Ready to Read Series: Extreme Animals; Slithering Snakes … and more!

Ooh! Look at the holographic covers!

Dinosaurs, sharks, bugs, extreme animals, snakes and machines. Three of these titles are Level 1, for beginner readers and the other three are Level 2, for newly independent readers. Images are photographic (ahem except of course for the dinosaur title which is illustrated) and the text is informative, delivered in short sentences. The main narrative is in rhyme, with text boxes providing extra information. There is a guide at the beginning for parents wishing to assist their child in learning to read. Each title also includes a quiz page, to help cement any new information and provide structured opportunities to be sure the information was absorbed. There’s also a illustrated dictionary.

This new series of readers from Scholastic is guaranteed to find many fans in the classroom and at home. Each cover is holographic featuring title, a main image and five images along the bound edge of the book. Each image changes when the cover is moved. Think snakes and dinosaurs opening their jaws wide. Deliciously scary. The covers will ensure these books are chosen from any pile, and the content will keep them there. The need for information will entice the reader from word to word, page to page. The dictionary, key words, sight words and quiz will keep readers coming back. They will ignite new interests and feed existing interests. A great addition to any school reading program and to any home. Recommended for children learning to read.

Bugs (Ready to Read)
Bugs, Scholastic Australia 2012 ISBN: 9781742831183

Extreme Animals (Ready to Read)
Extreme Animals, Scholastic Australia 2012 ISBN: 9781742831169

Slithering Snakes (Ready to Read)
Slithering Snakes, Scholastic Australia 2012 ISBN: 9781742831176

Mighty Machines (Ready to Read)
Mighty Machines, Scholastic Australia 2012 ISBN: 9781742831190

Dangerous Dinos (Ready to Read)
Dangerous Dinosaurs, Scholastic Australia 2012 ISBN: 9781742831213

Sharks (Ready to Read)
Sharks, Scholastic Australia 2012 ISBN: 9781742831206


review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

Sexpectations, by Leissa Pitts & Craig Murray

Sexpectations is careful not to preach or talk down to the readers. It varies the pace of delivery, the approach and uses repetition to ensure core principles like respect, choice, safety and health remain front and central. Teenagers may get much of their sex information from other teenagers…

Welcome to Sexpectations Girl. This book has been written for you, a girl who has expectations, or may not know what to expect, about sex.
Despite how much our society has changed over the years, ‘sex’ still causes a lot of debate because of the many meanings and ideas people attaché to that simple three-lettered word, making it hard to wade through all there is to know about sex.

Sex! What a cool topic … but why call a book Sexpectations?
Well, sometimes we can be expected to know everything there is to know about sex, but rarely get a chance to talk about it in an open, healthy way, or to ask questions like ‘What do I do?’, What’s normal? And that’s just a few of those tricky questions we all have …

Sexpectations is two books for the price of one, one aimed at girls, the other at boys. But that doesn’t mean they are intended to be read separately. Each can be read first, but where a topic has been tackled in one, the other might just reference that topic then direct readers to ‘flip’ for more information. The approaches are different but both authors present a broad range of factual information in a variety of ways. There are frequently asked questions and debunking of myths. There are resources listed so readers can research further. The text is presented in different colours on coloured paper and illustrations are mixed with photos. Some information is presented in point form or lists, while other information is presented in a more conversational style.

Sexpectations is not a puberty book although hormonal changes are certainly discussed. It’s for readers who want to be informed before they make decisions about sex. All sorts of decisions, even if it’s a decision NOT to make a decision. Having the ‘girl’ and ‘boy’ sections back to back with cross-references in certain topics encourages each to learn more about the other and perhaps the way each approaches sex. Sexpectations is careful not to preach or talk down to the readers. It varies the pace of delivery, the approach and uses repetition to ensure core principles like respect, choice, safety and health remain front and central. Teenagers may get much of their sex information from other teenagers, but if they get it from teenagers who have access to this book, they are going to get good information.

Sexpectations: Sex Stuff Straight Up

Sexpectations, Leissa Pitts & Craig Murray
Allen & Unwin 2011
ISBN: 9781741751437

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

This book is available in good bookstores or online from Fishpond.

Be Your Best, by Geoff Huegill

Geoff Huegill is one of Australia’s best known and best loved swimmers. From the age of four until he was 26, Huegill lived and breathed swimming, training daily and winning an impressive array of medals including Olympic silver and bronze, five world champion titles, eight world records and five Commonwealth Games gold medals. But in 2005, exhausted from the years of training…

What I was attempting was nothing less than rebuilding my credibility, and the only way I was going to succeed was with a mammoth effort.

