The Slightly True Story of Cedar B. Hartley, by Martine Murray

Cedar avoids the main swell of action in her street, and drifts instead towards the puddles. In Cedar’s puddle there’s Cedar, who’d really like to be called Lana Munroe since it has a famous kind of ring to it, her friend Caramella Zito, who lives opposite and Ricci, a fifty year old Yugoslavian lady.

But suddenly, things seem to change. Maybe it’s because her dog Stinky disappears, or maybe it started back when her brother Barnaby ran away. Either way, things change. Cedar meets a boy called Kite, who swings from trees and does hand springs.

Now her puddle is bigger and more complicated. As well as Kite, there’s his father Ruben, who used to be in the circus, his friend Oscar, who wobbles, and his mother, who has run off with a man called Howard.

There are also new experiences – learning balances and tumbles with Kite, attending Oscar’s birthday party, trying to run away. And, when Ricci’s dog needs an operation, Cedar finds herself organising a circus to raise the money needed.

Told in the delightful first-person narrative of Cedar herself, The Slightly True Story of Cedar B. Hartley (who planned to live an unusual life) is an outstanding debut novel from Australian author Martine Murray. Young Cedar’s take on life provides both humour and insight.

Martine Murray is the talented author and illustrator of the acclaimed picture books A Moose Called Mouse and A Dog Called Bear. She has studied art, writing, acrobatics and dance and live sin Melbourne. She says that this book is “about belonging exactly as you are, without having to tone down or change.”

The Slightly True Story of Cedar Blue Hartley (who planned to live an unusual life), by Martine Murray.
Allen and Unwin, 2002.

Kookaburra School, by Jill Morris

There was a great chuckling and chortling, gurgling and cackling, as all the kookaburras of the tribe gathered together in a little forest at the top of a hill for Kookaburra school.

The kookaburra parents are all bringing their children to be tutored by Wise Old Bird in the ways of the kookaburra – take offs, landing, hunting for food and all manner of other important skills. BigEye isn’t so sure that he needs to go to kookaburra school, but his sister and parents convince him it is necessary, so off he goes.

At kookaburra school Big Eyes, his friends Blue Tail and Stripe and the other fledglings learn Pecking up Worms, Fast, Straight and Low Flying, Calls and Sitting still. They also learn to huddle together on a high branch before sunset, to be safe from danger.

But one afternoon, just before sunset, BigEyes chases a snake into the shed. The snake disappears, and BigEyes finds himself trapped behind cold hard glass. He has to spend the night trapped alone in the shed. How will he get out?

Kookaburra School, by Jill Morris, is a fictional story based on a real event at Jill’s home. One morning she found a kookaburra trapped in her studio, and rescued it. Later she watched a large group of kookaburras meeting in the forest near her home.

The delightful illustrations of Heather Gall make an excellent complement to this story, suitable for reading aloud to preschoolers and independent reading by six to eight year olds.

Kookaburra School, by Jill Morris
Greater Glider Productions, 2002. rrp $14.30

Loopy Locusts, by Jennifer Clutterbuck

Emma remembers when the farm was full of thick, green grass and fat, happy sheep. But now there’s a drought and there’s just dust and dead or dying sheep. She knows she has three choices – she can make it rain, she can invent a stock feed that doesn’t need water, or she can make money.

So make money it is, but somehow Emma’s money making schemes don’t seem to work out like she plans. When she tries carving sheep bones for scrimshaw, she ends up with a bag of maggots, and when she decides to make coats out of dead mice, she ends up with hundreds of mouldy mice.

Somehow, Emma is going to help pay the bills and stop her parents from sending her to boarding school, but things seem to be going from bad to worse. The final straw is when they get invaded by locusts. Something has to give. Strangely, it is the arrival of these locusts which provide a humorous, if surprising, change in fortune.

Loopy Locusts, by Jennifer Clutterbuck, with illustrations by Dale Leach, will tickle the funny bone of eight to twelve year old readers, whilst also touching on the serious problems of the farming life.

Loopy Locusts, by Jennifer Clutterbuck
Greater Glider Productions, 2002.

A Taste

My next idea came from TV. An animal sanctuary in the city which was about to go bust convinced local businesses to sponsor the animals. For their money a business got a sign wired onto a cage, saying how wonderful they were. I figured that if there were people in the city willing to pay for a wombat or a kangaroo, there were bound to be people willing to pay for a starving sheep.

I wanted to help people to see my vision, so I invented some satisfied customers. I needed them quickly…

The Australian Writer's Marketplace 2002

As if the writing process wasn’t difficult enough, once you have produced your brilliant novel, your outstanding script or your insightful article, you then need to find someone to publish it. For Australian writers, this process is made a little easier by The Australian Writer’s Marketplace. The 2002 edition is now available and, as always, is full of useful information for both aspiring and established writers.

