Can You Keep a Secret, by Mark Carthew & Jobi Murphy

For anyone who loves nursery rhymes – and for anyone who has yet to discover their wonders- this delightful offering is just perfect. This cushioned hardcover book offers hundreds of rhymes, brightly illustrated and with touches such as the ribbon bookmark making it a great gift and a collector’s item.

From the seemingly universally known rhymes such as Hey diddle diddle, and Mary had a Little Lamb to lesser known ones including Five Bananas, Chubby Little Snow Man and many, many more, there are rhymes to suit every mood or occasion. Compiler Mark Carthew has divided his selections into six categories: Nursery rhymes, Playtime Rhymes, Action rhymes, Counting Rhymes, Finger Rhymes and Lullabies and Gentle Rhymes, and has included a Foreword with a little insight into his selection process.

All rhymes are colourfully illustrated by Jobi Murphy using ink outlines and bright fills. Some pages uses bold or bright backgrounds, whilst others are on white. There is plenty of variety to delight young readers.

This is a volume to be dipped into and to be treasured by young and old. Simply beautiful.

Can You Keep a Secret?

Can You Keep a Secret, by Mark Carthew and Jobi Murphy
Random House Australia, 2008

This book can be purchased online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

Dreaming Again, edited by Jack Dann

How best to describe an anthology which features stories by the cream of the Australian speculative fiction community? Perhaps a starting point could be to quote from the call for submissions by editor Jack Dann:

Dreaming Again will showcase the very best contemporary ‘wild-side fiction’ (those stories that have an edge of horror or fantasy, or could be categorised as magical realism) and the very best genre fiction, which includes science fiction, fantasy, and horror. We are looking for brilliant writing, style, and fresh ideas. Our only criterion is quality.

These were Dann’s aims, and the reader of the collection will not be disappointed. This is truly a collection of top quality speculative fiction, as diverse as it is awe-inspiring, with story after story proving irresistible to the reader who wants (or needs0 to put the book down for a while.

From stories set in sparse or shocking futures, such as Purgatory by Rowena Cory Daniells or Kim Westwood’s Nightship to fantasy numbers such as Kim Wilkins The Forest, all stories have a sense of familiarity for Australian readers. Many have very Australian settings, others Australian characters, and even those with neither of these have a very Australian feel.

These thirty five stories will prove a delight to lovers of speculative fiction. A simply superb collection which will be talked about for years to come.

Dreaming Again

Dreaming Again, edited by Jack Dann
Harper Voyager, 2008

This book can be purchased online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

Trust Me, edited by Paul Collins

This fat and juicy collection, writes Isobelle Carmody in this book’s introduction, is like one of those dessert plates where you get to try a little bit of everything, so that you can decide what you’ll order next time as a full-sized portion.This wonderful analogy is just part of what Carmody has to say on the topic of genre and on the content of the anthology, but it a very clever way of describing what is on offer here.

Trust Me is an anthology offering short stories, poetry and illustration from fifty of Australia’s best known creators for children and young adults. From the sheer silliness of Andy Griffiths’ The True History of Sir Donald BADMAN, to the horror of Lili Wilkinson’s The Babysitter and from the romance of Carol Jones’ Under/Over to the beauty of Meme McDonald’s Farewell Song, there is something for every taste, as well as plenty to ignite new tastes. Readers are offered samplings of a range of genres including fantasy, horror, science fiction, history and poetry. What is common is the high standard of the various offerings.

Wonderful for individual reading, this would also be suitable for classroom use and school library collections.

Trust Me, edited by Paul Collins
Ford Street, 2008

Short, edited by Lili Wilkinson

I’m not sure I can blog this. So I’m writing it down on paper, the old-fashioned way.
I don’t want people to know, I guess. Not Jaz and everyone at school, not the teachers. They started it. Setting an assignment: If you Were Living 100 Years Ago, Who Would You Be? Not even Nana’s that old.
So I’m stuck, and it’s the week before the assignment’s due.
(excerpt from A Ghost Ate My Homework by Lucy Sussex)

Lili Wilkinson has edited this anthology of short works for young people, the proceeds of which will go to the Big Brothers Big Sisters organisation. There are short stories and poems and more from some of Australia and New Zealand’s best known writers and illustrators for children eg Michael Gerard Bauer, Julia Lawrinson and Terry Denton. Short also features contributions from young people. There are two-sentence stories about amazing sporting success (Michael Pryor), short poems like ‘If’ speculating light-heartedly on the meaning of life (Jill McDougall), short graphic stories (Connor O’Brien’s ‘Pickle Man’) and illustrations from Richard Morden and others.