Geoff Huegill (widely nicknamed Skippy by friends and fans) is one of Australia’s best known and best loved swimmers. From the age of four until he was 26, Huegill lived and breathed swimming, training daily and winning an impressive array of medals including Olympic silver and bronze, five world champion titles, eight world records and five Commonwealth Games gold medals. But in 2005, exhausted from the years of training, and suffering depression, he quit. Two years later, having gained 45 kilos in weight and hit rock bottom, Huegill returned to swimming, determined to regain his fitness and get his life back on track. In 2010 he returned to Commonwealth Games glory, with two golds and a silver. More importantly, though, he had turned his life around – proving to himself and the world that he could follow his dreams.

Be Your Best is Huegill’s story. Starting with his childhood and early involvement in swimming , through to the sudden death of his father when Huegill was 12, and he highs of his swimming career, the book then examines what went wrong before moving on to how he managed to get his life back on track. A special section in the middle of the book also details Huegill’s Be Your Best principles, which he promotes with his business partner Keith Staggers.

The text is written in Huegill’s honest, straightforward voice. He admits his failings and is honest but not boastful about his strengths. Coloured photography throughout the book also charts his story.

Fans will love this offering.

Be Your Best

Be Your Best, by Geoff Huegill
Ebury Press, 2011
ISBN 9781742751658

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

Dark Victory, by David Marr and Marian Wilkinson

In the months leading up to the Australian federal election in 2001, refugees were flooding our shores in record numbers. Men, women and children from countries including Afghanistan and Iraq were fleeing their own troubled countries and spending their savings on trying to reach Australia in barely seaworthy Indonesian boats.

With Australia’s detention centres coming close to capacity and public outrage growing over these ‘queue jumpers’, the Howard governement had a problem. They needed to stop the flow, to send a message to the world that Australia was not an easy target for illegal immigration, and to prove to the Australian public that the government was heeding their concerns.

Dark Victory is the tale of the measures taken in those weeks to keep the immigrants out and to win over the Australian public. The book gives an account of the Tampa crisis, including the behind the scenes manouvering to ensure the people rescued by the crew of the Norwegian shipping vessel did not land in Australia. It tells the story of the children overboard, a scandal which will become a part of Australia’s political history. It gives a detailed account of the loss of life in the sinking of the SIEV X. With accounts from the navy and asylum seekers present at these events, Dark Victory shows the suffering of asylum seekers as they become pawns in the political minefield of illegal immigration.

As well as being the story of the fate of these boat people, this is also an expose of the failures of multiple organisations – not only the Howard government, but also the Opposition, the military, the judiciary and the press – to provide leadership and humanity in these troubled events. It also acknowledges, however, the popularity of the military blockade which stemmed the flood.

This is not an uplifting book – Australian readers will squirm as they learn of the events of these weeks and the attitudes that allowed them to happen. They will question their own attitudes and actions at that time and both prior and since.

Dark Victory is chilling but vital reading.

Dark Victory, by David Marr and Marian Wilkinson
Allen and Unwin, 2003.

Daughters of Nazareth, by Patricia Hughes

For the first seven years of her life Patricia Hughes lived with her sick but loving father and her alcoholic mother. Three days before her seventh birthday her life changed forever. Her father went back to hopsital and her mother abandoned her – leaving the police to deliver her to Nazareth House, a Catholic Orphanage.

For the next eight years Patricia lived in the ophanage, cared for by seemingly loveless nuns, intermittently placed in foster care with often abusive carers. When she was fifteen she decided she’d had enough and ran away from her foster paernts to start life on her own.

Although she never stopped wondering about her parents, it wasn’t until 1997 that she began to learn more about her family. Out of the blue she received a phone call from a woman claiming to be her sister. This was just the start of a series of extraordinary discoveries about their joint and separate pasts and about the family neither woman knew they had.

Daughters of Nazareth is a moving and intirguing tale of a search for family and understanding. Patricia Hughes is inspirational in her ability to move on and to accept. Her story, although recounting events which could be seen as tragic, is overwhelmingly positive.

A moving read.

Daughters of Nazareth, by Patricia Hughes
Pan Macmillan 2002

Manhattan to Baghdad, by Paul McGeogh

In early September 2001, Australian journalist Paul McGeogh returned to New York from a trip to Afghanistan. When he woke on September 11 it was to the news that a plane had hit the World Trade Centre. As he turned on his television he was just in time to see the second plane hit. McGeogh was on the streets in time to witness the towers collapsing. Being witness to these shocking events was just one of McGeogh’s strokes of fortune that saw him in the right place at the right time (from a journalist’s perspective – some may argue he is often in the wrong place).

The twelve months following September 11 saw McGeogh return to Afghanistan to witness and report on the subsequent events, travelling to Israel and the Occupied Territories to report on the ongoing conflict in that region, venturing into Baghdad to gain insight into the effects on Iraq of ongoing sanctions and the threat of another war, and onto Saudi Arabia.

