutting the Chooks In, by Libby Gleeson

As night draws near, the boy must feed the chooks and shut them in their pen. Across the farm yard he goes, past the buildings, machinery and trees of the farm yard.

He calls to the chooks and they follow him to their yard where he feeds them and counts them, speaking to them by name. But one chook is missing and it is getting dark. He must find the missing chook before the fox comes prowling, and conquer his own uncertainties about crossing the dark yard to get home.

Shutting the Chooks In is a charming new picture book from writer Libby Gleeson and illustrator Ann James. With minimal words, Gleeson creates rather than describes the emotions of the young boy, who remains nameless, portraying his closeness with the chickens (each of which does have a name) and his sense of duty. His uncertainty about the dark is also drawn by the word choice, and the reader can feel his heart pumping as he runs home, to joyfully greet his mother waiting inside the back door.

Ann Gleeson’s charcoal and pastel illustrations complement the simplicity of the text, with the colours of the twilight subtly creeping in as the story progresses. The golden light of home shining on the last page frames the boy on his triumphant return.

Charming.

Shutting the Chooks In, by Libby Gleeson, illustrated by Ann James
Scholastic Australia, 2003

The Gentleman's Garden, by Catherine Jinks

In the early 1800s, Dorothea Brande accompanies her new husband on his regimental tour of duty to colonial New South Wales. From the polite circles of her Devonshire home, to the harshness of the colony proves a terrifying adjustment for the couple.

Dorothea struggles both with the physical harshness and the desperation and brutality of most of the colony’s residents. For her husband Charles, the colony is similarly depleting. However, rather than draw them together, this mutual discomfort drives them apart

Dorothea, searching desperately for a comfort zone which will connect her with home, decides to create a cottage garden around their humble home. As she directs her convict servant Daniel in this task the pair build a strange bond. The garden is a haven for them both.

Author Catherine Jinks interweaves historical fact with a compelling story, so that the reader can truly experience Dorothea’s desperation and sense of alienation. The characters of the colony, from all walks of life, are deftly portrayed, and the development of the three principals, Dorothea, her husband Charles, and the servant Daniel is both believable and enduring.

The Gentleman’s Garden is an enticing read for lovers of historical fiction or literary masterpieces.

Catherine Jinks is a versatile writer whose work ranges across genres and age groups from children to adult. She lives in New South Wales. Her children’s novel Eglantine (Allen and Unwin,2002) is also reviewed on this site.

The Gentleman’s Garden, by Catherine Jinks
Allen & Unwin, 2002

Pincus Corbett's Strange Adventure, by Odo Hirsch

Pincus Corbett works hard in his tailor shop, attending to every detail, working late when customers have special orders. His is a hard-working, very regular life. But one night, as he works late, a mysterious customer puts in a very strange order. He wants a multicoloured suit with matching cape, made to order from an old sketch. Pincus obliges, but doesn’t know why anyone would want to wear such a suit.

When the man doesn’t come to claim the special suit, Pincus decides to try it on for himself. When his wife finds him gone the next morning she is mystified – where has he gone and why?

The media aren’t much interested in Pincus’ disappearance. They are far more interested in a strange hypnotist who appears at Sir Malcom Hersey’s party, and in the Prime Minister’s sudden unplanned holiday.

Meanwhile, Pincus finds himself caught up into a secret mission the likes of which he could never have anticipated.Is he really a hypnotist? And will he evr get back to his wife?

Pincus Corbett’s Strange Adventure is a fun book from acclaimed story teller Odo Hirsch. In his regular brilliant fashion, Hirsch weaves a fantasy full of humour and adventure, yet manages to touch on themes of loyalty and guilt.

Brilliant!

Pincus Corbett’s Strange Adventure
, by Odo Hirsch
Allen & Unwin, 2002

Deadly Tide, by Sandy Curtis

When Chayse is assigned to an undercover op working on a fishing boat, he is determined not to get personally involved. But that determination is in danger of cracking when he meets the new skipper of the trawler, Samantha Bretton.

Samantha has her own reasons for not getting involved – not with Chayse, or any other man. On top of whatever lurks in her past, her father has been wrongly charged with murder and has a broken leg preventing him from returning to the boat. Samantha must work the trawler or her father faces losing it.

Thrown together by the confines of the boat and by a series of misfortunes, Samantha and Chayse fight their feelings for each other. Even when they acknowledge their bond, each has secrets which could break the relationship apart. Despite this, however, the pair continue to work at solving the murder attributed to Sam’s father. Perhaps if they can unravel that mystery they can begin to work out their other problems.

Deadly Tide is the first gripping mystery title from author Sandy Curtis. With a special combination of mystery, suspense and romance, it is a compelling read.

Deadly Tide, by Sandy Curtis
Pan Macmillan, 2003