Looking for Alibrandi, by Melina Marchetta

I’m beginning to realise that things don’t turn out the way you want them to. And sometimes when they don’t, they can turn out just a little bit better.

Josephine Alibrandi is in her final year of highschool, and it’s going to be a good one. She’s going to stay out of trouble, work hard and get into law at uni.  But her determination doesn’t last long – she’s in trouble on the first day  in religous education class. And this is just the start of a tumultuous year where Josephine (Josie) falls in love, gets her first job, fights with her mother and nonna, and meets her father for the first time. Along the way she has to confront who she really is, and who she wants to be.

Looking for Alibrandi is a classic coming of age story. First published over twenty years ago, it has been re-released as part the Penguin Australian Children’s Classics series in a delightful hardcover edition. Teens will love getting to know this sassy main character and adults will enjoy the chance to become reacquainted with her. The writing is still fresh and appealing with themes and issues which are still relevant to today’s readers.


Looking for Alibrandi , by Melina Marchetta
Penguin, 2014
ISBN 9780670077786

Available from good bookstores or online.

The Power of One, by Bryce Courtenay (Australian Children’s Classics Edition)

He had given me

the Power of One,

one idea, one heart,

one mind, one plan,

one determination.

Since it was first published in 1989, The Power of One has been loved by readers young and old. Telling the tale of Peekay, growing up in South Africa during the years of the second world war, in a time of political and social turmoil for the country, and more personal trauma for Peekay. Abandoned in boarding school at the age of five, and much-hated by the older children because he is English rather than Afrikaans, Peekay has to learn to be true to himself. Whilst his childhood is difficult, he makes a series of diverse friends who, together with Peekay’s own courage, set him on a path to success.

Part of the new Australian Children’s Classics series, this edition is abridged so that it covers the first half of Peekay’s story. Older readers will want to seek out the unabridged version, but this version is self-contained and finishes at a naturally satisfying point, providing an excellent introduction to Courtenay’s work for younger readers.

Book Cover: The Power of One: Australian Children’s Classics

The Power of One (Australian Children’s Classics edition), by Bryce Courtenay
Viking, 2013
ISBN 9780670077564

Available from good bookstores and online .

A Fortunate Life, by A.B. Facey (Australian Children's Classics Edition)

I had a problem now – I had to ride the pony. I was frightened – although I was big for my age I was still under nine years old. Bob took the saddle on the pony, then helped me into it and I grabbed the front of the saddle and held on. Then Bob put the saddle on his horse and trotted it around in a circle to show me how to rise to a trot. I got the idea of this, but not before I had fallen off several times, to the amusement of Uncle, Aunt, Grandma and the other kids.

Whilst his introduction to a working life may have seemed humorous to those looking on, Albert Facey’s experience being sent away to work at the age of nine was just one episode in a an often sad and frightening childhood. His father had died soon after his birth and his mother had abandoned her children to their grandmother’s care. From the events which brought the Facey family to Western Australia, through his childhood years and onto adulthood, Facey shares his tale in a down to earth manner.

Since it was first published in 1981, A Fortunate Life has captivated readers of all ages. Now released in condensed form as part of Penguin’s new Australian Children’s Classics series, the story is accessible to junior readers, offering them an insight to life in rural Western Australia in the early years of the twentieth century.

The hardcover format with embellished cover makes this a delightful collector’s edition.

A Fortunate Life (Australian Children's Classics)Book Cover: A Fortunate Life: Australian Children's Classics

A Fortunate Life , by A. B. Facey
Penguin, 2013
ISBN 9780670076895

Available from good bookstores or here .

A & R Classics: Twelve Classic Australian Stories

In 1882 David Angus arrived in Australia and established a bookshop. he hired Scot Robertson, marking the beginning of what was soon known as Angus & Robertson. From these beginnings as a second hand bookseller, the company soon branched into publishing, publishing names including Banjo Paterson,  C.J. Dennis and May Gibbs.  Over a century later, the proud A&R tradition is being continued by Harper Collins, under whose umbrella the Angus & Robertson publishing brand now falls, with the launch of A&R Australian Classics, bringing back to life titles from across the A&R history.

