Luna-C by Jutta Goetze

In small town Lima (NOT Lima, Peru), two friends dream. Phoebe and Dale are singers who dream of being discovered – of being something, somebodies, away from the small town of their childhood where they work as strawberry pickers.

When Luna-C visits the town, that dream becomes stronger. Drawn to the band and especially its lead singer, Ric, Dale decides to pursue her dream of being a professional singer. Afraid of losing her friend and hoping for adventures of her own, Phoebe (Fee) joins her.

Making it in the city isn’t as easy as it seems. Initially unwelcome guests in the house shared by Ric and other members of Luna-C, Jane and Dan, Dale and Phoebe have to fight to be accepted. Making their mark as singers is even more difficult.

The other members of Luna-C have problems of their own. Jane is an alcoholic who struggles to cope with the real world, Dan is a drug dealer, and Ric attracts more women than he knows what to do with, including both Dale and Phoebe.

Luna-C is an absorbing tale of friendship, love and life in the alternative music scene. At times funny, at others tragically sad, it carries the reader along on its waves of emotion. Ostensibly a book for young adults, it will appeal to much older readers as well.

Jutta Goetze is an Australian writer of varying genres – including screen writing credits, a series of picture books and junior fiction titles. This is her first novel for young adults.

Luna-C, by Jutta Goetze (rrp$17.95)
Allen & Unwin, 2001

A Taste

And then its my turn. Me, in the spotlight. I can’t see anything out there, except what’s in my memory from the rip in the curtain; and memory turns the audience into cut-out silhouettes. I sing as low as I can, to be as manly as I can be, but as soon as I open my mouth one of those cows in the paddock outside bellows. That’d be right, upstaged by a cow. My slippers are too big and my belt’s slipping and so are the notes – they’ve suddenly eluded my range and have dropped into some cacophony of sound that isn’t mine, yet it’s coming from my mouth …

Starry Nights

Jess was happy living at Avalon, their old home by the bay, but now they’ve moved and something is wrong with their new house. Since they’ve moved, her sister Vida is wild and furious and believes in strange magic. Her brother Clem hasn’t even got around to unpacking and their mum doesn’t get out of bed – instead lying sick and silent in her bedroom upstairs.

Soon Jess realises something even more disconcerting. Someone is following her – running after her don the street, waiting out in the garden in night. But whoever this someone is, they seem to be invisible – Jess hears them more than sees them, catching only glimpses of a blue hem and a pair of legs.

But who can Jess turn to for help? Her father is busy working and caring for her mother, Clem doesn’t seem to be around and she daren’t tell Vida. Vida is already worried enough about all sorts of things, dragging Jess to seances and begging her to part in elaborate rituals to solve her problems. Of course her mother can’t help, lying cocooned in her bed. Jess may have to solve this mystery herself.

Starry Nights, by Judith Clarke, is a haunting mystery of a family caught in a twilight zone. Teenage readers will find themselves unable to put the book down and will find the ending satisfying. Judith Clarke has a long history of producing quality novels for young adult readers, including Friend of My Heart, Night Train and Wolf on the Fold, Winner of the 2001 Children’s Book of the Year for Older Readers.

Starry Nights, by Judith Clarke
Allen & Unwin, 2001.

A Taste

These last few months, Vida had started believing in all kinds of strange things she’d have laughed about when they lived back at Avalon. She’d tried every spell she could find in the dusty old books she brought home from op shops and garage sales; none of them ever worked and it was awful watching her try. Last Friday night when the moon was full Vida had run out into the garden, right down to the place where the big fir tree grew. From the window Jess had watched her sister walking around it backwards …

The Artist is a Thief

Jean-Loup’s task seems simple. A Melbourne-based financial advisor, he has been sent by ATSIC to Mission Hole Community to conduct an audit of its art centre. But Jean-Loup soon realises that nothing in this community is as simple as it appears.

