Incredibilia by Libby Hathorn ill Gaye Chapman

‘Look what I’ve found,’ little Georgie said.

‘It’s a secret message. For us!

It floated down from that tree.’

Incredibilia‘Look what I’ve found,’ little Georgie said.

‘It’s a secret message. For us!

It floated down from that tree.’

Three children are playing outside – or rather two are playing and a third is imagining, and wanting to draw others into her imaginative games. It seems there is no room in the playing of the pair for a third. Day after day, Georgie sees possibility in the world she encounters. Day after day, Max and Harriet become consumed by their own games. Only when Georgie decides to pursue the secret messages on her own, do the other two become curious. Now it is time for ‘Incredibilia to begin. Illustrations are created using graphite, coloured and watercolour pencils, and watercolours. Endpapers are of a coloured garden full of shapes that just might be hiding other things. Cover art shows all three children playing, including Georgie dressed in red, inviting attention. The back cover though, shows only Max and Harriet.

Max and Harriet are full of play, and while they don’t actively exclude Georgie, they are moving faster than her and have little time to give her and her ideas. Georgie begins by wanting to bring them to play with her, but when that proves difficult she decides that she will play by herself. This self-sufficiency gains their interest more than her words. All three children are enjoying free play, but Georgie’s is a play of the mind as well as the body.

Incredibilia is a celebration of quiet and contemplative play as well a reminder of the magic of the outdoors. Illustrations carry the wind, and with them, the joy of childhood. Recommended for pre- and early-primary.

Incredibilia, Libby Hathorn ill Gaye Chapman
Little Hare Books 2016 ISBN: 9781760125257

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

Eventual Poppy Day, by Libby Hathorn

Eventual Poppy DayShooting stars, kisses, grenades and the lumbering tanks. And the shrieking skies and the shaking comrades: ‘Up and over, lads!’
And I know it is time again to go into madness.

Even though he s only seventeen, Maurice Roche is determined to enlist, to follow his older brothers off to war and do his bit. It will be an adventure, an opportunity to see the world . Against his parent’s wishes, he signs up, leaving behind his parents, his younger siblings, his proud aunts and a girl, Rosie, who he is sure will wait for him. But war is not the adventure Maurice imagined. At Gallipoli and, later, on the Western Front he faces unimaginable horrors. It is only the mates fighting at his side, an occasional opportunity to sketch and draw, and his love for Rosie, that keep him going.

A century later, Oliver Day isn’t all that interested in his great-uncle Maurice, who he never met. But his great-grandmother, Dorothea, wants the world to know about her big brother, who died before she was born. It is especially important to her that Oliver hear Maurice’s story.

Eventual Poppy Day is an emotional tale of war and its impacts both on those who fight and those who are left behind, often across generations. The alternating stories of Maurice and Oliver are supplemented with scenes, letters and diary entries from other characters, to give a broad perspective of their emotions and motives. As the novel progresses, readers have an opportunity to connect deeply with the family.

A touching story.

Eventual Poppy Day, by Libby Hathorn
Angus & Robertson, 2015
ISBN 9780732299514

Available from good bookstores and online.

Firesong, by Libby Hathorn

From the back verandah, Ingrid Crowe watched her dog Blackie chase a stray bird across the garden. She saw the tall gum tree giving slightly in the breeze and, beneath it, her little sister Pippa playing happily in the sand pit. It looked the same as any other day out there. But it wasn’t. Her mother had just told her something bad. Something so shocking it was going to change her whole world. Ingrid’s mother had told her she was going to burn their house down.

Ingrid Crowe is twelve years old. Her father has re-partnered. Her two brothers have been sent to a foster home on a farm. Her grandmother recently died. It’s just Ingrid, her little non-speaking sister Pippa and Mum left in the house. And there’s no money. Then Ingrid discovers that her mother has devised a plan to make them some money. She proposes to burn down the house for the insurance money. Her mother is fierce in her determination and insists that Ingrid help her. Ingrid knows it’s wrong, but she doesn’t know what to do. A song, ‘Fire! Liar! Fire!’ plays over and over in her head. She can see no way to save her family and the house that she loves, with all its good memories. Over the course of a day, she contemplates many options. There are many people she could talk to, but whatever action she takes, she’s afraid of the consequences.