Compiled by author, journalist and writing teacher Rhonda Whitton, the book’s subtitle is The Complete Guide to Being Published in Australia. As well as listing thousands of markets, the book contains useful advice from published writers on both the writing process and getting published. There are essays about writing for the web (Christine Davey), characterisation (Sydney Smith) , manuscript presentation (Rhonda Whitton) and more, including the winning entry in the 2002 Writer’s Marketplace Essay Competition.

Market information includes an extensive listing of magazine and journals, newspapers, script markets and publishers, with contact details, submission information, payment rates, editorial tips and so on. Web site addresses are given for those publishers who have a web presence. Of course, the publishing world is ever changing, so writers are always advised to check details before sending submissions

Other information given includes listings of agents and manuscript appraisal services, literary organisations, writing contests, literary courses and events.

The Marketplace is an excellent resource for the aspiring writer who, although possibly not ready to submit, can explore the many different markets to aim for, as well as making contact with useful organisations and perhaps trying their hand at some of the many literary contests available. For the more experienced writer, the book is a useful source for checking contact details of intended markets as well as finding new ones to explore.

The 2002 edition of The Australian Writer’s Marketplace is available direct from the publisher or from all good bookshops, for (AUD)$42.95.

The Australian Writer’s Marketplace, Compiled and Edited by Rhonda Whitton
Bookman, 2001.

Tev, by Brendan Murray

My parents call me Tev, usually, and Tevita when they’re annoyed with me. There’s been a lot of ‘Tevita’ lately. That’s the reason I’m being packed off to my mum’s family in Tonga, to ‘sort me out’, get rid of a few demons,’ as Dad put it.

Just before his fifteenth birthday, Tev finds himself on a plane bound for Tonga, to stay with his extended family, whom he hasn’t met before. His mother is Tongan and his father Australian, meaning that Tev often feels he doesn’t belong anywhere. In Australia he’s a ‘Choco’, but when he lands in Tonga he stands out as not being the same as other Tongans.

Despite this, his family are delighted to see him – his Uncle Maka, his grandfather Pita, and numerous cousins, all hug him and welcome him into their family life. He is also welcomed by Siale, a beautiful friend of the family who he admires from afar.

Yet, welcomes aside, life in Tonga is not always laid back and simple. He clashes with another family friend, Tui, and has to deal with the culture shock of a whole different way of life, not to mention the forces of a destructive cyclone, a death in the family, his growing feelings for Siale, and more.

Tev is an outstanding story of coming of age, of dealing with being different, and of adventure. It will appeal to both boys and girls of fourteen and over.

Bendan Murray is a Western Australian-born teacher of English, currently based on Christmas Island. Tev is his first novel.

Tev, by Brendan Murray
Fremantle Arts Centre Press, 2002

Firefighters, by Gary McKay

At 32 minutes past midnight on Friday morning, 23 June, 2000, the Childers Auxiliary fire brigade received a 000 call that ‘the backpackers at 72 Churchill Street was on fire.’ The first truck pulled up in front of the hostel five minutes after the fire call was sent. It was a dramatic scene, fleeing occupants were streaming out of the burning building, and the Childers crew were facing a big fire with limited resources.

The dramatic Childers fire was one of more than 50 000 calls for assistance made to the Queensland Fire and rescue Authority every year.

In Firefighters, Gary McKay delves deep into the important work of the men and women who attend these fires. He explores what it takes to become a fire fighter and what it takes to stay one.

With chapters on recruit training, fire fighting, rescue, auxiliary fire fighters, rural and urban firefighters and more, the book gives a rounded view of the highs and lows of the lives of the firies.

One chapter of the book is devoted to the tragic Childers story and its aftermath, demonstrating just how difficult the firefighters’ job can be, and the courage and dedication demonstrated by the members of the Queensland Fire and rescue Service.

On a lighter note, another chapter recounts some of the humorous anecdotes shared with Gary McKay by the firies.

Whilst researching the book, McKay attended the 12 week fire fighting training course and served in many fire stations to gain an understanding of the different techniques utilised by firefighters, as well as interviewing over 75 firefighters of all ranks and experience. McKay is the author of several bestselling books, including In Good Company: One Man’s War in Vietnam.

Firefighters, by Gary McKay.
Allen and Unwin, 2001. rrp AU $29.95

The Great Australian Book of Limericks, by Jim Haynes

Ask any Australian to tell you a limerick and chances are that they’ll happily oblige. Whilst not an Australian invention, the limerick is certainly a much loved poetic form in this country. Now, in celebration of the art, Jim Haynes brings together over a thousand limericks in one volume.

The Great Australian Book of Limericks is more than just a collection of limericks – Jim Haynes provides an insight into the history of the form and prefaces each section with his humorous commentary. In the opening chapter The Limerick: A Brief and Inaccurate History, Haynes explores the question of when and where the limerick originated –

One expert says, ‘If you please,
I think old Aristophanes
First mastered the trick
Of the true limerick,’
But not every expert agrees.
(p10)

as well as looking at the progress of its popularity.

