Water, by Geoff Havel

A board creaked out the front. She strained her ears and there it was again, another creak, and another. Then someone tried to open the door. Dad was back! He’d probably forgotten his key and was trying to get in without waking her.
Tully leaped to her feet. ‘It’s okay, Dad,’ she called. ‘I’m awake. I’ll unlock it.’
There was a grunt of approval from outside.
She twisted the key in the old lock and tugged on the door. It flew open, almost hitting her.
‘Sorry, I don’t know my own strength,’ grinned a total stranger.

Tully’s father has always been overprotective, and all Tully wants is to be as normal as everyone else in Rivertown. But when her Dad is uncharacteristically late home, and Tully accidentally opens the door to a total stranger, she discovers just how different she really is.

Captured and taken to a secret laboratory, Tully meets other girls the same as her – identical in fact – and her life is changed forever as she tries to escape both the lab and the future it holds for her.

Water is a gripping genetic thriller, set in a contemporary world, but based on the premise of being able to breed humans with genetic mutations which make them useful for both scientific and industrial purposes. Tully and her clones are physically identical but have their own personalities, and the action is fast moving.

Water, by Geoff Havel
Scholastic, 2010

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Babies Bite, by Geoff Havel

Fact – Scales upset pregnant women.
Actually, I’ve noticed the exact same thing happens even when she’s not pregnant. I remember writing it down the first few times she freaked out, but after that I lost interest and noted down a more accurate fact.
Fact – scales always upset wome.
I don’t know why Dad didn’t just hide the scales. I guess he was too busy worrying about the next crisis.

In The Real facts of Life Max was able to figure out the mystery surrounding his parents. Now, in Babies Bite he meets the answer to that mystery – his baby brother, Fred. But having a baby brother could be bad news. All Fred does is cry, drink and poo. What’s worse, he has taken over Max’s bedroom.

Babies Bite is a funny look at sibling rivalry, families and, of course, the facts of life. Kids (and adults, too) will love the facts scattered throughout the book as Max makes his own brand of observations about the world around him.

Author Geoff Havel seems to know just what will make kids laugh. The wonderful thing is that as they laugh at Max, they are probably also laughing at themselves – Max’s worries and observations are incredibly normal, but couched in humour that allows young readers to enjoy this normality.

Babies Bite is a hilarious sequel that will also stand up on its own.

Babies Bite, by Geoff Havel
Fremantle Arts Centre Press, 2004

Grave of the Roti Men, by Geoff Havel

Aaron can’t wait to get to Indonesia. He’s going to spend a whole month staying with his dad.

At first the holiday seems perfect. Playing on the beach, spending time with his dad, and making new friends. But then things start to change. First Aaron gets sick, then Dad’s new girlfriend turns up. When Aaron’s new friend, Husni, has to leave to go to work on a fishing boat, Aaron has an idea. He stows away on the boat, ready for a bit of adventure.

Aaron soon learns that sometimes adventures can have just a little too much excitement. Being on the boat when a cyclone strikes is not fun, leaving Aaron wondering if he’ll ever see his parents again.

Grave of the Roti Men combines adventure and excitement with an exploration of themes including responsibility, dealing with family break up, and understanding other cultures. Author Geoff Havel shows his versatility as a writer with a departure from some of the light-heartedness of his earlier works.

Grave of the Roti Men, for ages 10- 12 is suitable for private reading and for classroom sharing.

Grave of the Roti Men, by Geoff Havel
Fremantle Arts Centre Press, 2003

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

Ca-a-r Ca-a-a-a-r

Rarely is a picture book written which will have the adult reader laughing aloud at its humour. Ca-a-r Ca-a-a-a-r, by Geoff Havel is, fortunately, one such uniquely funny offering, which will be loved by both parents and children for its simple wit.

The premise of the book is simple – a group of animals share their reactions to an accident they witness. But this is not another talking animals story. Instead, Havel cleverly uses the animals’ sounds to tell the story. So, the skidding of the car is echoed by the parrot’s “Screech!” and the arrival of the ambulance heralded by the donkey’s “Eeyore, eeyore.” The bright and comical illustrations of Peter Kendall make a gorgeous complement to Havel’s text.

This is a book which will be read and enjoyed many times, with children quickly learning to ‘help’ the reader out with the animal sounds and even the narration. A must-have classic.

Ca-a-r Ca-a-a-a-r, by Geoff Havel
Published by Sandcastle Books, Fremantle Arts Centre Press children’s book imprint (1996).