Sister Chick, by Meme McDonald

At the same moment that Eva is born, a Curlew chick hatches. Despite being on opposite sides of the world, Sister Chick and Eva share a special bond that connects their lives.

Behind her back fence, Eva sees a marshy rubbish dump – once a resting point for curlews on their migration travels. When she finds the body of a curlew there, Eva dreams the journey of the migrating birds as they travel from their breeding grounds in Siberia to the warmth of the south. This dream makes her start an ambitious project – cleaning up the dump area so the birds can come back.

When Sister Chick finds her way to the resting place, she returns Eva’s favour in a special way.

Sister Chick is a special story of friendship, loyalty and conservation. It is an easy to read but inspirational book for 8 to 12 year olds.

Meme McDonald is a writer and photgrapher. Previous books include Put Your Whole Self In and The Way the Birds Fly. She has also written a series of books in partnership with Boori Monty Pryor, including My Girragundjia and Flytrap.

Sister Chick, by Meme McDonald
Allen & Unwin, 2002

Butterflies, by Susanne Gervay

Katherine is just like any other eighteen year old – she has dreams and she has insecurities. Still, she is keenly aware that she doesn’t look like other eighteen year olds. An accident at the age of three has left her with severe burn scars.

At times Katherine believes that no one else can possibly understand her problems, but as she deals with them and grows, she learns to communicate – with those around her and with herself. She faces her troubles with dignity and with humour, refusing to give in to self pity.

Butterflies is a superb young adult novel. Author Susanne Gervay has a wonderful talent for creating stories which explore serious issues with a perfect blend of humour and empathy, of detail and entertainment. Her books don’t hold back from the truth, but are positive and uplifting.

Butterflies is an inspirational novel by an inspirational author.

Butterflies, by Susanne Gervay
Angus & Robertson, 2001

Journey to the Stone Country, by Alex Miller

Finding her once-predictable, stable marriage in tatters, Annabelle flees to the security of her family home in Townsville and the support of an old friend. Invited on an archeological survey she meets Bo, a man who tells her they have met before and hints that he knows much about her.

As they get to know each other, Annabelle is disconcerted by Bo’s suggestion that he holds the key to her future. At the same time she is drawn to him in a way she has not been drawn to any other man.

Together the pair travel through places and memories which lead towards understading of themselves and each other, but at the same time threatens their possible happiness.

Whilst romance and landscape each play a part here, Journey to the Stone Country is about much more. The stone country traversed by the book’s characters is not just a part of remote Australia, but an inner landscape which we all must travel and explore. It is a story of our own time – of accepting our past – individual and collective, of moving toward a combined future. A story about racial differences and common ground. It is a story for every Australian.

Alex Miller was born in London and came to Australia when he was seventeen. His previous works have included the Ancestor Game (1997) which won the Miles Franklin Award, and the Commonwealth Writers Prize, and Conditions of Faith (2000), which won the Christina Stead Prize for Fiction.

Journey to the Stone Country, by Alex Miller
Allen & Unwin, 2002.

Walking Home With Marie-Claire, by Kirsty Murray

Pauline has never met anybody like Marie-Claire, who walks into her classroom one day and changes her outlook on life. Being with Marie-Claire is exciting. Marie-Claire’s father is a former Russian prince and her brother a Vietnam war hero. Marie-Claire knows how to have fun!

Pauline’s once close-knit family is falling apart. Her older brother Brian is a draft-dodger and her older sister Sue has run away from home. Her Mum and Dad are unhappy and don’t even seem to see her. So spending time with Marie-Claire provides a welcome escape for Pauline.

But sometimes things aren’t as they seem. Sometimes Marie-Claire’s actions are just a little too dangerous, and other times she contradicts herself. When she disappears, Pauline begins to see a different picture – and isn’t sure she likes it.

Walking Home With Marie-Claire is an exploration of family, friendship and the pressures of conformity. Its seventies backdrop gives it a touch of nostalgia for adult readers, and a touch of mystique for younger ones, as well as allowing issues of freedom and conformity to be explored through the turbulent times of the Vietnam War and the youth culture of the time.

Walking Home With Marie-Claire will particularly appeal to readers aged 10 to 14 years and would be suitable for the classroom context in the early years of secondary school.

Walking Home With Marie-Claire, by Kirsty Murray
Allen & Unwin, 2002

Colossal Creatures, by Nick Hughes

Dinosaurs lived long ago and grew to a massive size
But if they lived with us today, you wouldn’t believe your eyes.

Kids love books with different formats, and Colossal Creatures, with a flap to lift on every page, is sure to delight. The simple rhyming text by Nick Hughes, contrasts the ancient dinosaurs with the animals, people and buildings of today.

The highlight of the book is the brilliant illustrations of Mini Goss, who conistently produces work of this standard. Bold colours and lively detail are Goss’s specialty and in Colossal Creatures she makes excellent use of the lift the flap format.

Colossal Creatures, is equally appropriate for the home and educational context.