Manhattan to Baghdad is McGeogh’s account of his personal journey, of the events he witnesses and of the people he meets along the way. This is a highly personal account, yet has the precision of a journalist’s observation. As well as allowing the reader a glimpse into McGeogh’s life, it ultimately provides a deeper insight into the events of the months since September 11, and of the current war and ongoing turmoil in the region.

This is essential reading for anyone who wants a better understanding of the tumultuous world we now inhabit. Both entertaining and educational.

Manhattan to Baghdad, by Paul McGeogh
Allen & Unwin, 2003

Islam in Australia, by Abdullah Saeed

In the wake of September 11 and the ongoing bitter debate over asylum seekers, most Australians have opinions on Muslims and the Islamic faith. But many of these opinions are based on misunderstandings or a partial understading of the faith and of its practioners. Over 300 000 Australians identify themselves as Muslim. Many were born in Australia and some were not born into the faith, instead choosing to convert.

Islam in Australia provides a brief and accessible introduction to the world of Islam and, in particular, its existence and practice in Australia. One of the key understandings imparted by the book is that, like Christians, Muslims are not all alike. There are vast cultural differences within the Muslim community, making many common perceptions of the ‘typical’ Muslim, simply uninformed stereotypes.

Author Abdullah Saeed is Head of the Arabic and Islamic Studies program at the University of Melbourne. His inside look at Australia’s Muslim community is a must read for every Australian.

Islam in Australia, by Abdullah Saeed
Allen & Unwin, 2003

Rose, by Robert Wainwright

When Lang Hancock married Rose Lacson in 1985 it was a fairly quiet wedding – held in Sydney, away from the glare of the media and with only a few carefully selected guests. It is unlikely that Hancock could forsee that this was the beginning, however, of an increasingly public life. The marriage would send the previously private man into the public eye, a situation which would endure even long past his death.

Since that wedding, Rose Hancock Porteous has become one of Australia’s most recognisable and talked-about women. Known for her lavish parties, expensive tastes and outlandish behaviour, Rose continues to attract media attention. In Rose, Western Australian writer and journalist, Robert Wainwright provides a gripping account of this flamboyant woman.

From her childhood in the Philippines, to her first and second marriages and on to her third – with Lang – and fourth, with Willie Porteous, Wainwright provides insight into Rose’s life and motivations. Wainwright uses his own lengthy media association with Rose, as well as detailed research and interviews, to present an account which is as insightful as it is balanced.

A compelling read.

Rose, by Robert Wainwright
Allen & Unwin, 2002

The Boy From Boree Creek, by Peter Rees

When he announced his resignation as Deputy Prime Minister in June 1999, Tim Fischer began his withdrawal from Federal Parliament and from the political arena. After 28 years in politics, he had come to the decision that his family needed him more than the National Party or the Australian public did.

In the decades preceding that resignation, Tim Fischer had grown from a fresh-faced state politician, to the confident, hat-wearing leader of the National Party and Deputy Prime Minister. He had weathered the highs and lows of life in politics and put his stamp on the nation’s history.

The Boy From Boree Creek explores Fischer’s life from his birth in 1946 until this resignation. Author Peter Rees attempts to capture both the private and the public persona, showing how he ran his campaigns, how he built a public image for himself and how he influenced policy making, and yet more intimately, how he coped with the pressures and constraints of the political life.

Readers with an interest in Australian politics will find plenty of interest in this book, as will all who enjoy Australian biographies.

The Boy From Boree Creek, by Peter Rees
Allen & Unwin, 2002

Tim Fischer's Outback Heroes, by Peter Rees and Tim Fischer

As Australia’s traditional rural industries have either hit hard times or become increasingly mechanised and less labour-intensive, more and more towns have found themselves faced with dwindling populations and subsequent struggles for viability and survival. The gap between the city and the bush grows ever wider and those who wish to ensure the long-term future of their communities have had to work hard to meet the challenges they are faced with.

As a politician and head of the National Australia Party, Tim Fisher travelled widely throughout Australia’s rural areas. In the course of his work, he met many people and listened to many tales of hardship and of survival. In Outbck Heroes,he combines with journalist Peter Rees to share the stories of Australians who have succesfully faced the challenges of the changing nation, using initiative, hard work and determination to help themselves and to inject life into their communities.

From every state in Australia come stories of unique ways of survival and success. Whether it is making cheese in Tasmania, unique cosmetics and oils in Western Australia’s south, or transporting goods across the country, the individuals in this book all show that with positive thinking and the will to succeed, dreams can become reality.

An excellent read, especially relevant in the Year of the Outback, and at a time where much of Australia is suffering the effects of severe drought.

Tim Fischer’s Outback Heroes, by Peter Rees and Tim Fischer
Allen & Unwin, 2002