Streets on a Map, by Dale Harcombe

Reviewed by Dee White

Having lived for many years in a small country town, there was so much about Dale Harcombe’s new novel, Streets on a Map, that I could relate to.

Newly married Abby moves to Astley when her husband gets a transfer with work, but it’s not exactly what she expected and she wonders if she will ever fit into this close knit community. Abby’s husband, Joel doesn’t seem to understand her difficulties and Abby starts to think that this the whole marriage/moving thing might have been a mistake.

She finds a friend, Laila and ends up opening a restaurant with her. Soon Abby is back doing what she loves, singing and running a very successful business. As she becomes more content, things seem to settle down in her marriage too.

But harmony doesn’t reign for long. A deadly house fire and an unplanned pregnancy.

Then there’s the arrival of Laila’s sister Margot and the teenage tearaway, Zoe to add further complications.

The action just keeps coming in Streets on a Map and keeps the reader turning the pages, wondering what’s going to happen next to the characters they have come to know. In the final climactic stages of the book, one of the most well loved characters is stabbed and the reader is left biting their nails, hoping and praying that the victim will survive.

The main characters in Streets on a Map have been well developed so that they become real to the reader – so the reader cares what happens to them and those they love.

It was easy to engage with the likeable and talented heroine, Abby although she had plenty of flaws too that kept her from being perfect and made her authentic for the reader.

Every one of the characters in Streets on a Map has their own fascinating story to tell and Dale Harcombe weaves them cleverly together to create dilemmas for Abby and help her discover strengths she didn’t knew she had.

Streets on a Map is full of vivid description that places the reader right in the story, feeling as if Astley is a place they have visited themselves. The dialogue is authentic and there are strong themes of trust, friendship, forgiveness and self-discovery throughout the book. It’s also about the choices we make and the fact that choices have consequences.

Streets on a Map will be enjoyed by readers who enjoy a fast-paced story with engaging, memorable characters.

Streets on a Map, by Dale Harcombe
Ark House Press or available signed from Dale Harcombe
Paperback $19.95

The Goanna Island Mystery, by Dale Harcombe

Reviewed by Delwyne Stephens

Leo doesn’t believe in ghosts, and when a bully challenges him to investigate the haunted Goanna Island he doesn’t expect to find a ghostly presence in a mysterious room that seems to have no entrance.

This simply told story had enough suspense to keep my 6 and 8 year old enthralled as I read it aloud to them. They enjoyed the build up of tension, as Leo first goes to the haunted island alone on a dare, sees what seems to be a ghost and then gets trapped on the island by the rising tide.

The illustrations for the story were an unusual combination of line drawings for Leo and heavier lino-print like drawings for later, scarier scenes in the story.

As with all the books in the Aussie School Books series this one is appropriately leveled for capable seven year olds to struggling older primary readers while losing none of its reader appeal. The story holds enough interest and suspense for children in these age groups and demonstrates values such as courage and resourcefulness.

The Goanna Island Mystery, by Dale Harcombe
Aussie School Books, 2008

Kaleidoscope, by Dale Harcombe

Kaleidoscopeis, just like the children’s toy for which it is named, an unexpected delight. Behind an unassuming (though attractive) cover lies an array of beautiful poetry, with each turn of the page providing a new perspective and a new delight.

From the title poem which captures the magic of the kaleidoscope and the new perspective it offers, to the bittersweet (but oh so real) twist in Hopscotch – which opens by describing the innocent delight of a game between two girls then turns to show the cruelty those same girls can show to a third – and from poems about war to one about a dramatic moon rise, poet Dale Harcombe offers insight and reflection to readers, who must pause to absorb each new observation.

This little offering is a delight, both for poetry lovers and for those who perhaps don’t ordinarily read poetry, as the poems are accessible to all.


Kaleidoscope, by Dale Harcombe
Ginninderra Press, 2005

Karaoke Kate, by Dale Harcombe

“Kate,” Dad yelled, “take that karaoke machine away. I don’t think alpacas like music at all. Maybe you could sing to the sheep instead.”

When Kate receives a karaoke machine for her birthday she can’t wait to try it out, but her family seem quite reluctant. When she turns the machine on and starts singing, Kate’s pets join in and Mum sends her outside. Outside, the hens and roosters also want to join in, so Dad sends Kate further afield. As all of the farm animals react to Kate’s singing, she is forced to move time and again. It seems Kate might never find anyone who appreciates her singing.

Karaoke Kate is a cute reading book title from New Zealand publisher Wendy Pye, written by Australian Dale Harcombe. With bright animal illustrations by Jennifer Cooper providing support and interest for young readers, the text is suitable for newly independent readers of around seven or eight years of age.

Harcombe’s story is a fun read which kids will enjoy reading, whether for homework or for private reading pleasure.

Karaoke Kate, by Dale Harcombe
A Sunshine Books title from Wendy Pye, 2007