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

Boys' Stuff

Being a boy is not always easy. Understanding boys can also be difficult – for parents, for teachers and for girls. In Boys’ Stuff, Wayne Martino and Maria Pallotta-Chiarolli explore some of the complex aspects of boys’ lives – sex, drugs, expectations, relationships, family, school and more.

Rather than telling us about boys’ experiences, the book shows them, with quotes contributed by boys from around Australia. With the ages of contributors ranging from pre-teen to adult, and with widely differing backgrounds, a vast range of attitudes and experiences are explored on subjects ranging from physical appearances, to succeeding at school, drugs and smoking and emotions.

As well as first person commentary, contributions include outstanding poetry, short stories, photographs and drawings. Whilst editorial commentary is kept to a minimum, readers are asked to stop and consider their own stance at appropriate junctures with questions for discussion and/or reflection.

Boys’ Stuff provides excellent class study material for both boys and girls but is also an excellent source of insight for parents and educators of teenage boys.

Boys’ Stuff, by Wayne Martino and Maria Pallotta-Chiarolli (eds)
Allen and Unwin, 2001

The Real Facts of Life

FACT: Weekends and holidays go faster than schooldays.
FACT: Dads always read in the toilet – for ages and ages.
FACT: Sisters always try to get you into trouble.

Max loves to collect facts like these. He writes them down in a little notebook. But one busy weekend he overlooks the biggest fact of all.

This delightful children’s book by West Australian author Geoff Havel documents Max’s weekend as he collects facts and tries to figure out what’s going on between his parents. His mother is acting weird and his father is fussing over her. His sister Jess keeps giving him “I know something you don’t know” looks.

It’s a pretty busy weekend for Max – washing dishes, mad dashes to hospital to stitch up his head, Sunday lunch with Grandma. And heaps of facts to gather. Will he find time to solve the mystery?

The Real Facts of Life will appeal to boys and girls aged 10 and over. Even Mum and Dad will laugh at this one.

The Real Facts of Life by Geoff Havel
Fremantle Arts Centre Press, 2001