The remainder of the book presents limericks classified by type and subject matter. With twenty categories there is a huge array of limericks, from the childish and charming:

There was a young man who asked ‘Why,
Can’t I look in my ear with my eye?
I’m sure I can do it
If I put my mind to it,
You never can tell till you try.’
(p20)

to the Obscene and Odious, with categories in between including a section devoted to immortalising every Australian Prime minister from Barton to Howard in Limerick form.

This is not a children’s book – many, many of the limericks are suitable only for adult readers. Alongside offerings from Edward Lear are bawdy, risque and downright rude offerings.

Author Jim Haynes has a background as a teacher of literature and history, with two Masters degrees in literature. He has won the Comedy Song of the Year title at the Tamworth Festival four times, including Don’t Call Wagga Wagga Wagge and Since Cheryl went Feral. As well as regular television and radio appearances he has been awarded the Bush Laureate of the Year Award for his collections of poetry, I’ll Have Chips and An Australian heritage of Verse. The Great Australian Book of Limericks is sure to be another favourite.

The Great Australian Book of Limericks, by Jim Haynes. RRP $19.95
ABC Books, 2001.

Fairy Tales for Grown Ups, by Jennifer Rowe

If you grew up with your head full of handsome princes, magic frogs and happy endings, then the child within you is probably still craving a fairy tale. And if you didn’t, then you probably love a good laugh. Either way, Fairy Tales for Grown Ups is a little book which is likely to appeal to you.

This collection of seven slightly twisted fairy tales combines fantasy with a wicked sense of humour. In The Magic Fish a woman is offered three wishes by a goldfish she meets in a dentist’s waiting room – on the condition she sets the goldfish free. The dentist who owns the fish appears in a later story, Angela’s Mandrake, where a pretty merchant banker called Angela searches for happiness in her life.

In The Lonely Prince, the heir of a fast food chain also searches for happiness, – desperate to be loved for more than just his prospects. Is pizza and cheap wine the way to test the love of his beautiful suitors? The heroine of The Fat Wife also searches for happiness after her husband trades her in for a younger, slimmer model. Is it possible to be fat and victorious?

These new-millenium characters with their modern dilemmas are gorgeously supported by a cast of frogs and trolls and dragons, set amongst happy endings and hilariously funny twists.

Jennifer Rowe, best known for her serious crime novels, proves her versatility as a writer with this wickedly funny offering. Fairy Tales for grown Ups would make an excellent Christmas gift.

Fairy Tales for Grown Ups, by Jennifer Rowe (rrp$12.95)
Allen & Unwin, 2001.

A Taste

Once there was a young woman whose name was Annabel Smudge. She was small and slightly untidy-looking with gentle, widely spaced hazel eyes, curly, mouse-brown hair and a sweet, hesitating voice. She was not exactly simple, but she was not what most people would call a bright spark, either. Six days a week she worked as a cleaner in a factory that made staples, paperclips and metal edges for hanging files. Monday to Thursday evenings, after cooking dinner for her live-in boyfriend, Lawrence, who was an out-of-work security guard in delicate health, she would hurry to her local shopping centre to wash dishes at Tony’s Good Eats, the café beside Pompey’s Family Hair Salon…

Selby's Selection, by Duncan Ball

A talking dog? Of course there is no such thing – no one you know has ever met one. Or is it, perhaps, that one exists, too cunning to let his secret slip?

Selby is Australia’s most famous dog, yet no one knows his true identity. After he cleverly taught himself to talk, he realised that a talking dog wouldn’t’ get much privacy -–scientists would want to study him, his owners would want him to run errands, and everything would be different. So Selby keeps his identity a secret, sharing his experiences with the children of Australia through the Selby series of books.

Each of the nine previous books shares tales of Selby’s exploits as he leads a double life and gets into some hilarious scrapes. Now in Selby’s Selection he shares the best of his previous adventures, interspersed with some special treats” Selby’s favorite jokes, funny poems and songs, as well as profiles of Selby’s human friends and more.

Long time Selby fans will love this collection and newcomers will find this alluring enough to seek out the rest of the series.

Duncan Ball has won numerous awards and accolades for the Selby books, as well as for his many other books for children and adults, including the Emily Eyefinger series about the girl with an eye on the end of her finger. The Selby books have been published overseas.

For more information, visit Selby at his web site.

Selby’s Selection, by Duncan Ball
Angus & Robertson, 2001.

A Taste

On opening night a full house watched in silence as the Stage Stompers performed the first act of The Enchanted Dog and Selby waited behind the rock for his big moment. The magic of the play began to bring out the actor in him and he felt his heart throb when Postie Paterson gagged on the enchanted pawpaw and staggered towards him.

Not waiting to be pushed, Selby leaped out from behind the rock as soon as Postie fell behind it. He jumped into the spotlight and stood there on his hind legs, turning from side to side so the audience could get a look at him.

‘This is wonderful!’ Selby thought…

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 …