Storymaze: The Wooden Cow, by Terry Denton

Nico wants nothing more than to be the surfing champion of the universe. He’s been training hard and is sure he can win. All he has to do is get to the planet Friesia on time and intact.

With some help from his M.I.T., a nifty device which can transfer them through both space and time, Nico gets to Friesia with his friends Mikey and Claudia. Unfortunately, they’re four thousand years too early and they land in the middle of a crisis in Friesia City. Nico and Mikey are trapped outside the city and Claudia and the M.I.T. are inside, but not together. Can they solve the crisis AND be reunited?

The Wooden Cow is the third Storymaze book, following on from the success of The Eye of Ulam and The Ultimate wave. Terry Denton’s unique combination of cartoon-strips, rude narrators and pure silliness, has kids laughing as they turn the pages and looking for more when they’re finished.

The Wooden Cow is suitable for readers aged seven to twleve, including reluctant readers.

Storymaze: The Wooden Cow, by Terry Denton
Allen & Unwin, 2002

Cry of the Karri, by Errol Broome

Aiden has been looking forward to this bush walking weekend for ages. Now that he’s here he’s not so sure. His friend Titch is being bossy and showing off, his socks are causing blisters, and worst of all, his step-sister is in hospital – and it’s his fault. When he is lost, things get even worse.

Aiden finds himself drawn into the family of another boy who was lost in the bush two years ago. They mistakenly think Aiden is their son, and Aiden is caught up in their lives and in the other boy’s mystery. Will he suffer the same fate or will he be able to bring some peace to both families?

Cry of the Karri is a novel of adventure and intrigue, with just a hint of the supernatural. As Aiden searches for answers about his own life he is caught in the parallels between his life and that of the missing boy, Dugald. The novel will appeal to children aged ten to fourteen, especially boys.

Errol Broome grew up in Western Australia and now lives in Melbourne. Her earlier children’s novels have received many awards and nominations. Cry of the Karri is another excellent offering.

Cry of the Karri, by Errol Broome
Allen & Unwin, 2001

Attempts to Draw Jesus, by Stephen Orr

Being without a job means being aimless. For Rolly, living in Adelaide, it means retracing familiar routes, watching people, applying for jobs he does’t want. For Jack, living in a small country town, it means being nobody. The two have never met, but when they both answer the same ad and apply for jobs as jackaroos, their lives come together.

Neither boy has any experience of Outback life, but both have plenty of will and nothing to lose. This is an experience they hope will make them into something.

Attempts to Draw Jesus, the first novel for Adelaide author Stephen Orr, is partly based on the story of Simon Amos and James Annetts, two young boys who took on jackaroo work in the 1980s and were subsequently found dead in the Great Sandy Desert. This is not, however, a non-fiction piece. Instead, Orr gets inside the heads of his own characters, whose lives do overlap those of Amos and Annetts, to show the motivations, the emotions and the growth of his characters. He also leads them through a journey of self-discovery which makes the novel more uplifting than the newspaper articles which reported the real-life event.

Orr also creates adventures and friends for the pair, rich in their diversity and in the various ways they touch the lives of Jack and Rolly.

Attempts to Draw Jesus is an insightful and richly developed novel.

Attempts to Draw Jesus
, by Stephen Orr
Allen & Unwin, 2002

Little Lunch Two, by Danny Katz

Tamara Noodle loves the monkey bars. She can do almost as many tricks on them as a REAL monkey. She can hang upside down, she can twozees and even threezees. But what happens when someone else wants to use the monkey bars?

The three new stories in Little Lunch Two are just as silly as those in Little Lunch were. The cheeky stories of Danny Katz are again well complemented by the clever illustrations of Mitch Vane.

Even the most reluctant of readers will find the stories both accessible amd, just as importantly, sude-splittingly funny. Katz has a way of seeing the school yard through the eys of a six year old.

Roll on Little Lunch Three!

Little Lunch Two, by Danny Katz, illustrated by Mitch Vane
Black Dog Books, 2002

Little Lunch, by Danny Katz

Mrs Gonsha has a huge bum. So huge and wobbly that it looks like a gigantic beanbag made out of porridge. So, when Mrs Gonsha decides she wants to slide down the slide, the kids warn her that her bum is too big. When she ignores their warning, disater strikes. How will the kids get Mrs Gonsha unstuck?

The Slide is just one of three funny stories in Little Lunch. Each tells the tale of what happens to the kids of Mrs Gonsha’s class in the fifteen minutes that is little lunch.

Kids aged six to nine will love these stories for their silliness and irreverence, and because they can digest each story quickly. Parents and kids will love them because their kids will be reading – and enjoying it.

With the wit of author Danny Katz and the clever cartoon-style drawings of illustrator Mitch Vane, Little Lunch is a winner from innovative new publisher Black Dog Books.

Little Lunch, by Danny Katz, illustrated by Mitch Vane
Black Dog Books, 2001

Just Another Little Murder, by Phil Cleary

Phil Cleary is well known, especially in Victoria, as a footballer, coach, and media personality, as well as the man who won Bob Hawke’s seat in Federal Parliament. His new book, however, is about none of these things. It is about Cleary’s quest for justice and understanding in the wake of an event which rocked his family.