Short is a smaller-than-average format book which will fit well into pockets, bags and lunchboxes. It includes light snacks, treats and more meaty offerings – temptation for all tastebuds. Readers can dip into it, or read it comfortably from cover to cover. Young writers have the opportunity to sample the work of many creators. Short could be used as a taster, offering as it does the opportunity to sample a wide range of subject and stylistic choices. Realistic, fanciful, humorous, ghostly, ridiculous – it’s all here. In short (pardon the pun) there is something for readers of all ages. Recommended for upper primary- to mid-secondary, although it may well also be enjoyed by readers outside this age range.

Short, edited by Lili
Wilkinson Black Dog Books 2008
ISBN: 9780742030340

The Outcast – An Anthology of Exiles and Strangers, edited by Nicole R. Murphy

‘Foxes and cat; rats and mice moved their legs and twitched their whiskers. Pigeons, seagulls, sparrows – not a single magpie – flapped their wings. They couldn’t speak – she sniffled – but they could understand. There were enough of them. Between them all, they held the memories of the City, the memories of everyone who’d thrown something away. “Now dig,” said the Witch. “Find anything that was once mine.” The Rubbish Witch

The Outcast is a themed anthology featuring twenty stories from Australian writers, edited by Nicole Murphy for the Canberra Speculative Fiction Guild. All stories explore the notion of being an outsider, whether voluntary or involuntary. There are stories of women on a train, rural monsters, criminals, returned soldiers, conjurers, tribal curses and of spiritual awakening. There are stories that make comment on our world and those who would lead us; stories that warn us about the future and other stories which just make the reader laugh.

Works for inclusion in this themed anthology were chosen following a call for submissions. Stories range in genre from fairy tale and fable through fantasy and scifi to comedy. Each story is quite different although all explore aspects of loneliness and choice, individual and collective expression. From the sublime to the intentionally ridiculous, there is something here for all readers of spec fiction.

The Outcast, edited by Nicole R Murphy
CSfG Publishing 2006
ISBN: 0977509201

For Weddings and a Funeral, edited by John Marsden

John Marsden is best known for his books for children and young adults, including the unforgettable Tomorrow series. Here, though, he offers something very different – an anthology of poems for special occassions – most specifically for reading at weddings and funerals. It was put together, Marsden says in his introduction, to offer a selection of special poems to add a personal touch to events – so that everyone who takes part in ceremoniies (can) have something chosen specifically for the occasion.

The weddings section of the book offers well known pieces such as Marlowe’s ‘The Passionate Shepherd to his Love and Edward Lear’s The Owl and the pussycat’ as well as lesser known offerings such as a translated Apache Song. The funeral section is similarly diverse, with offerings from Emily Dickinson, WB Yeats, Robert Louis Stevenson and many more.

This is a special collection with a lovely selection of peoms for special occasions.

For Weddings and a Funeral, edited by John Marsden
Pan, 2006

The Best Australian Poetry 2005, guest edited by Peter Porter

‘Best’, the editor of this collection tells us, is a difficult concept, because once you pass the number two , the comparative disappears into a mass of superlatives.With forty poems included in this collection, there are a lot of ‘bests’, but Porter (the aforementioned editor) tells us he had an embarrassment of riches to choose from and has chosen from them those he sees most worthy of the title. As an expatriate Australian with eighteen published volumes of verse and prizes including the Forward Prize and the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry, Porter is well qualified to act as Guest Editor and judge of what constitutes the best of Australian poetry.

To qualify for selection in the volume, poems must have been written by Australian poets and published in an Australian journal in the preceding year. The poems selected came from forty poets, published in 14 different journals – ranging from The Age and The Australian to Island, Meanjin and Southerly.

The poems on offer range from short and whimsical (in Bee Season Kirwan Henry that he likes bees
If not for their sting
Then for their stripes.
to the long and serious, such as Under the Shaded Blossom in which John Jenkins details an imaginary meeting between poet Wallace Stevens and mafia boss Meyer Lansky.

For those who like to read and digest poetry, this is a fine collection and for those who would like a taste of what is on offer, this is an excellent starting point. Other poets represented here include Fay Zwicky, Les Murray, John Kinsella and Bruce Dawe.