The first twelve titles were released in March, and include:

The Battlers, by Kylie Tennant
Capricornia, by Xavier Herbert
The Cattle King, by Ion L. Indriess
The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith, by Thomas Keneally
The Timeless Land, by Eleanor Dark
The Sundowners, by Jon Cleary
The Pea-Pickers, by Eve Langley
My Love Must Wait, by Ernestine Hill
My Brother Jack, by George Johnston
My Brilliant Career & My Career Goes Bung, by Miles Franklin
Coonardoo, by Katharine Susannah Pritchard
Come in Spinner, by Dymphna Cusack & Florence James

This is a wonderful opportunity to rediscover old favourites and to explore titles which are part of the rich heritage of Australian literature, at a reasonable price (the RRP is $14.99). Each title includes a biographical note about the author, as well as introductions or notes from authors.

Publisher blurbs and downloadable teaching guides for each title are available here.

Coonardoo (Australian Classics)

May Gibbs 1 2 3, May Gibbs Colours, Scholastic

Inspired by the work of May Gibbs, 1 2 3 and Coloursintroduce numbers and colours to young children. In 1 2 3, Australian flora and fauna feature in mostly pastel colours as they play host to gumnut babies, sleepy babies and wattle babies. There are butterflies, kookaburras and other Australian animals to identify. In Colours, the gumnut babies float through a world of gentle colour encountering Australian insects, plants and animals.


May Gibbs’ Gumnut Babies are part of Australian heritage and 1 2 3 and Colours introduce her work to a new generation. Books are sturdy Colours are pastel on white and provide an alternative to primary colour offerings in the same market. A perfect gift for overseas visitors or other new arrivals!

Snugglepot and Cuddlepie Present 1 2 3 [Board book]

Snugglepot and Cuddlepie Present 1 2 3, Scholastic Aust 2011 ISBN: 9781742830230

Snugglepot and Cuddlepie Present Colours [Board book]
Snugglepot and Cuddlepie Present Colours, Scholastic Aust 2011 ISBN: 9781742830421



review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author


The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, illustrated by Robert Ingpen

When a storm carries Dorothy and her dog Toto away, all she wants is to get home to Kansas. But that isn’t going to be easy – because she has landed in the mystical world of Oz, and nobody there has even heard of Kansas. But Dorothy is determined to get home…

Dorothy and her friends were at first dazzled by the brilliancy of the wonderful City. The streets were lined with beautiful houses all built of green marble and studded everywhere with sparkling emeralds.

When a storm carries Dorothy and her dog Toto away, all she wants is to get home to Kansas. But that isn’t going to be easy – because she has landed in the mystical world of Oz, and nobody there has even heard of Kansas. But Dorothy is determined to get home and so she journey across Oz to find the wizard who might help her. Along the way she makes friends with a scarecrow who yearns or brains, a tin man who wants a heart and a lion in search of courage. Together the friends have an action-packed adventure.

First published in 1900, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz has been loved by generations. This new edition holds special delight, being illustrated by award-winning Australian artist Robert Ingpen.

As with other classic titles produced by Ingpen and Walker Books, the illustrations are filled with detail and coloured with washes that highlight the classic feel of the tale and the series. Endpapers feature sepia toned line drawings and sketches of the characters and the hardback volume is wrapped in a slipcover and printed on sturdy paper, giving a feeling of quality that make this a collector’s item.

Wonderful as a gift for a reader of any age.

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, by L. Frank baum, illustrated by Robert Ingpen
Walker Books, 2011
ISBN 9781921720444

This book is available in good bookstores, or online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

The Secret Garden, illustrated by Robert Ingpen

The Secret Garden was what Mary called it when she was thinking of it. She liked the name, and she liked still more the feeling that when its beautiful old walls shut her in, no one knew where she was. It seemed almost like being shut out of the world in some fairy place.