The community’s most noted artist is Margaret Thatcher Gandarrway, whose works have achieved international recognition and attracted high prices. But something disturbing has happened. At the unveiling of her latest painting, the picture was found slashed and with the words “the artist is a thief” scrawled across it. The shock of this act and the implications of the message has sent shock waves around the art community. Is Margaret Thatcher Gandarrway a thief? And what exactly is it she has stolen?

When Jean-Loup Wild arrives at the community to investigate the running of the arts centre and to try to reinstate its credibility following these events, he meets with unexpected obstacles and opposition. On his first night in the community he comes across the murdered corpse of the person most likely to help in his investigation. No one else in the community even wants to talk to him, let alone help him.

Not only is the investigation proving difficult, but Jean-Loup has to face personal conflicts as well. he has a personal link to the community – his mysterious older sister Duchess whose history he would like to trace and who is partially the reason for his accepting this job. He also finds himself increasingly attracted to Petra, the beautiful Aboriginal woman who helps him in his investigations.

As he confronts his past, Jean-Loup must also confront the present. He must try to unravel the mystery of the murder, the elusive Margaret Thatcher Gandarrway, and the message on the painting, whilst working on a playing field where everyone but him seems to know the rules. Whilst piecing together the puzzle he gets to know himself and the society in which he live son a more intimate level than ever before.

The Artist is a Thief, winner of the The Australian/Vogel Literary Award, is a philosophical detective novel with a difference, sure to provoke thought as it entertains.

The Artist is a Thief, by Stephen Gray
Allen & Unwin, 2001.

Jenny Spaghetti

Jenny is five years old, and what she likes to eat, more than aything else, is spaghetti. Lots of it. She asks for spaghetti for breakfast, lunch and dinner. But she eats so much spaghetti that one morning she discovers that her hair has turned into spaghetti.

Jenny Spaghetti, the first book by writer and illustrator Karen Margaret, is the cute story of what happens as Jenny tries to solve her problem.

At the spaghetti factory where Jenny goes, looking for help, Jenny finds herself grabbed by a spaghetti machine and squished into a can. A journey through the production line follows and Jenny finds herself on a supermarket shelf, where she is a bought by a little old lady.

Imagine the lady’s surprise when she finds Jenny in her bowl at lunchtime. Together they try to solve Jenny’s dilemma – until the little old lady comes up with a very clever solution.

Children aged three to eight will enjoy this quirky tale. They will especially enjoy the fun and bright illustrations.

Jenny Spaghetti is the first publication of new Western Australian publisher Blossom Books. The quality of this hardback edition is to be applauded.

Jenny Spaghetti by Karen Margaret
Blossom Books, 2001.

Ideas For Parents and Educators

1. The first time you read the story, stop on the page before the old lady comes up with the solution (But it just grew back). Ask your child/ren for suggestions how they could solve Jenny’s problems. Discuss each one. Then finish reading the story.

2. Make a collage picture of Jenny. Draw her face then glue pieces of uncooked pasta or wool for her hair. If you are using pasta, have fun with the shapes and colours of different pasta – spaghetti, spirals, vegeroni and so on.

3. Discuss each child’s favourite food. For older children, have them write a story or draw a picture of what would happen if they turned into their favourite food.

4. For the littlies: Give children tubular pasta shapes for threading necklaces and bracelets. To make it more fun, dye the pasta with food colouring first.

5. Use a garlic press to make ‘spaghetti’ out of play dough. Make a ball of dough for jenny’s head and attach the spaghetti.

6. When you’ve finished reading and playing, have a big bowl of spaghetti for lunch and dinner.

Six White Boomers

If you are an Australian parent then there is a good chance that you grew up singing Six White Boomers at Christmas time. This song, and the legendary singer Rolf Harris, have been a art of Christmas in Australia since 1960. This Christmas you can share the magic with your children.

Rolf Harris and Scholastic Australia (under its Margaret Hamilton imprint) have combined to produce the song lyrics in a beautiful picture book with accompanying compact disc.

The book includes the full lyrics to the song, written by Rolf and his friend John D. Brown, with watercolour illustrations by Bruce Whatley bringing the song to life.

