Space Camp, by Brigid Lowry and Sam Field

It is the year 2373 and a group of gifted students are travelling from Earth to a space camp on the planet Phoenixia. The trip is meant to be focussed on learning, but for the students it is also a chance for something different and maybe even some adventure. None of them forsee just how much adventure is awaiting them.

On the surface, Phoenixia is a beautiful, peaceful planet. Unfortunately for the visiting teens, that is about to change. Phoenixia is rich in resources, it seems, resources that others are prepared to go any length to harness. The students must work together to overcome those who would destroy Phoenixia and all on its surface.

Space Camp is an action-packed, fun read with themes including self-discovery and conservation. It will appeal to readers aged 11 to 14, especially those with an interest in light science fiction.

Brigid Lowry and Sam Field are a mother-son team. This is their first collaboration.

Space Camp, by Brigid Lowry and Sam Field
Allen and Unwin, 2002

Little Monster, by Allan Baillie

When Drew unwittingly becomes the owner of a monster visible to nobody but himself, the possibilities excite him. He’ll have lots of fun playing tricks on everyone – his parents, his teachers, his friends – and especially his enemies.

The fun, however, doesn’t last long, and Drew finds he is really the owner of a pet nightmare. The monster, Queeg, gets into all kinds of mischief, and because he is invisible, Drew takes the blame. Surely there is some way he can get rid of the monster. He just has to figure out what it is.

Little Monster is a clever story that will have eight to ten year old readers laughing along. Allan Baillie is one of Australia’s top children’s writers. His other titles include Rebel, Adrift and Little Brother.

Little Monster, by Allan Baillie
Omnibus Books, 1991

Children of Morwena, by Helene Smith

In a world of the future, vastly different from our own, teenagers Leila and Andre live with their parents and their much-loved baby sister Bonnie. Their world has been shaped by the destructive forces of wars years before. Those who have survived have built new lives based on peace.

But sometimes peace is only an illusion. When Morwena is wiped out by a violent strike, only the children survive,saved from death only to have to confront new terrors. Chaos reigns as survivors try to find loved ones, food and water are short, and no one is able to trust anyone else.

Alone in this grim world, Leila tries to find her brother and sister. First though she has to contend with her own fears and dreadful evil forces – Alrica, the wolf woman, Rattus, the ferl and the Grim organisation.Can she survive and be reunited with her loved ones? Is there life for these scattered chidlren from Morwena?

Children of Morwena is Helene Smith’s third novel for young people. Her earlier titles are Operation Clancy and Leaping the Tingles. She lives in Australind, just outside of the Western Australian city of Bunbury.

Children of Morwena is a inspirational story of how love can survive the toughness of life.

Children of Morwena, by Helene Smith

Fremantle Arts Centre Press, 2002

The Prosperous Thief, by Andrea Goldsmith

In Hitler’s Germany, two men who have never met have vastly different experiences. One, who has lived a life of poverty, deprivation and petty crime, finds his fortunes much improved when he finds work in the army. Finally there is food enough, clothes and shelter. The other man, a Jew, has been reduced from a prosperous businessman and respected community member to an outcast struggling for survival.

When the paths of these two strangers crosses, something happens which will impact on the descendants of both men.

After the war the children of both lead different lives in different countries, but when their paths and those of their children cross once again in Australia, the truth begins to emerge. Is it possible to undo the past, to forgive a theft of unimaginable depths?

The Prosperous Thief is a story of the Jewish Holocaust and of it’s legacy, as the decendants of those involved live in its shadow. It is also a story about the concepts of justice and revenge. A quality read.

Andrea Goldsmith worked as a speech pathologist both in Australia and overseas. Her previous books include Gracious Living, Facing the Music and Under the Knife.

The Prosperous Thief, by Andrea Goldsmith
Allen & Unwin, 2002

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