This story of an orphan girl sent to live with her gruff uncle in England has been loved by children for a hundred years. To mark the centenary of its release, it has been brought to life in a new edition illustrated by wonderful Australian artist Robert Ingpen.

The original text is unabridged and bound in hardback with a slip cover. Illustrations include full page character studies, landscapes and botanical studies of the garden’s flowers, which appear at the start of each chapter.

This is a beautiful collector’s edition which will be loved by adult fans of the work, as well as new generation of readers.


The Secret Garden

The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnett, illustrated by Robert Ingpen
Walker Books, 2010

This book can be purchased in good bookstores or online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

Peter Pan and Wendy, illustrated by Robert Ingpen

ll children, except one, grow up.

For one hundred years children world wide have been captivated by the tale of the boy who never grew up, and the story of what happens when he flies through the nursery window of the Darling children in search of his lost shadow. To celebrate the 100 year anniversary, Walker Books have rereleased this classic tale, with illustrations by the amazing Australian illustrator Robert Ingpen.

The unabridged text is presented in hardcover format with over 70 colour illustrations, ranging from little cameos to double page spreads. The endpapers show Peter Pan at his impish best in a variety of poses and jacket flaps give a little insight into author JM Barrie. An introduction by the author’s great-great nephew gives further insight.

This gorgeous edition is perfect for collectors but will also be treasured by young readers.

Peter Pan and Wendy, by JM Barrie, illustrated by Robert Ingpen
Walker, 2010

This book is available in all good bookstores, and can also be purchased online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

The Great Bear, by Libby Gleeson & Armin Greder

Once there was a bear.
A circus bear.
A dancing circus bear.

The seemingly simple text and progression of this classic picture book belie the many layers of meaning presented both in the story and the wonderful illustrations. Telling the tale of a mistreated dancing bear who spends her day in a cage and her nights performing for a crowd who may clap and cheer but also throw stones and poke her, before she seizes an opportunity to break free and reach for the stars, this is also a story about humanity and the importance of individual freedom.

From the award winning pairing of author Libby Gleeson and illustrator Armin Greder, this book was first released in 1999, and was shortlisted for the Children’s book of the Year Awards in 2000, and winner of the Bologna Ragazzi Award in the same year. It has now been given a new life being rereleased with back of book biographies and comment by both creators, as part of the Walker Classics series.

Perfect for classroom study, this is also a gem for individual reading – and reflection.

The Great Bear

The Great Bear, by Libby Gleeson and Armin Greder
This edition Walker Books, 2010

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

Of a Boy, by Sonya Hartnett

It has never occurred to him – and he blushes faintly, for being so stupid – to think that children can vanish. The Metfords have not been lost or abandoned – they have been made to disappear. They have not run away – they have been lifted up and carried. They’ve been taken somewhere as distant as Jupiter. Adrian has never thought…that an ordinary child could be worth taking or wanting, a desirable thing.

Adrian has many fears, and the disappearance of three children who are going to buy icecream adds a new fear to his list – that he could disappear. Adrian lives with his gran and his uncle – removed from his mother and abandoned by his father. He struggles to make friends and to understand the world around him. How can you understand a world where nobody seems to want you?

Of a Boy is a gently moving tale of a child trying to make sense of a confusing world. With the insecurity of having been moved between his mother, his father and his grandmother’s care, Adrian tries hard to follow the rules so that he may remain secure, but his observations of other children, particularly orphan children at school, and his interest in the much publicised disappearance of three children, lead him to feel even more insecure. Readers will feel his confusion and longing for normality.

First published in 2002, this much celebrated novel has been rereleased as part of the Popular Penguin series.

Of a Boy, by Sonya Hartnett
This edition Penguin, 2009