The CD includes a recording of the song so that you and your young ones can sing along with Rolf. And, if you want more, there are two bonus Rolf Harris tracks – Christmas in the Sun and Pavlova

An introduction at the beginning of the book explains how Rolf came to write the song. he explains that he was always amazed to hear Australian sing songs about snow and icicles in the middle of Australian, and so set out to write a song more appropriate to our climate and culture. The longevity of this song’s success indicates that he struck a chord with fellow Aussies.

Every Australian child deserves a copy of this book – one of the few Christmas songs written especially for Australian children. Friends and relatives overseas may also enjoy this piece of Australiana.

Six White Boomers by Rolf Harris and Bruce Whatley
A Margaret Hamilton Book from Scholastic Australia, 2001

Writing From Start to Finish

Writing should be an easy process – pick up a pen, come up with something to write about – and write. Unfortunately, it isn’t always that easy. If you find yourself regularly staring at a blank page wondering just what it is you should be writing, then Writing From Start to Finish is for you.

Award winning write Kate Grenville shares her method for dealing with writing tasks – the Six-Step Method. Through the use of exercises, examples and explanations, she guides readers through the application of the six steps for both imaginative writing assignments and essay assignments.

The book would make an excellent text for high school or university English and writing classes but would also be an excellent personal resource for any writer’s home library.

Kate Grenville is one of Australia’s best known writers, having published six novels, and winning the Orange Prize for Fiction for The Idea of Perfection. Her other book for writers, the Writing Book, is an outstanding resource for both novice and professional writers.

Writing From Start to Finish, by Kate Grenville
Allen & Unwin, 2001

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

Possum Pictures

Australia’s unique animals are a favourite subject for children’s writers. Two enduring classics have possums as their central characters.

In Possum Magic, by Mem Fox, we meet Grandma Poss, who is no ordinary possum – she makes bush magic. Blue wombats, smiling dings amd shrinking emus are all in her repertoire. But her best piece of magic makes young Hush invisible. This is all very well until one day Hush decides she would like to see what she looks like.

Grandma Poss and Hush embark on an adventure to find the right magic to make Hush visible again. Along the way they sample all the best of Australian foods – but will they find the answer to Hush’s problem?

Possum Magic was Fox’s first published work, making its debut in 1983, but is still delighting both youngsters and their parents. The tale is perfectly accomplished by gorgeous illustrations by the talented Julie Vivas.

In Possum in the House by Kiersten Jensen, no one is happy when a possum gets in – in the pantry he spills the cornflakes, in the laundry he rips the shirts, and in the lounge he scratches the records. Will Mum and Dad ever catch him?

This gorgeous story is sure to be a favourite with both children and parents because of its flowing, up-beat rhythm and cute ending. The detailed illustrations by Tony Oliver make a perfect complement to the text.

Both of these books will make excellent additions to your child’s book collection.

Possum Magic, by Mem Fox
Omnibus Books, 1983.

Possum in the house by Kiersten Jensen
Childerset Books, 1986.

Blaze

The anticipated announcement of Nina Jansous’ retirement as the Editor in Chief of internationally acclaimed magazine, BLAZE, is causing ripples of anticipation among younger, ambitious magazine staff, especially Ali Gruber. Ali is eagerly awaiting her chance to be editor of the magazine.

But Nina does not announce her retirement, instead deciding to head the setting up of an Australian edition of the magazine. To top it off, she wants Ali to come with her – to be the editor of this publication.

In Australia, Ali struggles to win the confidence of her staff. She also has to confront the demons of her youth, spent here in Australia before her escape to the States. Nina is not there to support – she is off on a quest of her own to confront her own past. Neither is Ali’s deputy, Larissa Kelly, likely to be an ally. Larissa finds herself trying to keep the magazine together in the wake of Ali’s failures.

Blaze, Di Morrissey’s ninth novel, provides a gripping expose of the cutthroat world of glossy magazines. The stories of the women at the center of the novel are different yet wonderfully intertwined. An excellent read.

Blaze, by Di Morrissey
Pan Macmillan Australia, 2000