The Best Australian Poetry 2005, Guest Editor Peter Porter
UQP, 2005

Page Seventeen, Issue 1

Born of a frustration at the lack of publishing opportunities for new and emerging writers, Page Seventeen is a new twice-yearly collection of short stories, poetry, photographs and illustrations by Australian creators.

Independently produced by Celapahene Press, the publisher set up by writers Kathryn Duncan and Tiggy Johnson expressly to create this opportunity for Australian writers, the 132 pages of this volume offer an eclectic mix of different genres, forms and styles. What is common between pieces is the quality of the writing which has been well-chosen and well blended, with each new offering different from the one previous, but not jarring in its difference.

The binding and presentation of the volume is attractive, with a coloured cover and black and white photographs and illustrations peppered throughout. Contributor biographies are included at the end of the book.

This is an venture which is worthy of support. Submission and purchasing details are available at the Page Seventeen website.

Page Seventeen, Issue 1, edited by Tiggy Johnson and Kathryn Duncan
Celaphene Press, 2005

Daikaiju! Giant Monster Tales, edited by Robert Hood and Robin Peny

Reviewed by Kyla Ward


First off, you need to know that ‘daikaiju’ is Japanese for ‘giant monster’. That is, Godzilla, King Kong, Rodan and all their kind. Now you are qualified to enjoy the most unusual and entertaining anthology I’ve read in a long while.

Each of the 29 fiction entries features giant monsters but the variety is incredible. Some appear in traditional city-crushing mode (Garth Nix’s ‘Read it in the Headlines’) and some as effective metaphors (David Carroll’s ‘Footprint’). Some are the butt of giant-sized jokes (Michelle Marquardt’s ‘Crunch Time”) and others are caught in the most bizarre situations imaginable (Andrew Sullivan’s ‘Notes Concerning Events at the Ray Harryhausen Memorial Home for Retired Actors’). New extreme sports are proposed, along with unthinkable liaisons. Although I liked some stories better than others (and two of the entries are poem cycles and one a script), there wasn’t a single dud. The whole is rounded off by an essay on the films that provided the inspiration.

Robert Hood is a prolific Australian writer, with a slew of short stories and young adult novels to his credit. Daikaiju! reminds me of a previous project he co-edited, entitled Crosstown Traffic (Stuart Coupe & Julie Ogden, Five Islands Press, 1993), which put the detective story through the hoops of science fiction, fantasy, horror and more. Robin Pen was a founding editor of the prestigious Australian journal Eidolon and is known for his film criticism. But although Daikaiju is edited by Australians and published by an Australian small press, the contributors are very much international. As is the devastation; Sydney, Melbourne, Tokyo, San Francisco, Washington, Hai Phong and the charming Cornish village of Launceston are all trashed at various points. I recommend this book to anyone looking for something different, or who likes their heroes and villains truly larger than life.

Daikaiju! Giant Monster Tales, Edited by Robert Hood and Robin Pen
Agog! Press, Sydney, 2005

And the Roo Jumped over the Moon, compiled by Robin Morrow

Willie spied a wallaby hopping through the fern –
Here a jump, here a thump, there a sudden turn.
Willie called the wallaby, begging him to stop,
But he went among the wattles with a
(CJ Dennis)

CJ Dennis is just one of the well-known names whose work appears in this quality anthology. Others include Colin Thiele, Norman Lindsay, Libby Hathorn, Robin Klein, Doug McLeod and Sally Odgers as well as award-winning illustrator Stephen Michael King.

The anthology includes stories and poems on every topic, from rubber thongs to the seasons to bulldozers, and with different moods and styles. The special appeal is that this is an anthology specifically for Australian children from Australian authors, so the Australian tone is strong.

This would, of course, be an excellent classroom tool, with many of the pieces being more suited to reading aloud, but it is also accessible to independent readers of around the age of 8 and over, to read alone. Class teachers could share the book by reading random selections, or use it to source material relating to a specific class theme or topic. Many of the poems would also make wonderful school assembly pieces.

First published in 1996 under the title Beetle Soup, the anthology has been re-released with the title And the Roo Jumped Over the Moon.

And the Roo Jumped Over the Moon, compiled by Robin Morrow, illustrated by Stephen Michael King
Scholastic Australia, 2004