Ingrid Crowe has already had to grow up fast. Firesong is told in third person intimate and the reader gets as close to her as is possible, as she struggles with a dilemma that no one should ever have to face. The viewpoint allows some of the unreliable narrator elements that accompany first person, while allowing the reader a little broader view. Ingrid’s mother is desperate and their poverty has lead her to plan a desperate act. Ingrid loves her mother and wants to believe that her mother is doing what’s best. It’s a cross-road for Ingrid: to believe her mother and do as she is told, or to listen to her conscience and begin to be her own person. Along the journey, the reader discovers how the family arrived at this point. Recommended for early-secondary readers and mature upper primary readers.

Fire Song, Libby Hathorn
ABC Books 2009 ,br>ISBN: 9780733324208

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

Georgiana, by Libby Hathorn

‘Flinders Bay,’ came the triumphant cry, bringing everyone on deck to take a good look at what was to be their new home. It was only three short days since their new vessel, the Emily Taylor, had taken on board its group of free settlers. All of them disappointed, though somewhat seasoned by six weeks or more at the Swan River settlement, all of them eager for the big land grants that were up for grabs further down south, where only sealers and whalers had been!

Georgiana Molloy is 23 years old and newly married when she arrives in the new settlement of Augusta. Fresh from England, and pregnant with her first child, she is determined to make a new life here for herself, her husband Jack and their planned family. As Jack busies himself with his work as magistrate, and the day to day business of establishing their new land, Georgiana is charged with the house and garden. Soon, as well as the practical vegetable plot which is an essential part of colonial life, she also has a flourishing flower garden.

Georgiana: Woman of Flowers is the tale of one woman’s contribution to the development of the settlement of Augusta and the Vasse region and, more particularly, to the knowledge of the flora and fauna of the area. As she works to build a life for her family, Georgiana also studies the plant life around her, collecting samples, recording her observations and sharing her knowledge both with experts and with other settlers.

As well as being an inspirational record of one woman’s life, this is also a wonderful introduction to the lives of colonists in general, and especially to the life lead by women settlers. Hathorn takes us inside Georgiana’s life and also that of young Will Summerfield, a young settler who she befriends, allowing readers to connect with the hardships and challenges, as well as the growing affection for this strange new land which both characters develop.

An excellent introduction to the life of the woman known as the woman of flowers.


Georgiana: Woman of Flowers, by Libby Hathorn
Hachette, 2008

This book is available from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

Caravan Kids, by Libby Hathorn

So Sally and the family were off on a caravan holiday in Pinky. ‘Five Run Off to Adventure’ she said as they whizzed up the coastline in the almost-new cream Holden. This was the title of one of her favourite books by Enid Blyton.
‘Five Land at Palm Beach!’ Dad announced as they drove into the camping ground.
‘Palmie,’ Mum said. ‘Glorious!’
Adventure!’ Sally thought. ‘At last!’
‘Boys!’ Del thought. ‘Neat!’
‘New mates!’ Carl thought. ‘Terrific!’
They all said, ‘Fabulous!’

Things haven’t been going well for the Smyth family, but when Dad wins a caravan in a raffle, things begin to look up. Soon the family is off on a summer holiday in Palm Beach. Sally Smyth is desperately hoping for some adventure – just like her favourite characters in the Enid Blyton books.

Sally hopes for pirate ships or a beach rescue, but the holiday slips by with no dramas in sight. Until she goes off alone one evening and has a fall. Is this going to be more adventure than Sally can handle?

Caravan Kids is part of the Making Tracks series from the National Museum of Australia Press. Set in the late 1950s, the story provides a slice of life in the time period, as well as a fun adventure.

This series is an important one, with a focus on different time periods in Australian history. Each story is based around one object from the National Museum – in this case a Propert caravan.

Good stuff.

Caravan Kids, by Libby Hathorn
National Museum of Australia Press, 2006