Riding With Thunderbolt, by Allan Baillie

Ben Cross has been orphaned by the smallpox epdiemic and he has come to live with his brutal uncle, who beats and abuses him. So when his mate Thommo suggests they run away and join the bushranger Thunderbolt, Ben feels he has nothing to lose.

For the next two years Ben travels with Thunderbolt’s gang and family. He befirends Thunderbolt’s wife, Mary and their two small children, helping with the chores of cooking and providing for the campsite. He acts as cockatoo (lookout) for the gang when they conduct their raids and hold-ups. At the same time, Ben experiences the highs and lows of the bushranging life. He sees his mate Thommo killed by a trooper during a shoot out, lives with the threat of being caught and imprisoned, and learns about friendship and loyalty.

Riding With Thunderbolt is part of the My Story series from Scholastic and, as such, is written in diary format in the voice of young Ben. Readers aged 10 and over will be drawn into the tale by this first person narrative which enables the author not to impose an opinion of the bushranger lifestyle, but rather to show its impact on one young life.

A good solid read from a reliable author.

My Story: Riding With Thunderbolt – the Diary of Ben Cross, by Allan Baillie
Scholastic, 2004

Dragon Quest, by Allan Baillie

Hey, you! Yes, you with the book
Come on! You’ll be a hero, a great warrior, an epic knight…

Through forests inhabited by dark witches, where Dragon Fighters are trapped in trees, along the whispering abyss and over the hills where lurks a double-headed troll, the reader joins the narrator on a quest to find the Last Dragon.

With text by Allan Baillie and illustrations by Wayne Harris, DragonQuest is filled with intrigue, excitement and humour, as the narrator, a slightly bumbling Knight, guides the reader towards Glass Mountain, where he will fight the last dragon. But there is a final surprise for both reader and Knight at journey’s end.

This is a picture book which will appeal to children aged 4 and over, able to intrigue much older readers as they seek out the mythical creatures on each page. An excellent introduction to the fantasy genre.

DragonQuest, by Allan Baillie, illustrated by Wayne Harris
Scholastic, 1996

Wreck, by Allan Baillie

Reene is glad when the adults go away for the day, leaving her alone at the beach. Well, almost alone. She still has to put up with Ian, who’s a bit of a pain and very wierd. If she can avoid him she’ll be fine.

Busy enjoying her freedom, she doesn’t straight away notice the storm building. By the time she does, she’s back in the house. Ian hasn’t noticed it either, busy watching ants on the move. When the rain starts he runs to join Reene. When the storm hits, they are together. Together they escape the house before it is destroyed by the wind and take shelter in a cave which Ian has found. And when the storm dies, it is together that they embark on a new adventure. A ship has been washed ashore in the bay and Reene wants to expplore. Reluctantly, Ian follows. Both have forgotten that a cyclone has an eye – the calm in the middle of the storm, before it resumes. While they are on board the wreck, the storm renews its attack and they are stuck on the boat, which has come adrift. As wild seas and violent winds try to tear the boat apart, the two become aware of something else – they are not alone on the boat. There is something else there on board with them – stalking them in the dark.

Wreck combines two of Allan Baillie’s favourite elements – the ocean and the finding of personal strength. Both Ian and Reene must tap this strength if they are to survive.

Baillie’s novels are always filled with action and unexpected outcomes. Wreck is no exception.

Wreck, by Allan Baillie
Puffin, 1997

Adrift, by Allan Baillie

“Flynn . . . ” Sally’s voice was soft and serious. “We’re going away.”

When Flynn is told to look after his little sister, he isn’t pleased. A day at the beach should be about fishing and adventure, not looking for shells and whinging. But then Sally finds an old wooden crate, and Flynn starts a game. No longer a plain crate, now it’s a pirate ship, with Sally and Flynn the pirates and Sally’s cat Nebu the ship’s cat. Only Flynn doesn’t notice that the ship really is moving – until they are too far from the shore to do anything.

Out at sea, with no food, no water and no idea how he will get home, Flynn must take responsibility for Sally in a way he could never have forseen. As he struggles to keep them alive he develops a gradual understanding of his troubled relationship with his sister and with his father.

Adrift, first published in 1984, is a classic book from a classic author. It is a story which withstands the test of time – still relevant and exciting for children of the noughties.

Still good reading.

Adrift, by Allan Baillie
Thomas Nelson, 1984

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