In August 1987, as she got out of her car to go to work, Vicki Cleary was brutally stabbed to death by her ex-boyfriend, Peter Raymond Keogh. While this was earth-shattering enough for her family, the ensuing trial offered no sense of closure. Instead the family listened in disbelief as the court found that Keogh was not guilty of murder, on the grounds that he had been provoked by his victim. Instead, he would serve less than four years in jail for the lesser crime of manslaughter.

When Cleary began a search for understanding of how this could have happened, he learned that Keogh had a long history of vilence and sex crimes against women and children. He also found evidence of what, to him, was a legal system which had worked to protect Cleary and had let down not only his sister, but also countless other women, victims of Keogh and of other men like him.

Just Another Little Murder is not an easy book to read. The reality of the crime it explores and the justice system it exposes, serve to make the reader uncomfortable. This is what Cleary wants – to remove his readers from their comfort zone and to make them feel his rage. In this way, the book is highly effective.

Just Another Little Murder is a challenging but important book.

Just Another Little Murder, by Phil Cleary
Allen & Unwin, 2002

Listen for the Nightingale, by Zenda Vecchio

Kathleen’s life is without purpose. Her Mother, who never wanted her, has recently married and, as well as a step-father, she now has a little ‘sister’, Sally. To top it off she has just started at private girls school, where she is mostly alone and unliked.

When the serpent comes to beckon her with promises of happiness, she is lured by his talk of death. Suicide, she thinks, will put an end to all this. But another animal comes too – a nightingale which she will hear sing if only she can be patient.Kathleen will have to choose -the comfort of death with the serpent, or the comfort of life with the nightingale.Neither offers a quick path to happiness.

Listen for the Nightingale is a gentle young adult novel which looks at the issue of suicide as well as those of family, friednship and child abuse, among others. Whilst being challenging and thought provoking it is not a dark or depressing story. What is offer is an insight into the thoughts and life of one teenager with problems which lead her to consider suicide.

Listen for the Nightingale, with its ultimate message of hope, is a novel which would be well suited to classroom study, but is equally valuable for personal reading.

Zenda Vecchio is a South Australian author. Listen for the Nightingale is her first published novel.

Listen for the Nightingale, by Zenda Vecchio
Greater Glider Productions, 2002

Babel, by Barry Maitland

When Professor Springer, one of England’s leading philosophers, is assasinated on the steps of the London University where he works, DCI David Brock is called into investigate. His usual partner, Kathy Kolla is on leave.

Springer has been outspoken in his views against fundamentalism, and suspicion is cast on London’s Arab communities. When Kolla is drawn into the investigation, it becomes more complex. Is the murder as straightforward as it seems, or could it relate to the deep divisions between different factions in the university?

Brock and Kolla must solve the mystery before further violence gets out of hand.

Babel is crime fiction as it should be written – danger and intrigue combine with characters of substance and just the right level of surprise.

Barry Maitland was born and raised in Britain. He came to Australia to teach Architecture at the University of Newcastle, but has since retired to work full time on his writing. This can only be a good thing for the lover of quality crime fiction.

Babel, by Barry Maitland
Allen & Unwin, 2002.

I'm Big Enough, by Sally Odgers

Joey Hopalong swears he is big enough to hop alone Wallaby Grove. His mother believes he is big enough. She kisses him goodbye and says she will see him when he gets there. But none of the animals Joey meets along the way believe that he is big enough to do it by himself.

First he is joined by Platypus, then by Wombat and Possum. All are sure he needs their help. It is only when they meet Kookaburra that Kookaburra proves to the other animals, and to Joey, that Joey is indeed big enough to hop alone.

I’m Big Enough, by Sally Odgers, is a gently humorous tale with a subtle message about differences and growing up. The delightful illustrations by Llyod Foye capture the colours of Australia’s landscape, with golden browns and greens prevalent.

Sally Odgers is a talented Tasmanian author who produces quality books for all ages. I’m Big Enough reaches her always high standards. A treasure.

I’m Big Enough, by Sally Odgers, illustrated by Lloyd Foye
Koala Books, 2002

Life Bytes, edited by Alwyn Evans

A girl lost in the outback, a group of boys raising a pair of undies on the school flagpole, an Italian youth migrating to Australia – subjects as diverse as the young writers who chose them. What binds these stories however, is their quality and the fact that they were written for entry into the annual Tim Winton Young Writers Competition.

Following the success of the first compilation of prize-winning stories from the contest, Destination Unknown (2001), Life Bytes brings together 13 first class stories. At times it is hard to remember the stories were written by primary aged children – with both the subject matter and the writing style often showing a maturity unexpected in pre-teens.

The Tim Winton Award, sponsored annually by the City of Subiaco, offers children across the Perth metropolitan area the chance to develop and demonstrate their creative writing abilitites. Life Bytes, showcasing some of the best entries submitted in the award’s ten-year history, is a great read, especially for those who work with young people.

Editor Alwyn Evans is a contest judge and editor and author of children’s books.

Life Bytes, edited by Alwyn Evans,
Fremantle Arts Centre Press, 2002