Colossal Creatures, by Nick Hughes, Illustrated by Mini Goss
Koala Books, 2002

Eglantine, by Catherine Jinks

Allie and Bethan can’t wait to move into their new house – because they will finally have their own bedrooms. When Mum buys it, it is a bit of a dump, but by the time they move in it’s been repainted and renovated. Perfect.

But something strange is happening in Bethan’s bedroom. Mysterious writing is appearing on the walls, written by an unseen hand. Bethan refuses to stay in the room and, pretty soon, he and Allie are sharing again. Allie is not happy with this and is determined to solve the mystery.

It appears the writing is some kind of story, written by the ghost of a girl who used to live in the house, Eglantine Higgins. Was she murdered here? And why is she writing on the walls? Aggie and her family, along with various psychics, ghost experts and other new-age helpers, must resolve Eglantine’s problem, before she drives them from the house.

Eglantine is a superb ghost story which will especially appeal to girls aged 10 to 12, and even older. It combines mystery with humour and more serious themes. In particular, we see Allie becoming more in tune with herself as she gets to know Eglantine.

Catherine Jinks is an Australian author who has written over twenty books for children and young adults. She lives in the Blue Mountains with her husband and daughter.

Eglantine: A Ghost Story
, by Catherine Jinks
Allen & Unwin, 2002

Planes, Trains and Elephants, by Brian Thacker

Brian Thacker loves to travel. His first big trip was at the age of six when he boarded a plane in England to come and live in Australia. Since then he has had many more adventures in many different countries. But sometimes, Thacker has dicovered, the journey can be a bigger adventure than the destination.

In Plains Trains and Elephants, Thacker shares the tales of some of his most memorable journeys. From riding a Vespa around the Greek island of Corfu, to doing a pub crawl on the London tube, and riding an elephant in Thailand, Thacker recounts his journeys with humour and perhaps just a slight degree of exaggeration.

Plains Trains and Elephants
is a funny read and would make an ideal gift for the traveller (arm-chair or otherwise) on your Christmas gift list.

Brian Thacker was born in English and trained in advertising before spending many years travelling and working as a tour leader. His first book, Rule No. 5: No Sex on the Bus, also about his travel experiences, wss well recived. Thacker currently lives in Melbourne with his wife and daughter and works in advertising.

Planes Trains and Elephants, by Brian Thacker
Allen & Unwin, 2002

Storymaze 4 – the Golden Udder, by Terry Denton

Did you know that udders are creatures from a different dimension that float down to Earth and attach themselves to cows? When they shed their skins annually they create rubber gloves. You didn’t? Well, perhaps you should read The Golden Udder where you will learn these facts and plenty of other useless and unreliable tidbits of information.

The Golden Udder is the fourth in Terry Denton’s series and features Nico, Claudia and Mikey on a new adventure into parallel worlds and beyond the known universe. This time they find they ahve inadvertently stolen the Queen of Fresia’s Golden Udder and must get it back to her. The reader must steer them through the storymaze, past warped jokes and impossible storylines, to safety.

Kids will love the complete silliness of the Storymaze concept, filled with comic strip illustrations, jokes and general silliness.

The Golden Udder, by Terry Denton
Allen & Unwin, 2002

How to Teach Kids to Cook, by Gabriel Gate

Yes, having kids in the kitchen can be messy and time consuming, but it can also be fun and extremely beneficial. Teaching kids to cook not only teaches them important skills for independence, but also encourages creativity, an awareness of healthy eating, and allows time for family togetherness.

In How to Teach Kids to Cook, society chef and author of fourteen acclaimed cookbooks, Gabriel Gate, offers sound advice on how to introduce chidlren to the kitchen. There are over sixty yummy recipes for beginner cooks, as well as plenty of tips and hints for parents.

Beautifully presented with clear instructions and appealing photographs, this book is an essential addition to every young family’s kitchen>

How to Teach Kids to Cook, by Gabriel Gate
Allen & Unwin, 2002

Tim Fischer's Outback Heroes, by Peter Rees and Tim Fischer

As Australia’s traditional rural industries have either hit hard times or become increasingly mechanised and less labour-intensive, more and more towns have found themselves faced with dwindling populations and subsequent struggles for viability and survival. The gap between the city and the bush grows ever wider and those who wish to ensure the long-term future of their communities have had to work hard to meet the challenges they are faced with.

As a politician and head of the National Australia Party, Tim Fisher travelled widely throughout Australia’s rural areas. In the course of his work, he met many people and listened to many tales of hardship and of survival. In Outbck Heroes,he combines with journalist Peter Rees to share the stories of Australians who have succesfully faced the challenges of the changing nation, using initiative, hard work and determination to help themselves and to inject life into their communities.

From every state in Australia come stories of unique ways of survival and success. Whether it is making cheese in Tasmania, unique cosmetics and oils in Western Australia’s south, or transporting goods across the country, the individuals in this book all show that with positive thinking and the will to succeed, dreams can become reality.

An excellent read, especially relevant in the Year of the Outback, and at a time where much of Australia is suffering the effects of severe drought.

Tim Fischer’s Outback Heroes, by Peter Rees and Tim Fischer
Allen & Unwin, 2002