Our Australia Alice Springs, by Phil Kettle

Hi there, I’m Taha!
Australia is a long way from Greece, where my mother was born. But on the 26th of January this year, my mum became an Australian citizen.
That’s what Mum said when she showed me her Australian Citizenship Certificate. And then Mum had a great idea. She decided that we needed to explore OUR AUSTRALIA together.

Taha and his Greek-born-but-new-Australian-citizen Mum are on a trip around Australia in their camper van, the Southern Cross. In this instalment of the “Our Australia” series, they drive from Longreach to Alice Springs. It’s a long drive so they stop overnight in Boulia, a town that changes completely when there has been rain. Then in Alice Springs they learn about the Todd River, indigenous and non-indigenous culture and history. Then they’re off to Uluru and surrounds to experience all the wonders of the outback. ‘Our Australia Alice Springs’ is full of drawings, photos and text types. Taha carries an ‘Oracle Pod’ which provides answers to any question. Taha tells his story via letter, email, lists and the ‘Oracle Pod’ information bites.

Our Australia Alice Springs provides information for readers in a variety of formats. The main narrative is Taha and his mother’s fictional journey, but it’s set in a factual landscape and includes elements of geography, history and culture. This is a new series from Australian Geographic designed to engage younger readers. Like the magazine, Our Australia Alice Springs is full of photos, but there are also drawings putting Taha and Mum in the landscape. Information comes from local experts like the policeman, the tourist information centre and local indigenous guides. Shaped like a novel, this series may well attract boys particularly who prefer non fiction but who have outgrown the picture book format. Recommended for mid primary readers.

Our Australia Alice Springs, Phil Kettle, ill David Duncan
Australian Geographic Education 2010
ISBN: 9780980713336

Reviewed by Claire Saxby Children’s book author.

The Big Toocool Book, by Phil Kettle

I am the greatest sportsperson in the world. I have never been beaten. I am a natural champion – especially in my own backyard.

Toocool loves sport and, in his own estimation, there is no one better than him at whichever sport he tries. With his friends, including Marcy and Spike and his dog, creatively named Dog, he spends his day playing sport – any sport will do.

There are twenty four titles in the Toocool series, covering everything from cricket and Aussie Rules to watersliding and fishing. In The Big Toocool Book four of Toocool’s most successful books are brought together in one volume.

Titles included are Soccer Superstar, Footy Hero, Rugby Great and Cricket Legend. All are full-version, making this an economic alternative to buying the four books individually, and all feature the delightful illustrations of one of Australia’s best known illustrators, Craig Smith.

Suitable for readers as young as six or seven, the subject matter will appeal to readers several years older, meaning that this might be a good offering for struggling readers in upper primary as well.

The Big Toocool Book, by Phil Kettle, illustrated by Craig Smith
Scholastic, 2005

The Xtreme World of Billy Kool (Books 3-8), by Phil Kettle

The director pointed to a map on the wall. There was a drawing of a plane at the top of the piece of paper, then little stick figures joined to parachutes falling. Even on a sheet of paper, it looked like a long way down. I caught Basher looking at it. He’d turned kind of pale. Come to think of it, I think I had too.

Life is pretty cool for Billy Kool. He entered a contest to win the chance to host a television show and now he and his two best friends Sally and Nathan are television stars. With their own extreme sports program, the trio get to experience snowboarding, skydiving, bungy jumping, rock climbing and more.

Each one of these books focusses on one extreme sport which, in turn, is the basis of one episode of the television show. Part of the story is told through first first person narrative from Billy’s point of view, while the rest is in the form of a television script. Each book also includes non-fiction compnents including a glossary, diagrams of equipment and an explanation of the sport and its history.

At just 54 pages each, these little books are very accessible to reluctant readers in middle and even upper primary, with the combination of reality television and extreme sports an attractive subject especially for male readers. Teachers will appreciate the varying text-types and non-fiction elements which make them suitable for classroom use. The books also subtly explore issues which confront all children such as popularity, friendship and family.

A clever concept.

The Xtreme World of Billy Kool: Bungy Jumping, Snowboarding, Skydiving, Mountain Biking, Kart Racing and Rock Climbing, all by Phil Kettle
Scholastic Australia, 2004

The Xtreme World of Billy Kool, Books 1 & 2, by Phil Kettle

Roberta was sitting behind the desk. I looked at her and said, ‘My name is Billy Kool. I’m Kool by name and cool by nature. I think the television show should be called The Xtreme World of Billy Kool. I know that my friends and I are the right people to host the show and we really want the job.’

When Billy Kool sees a competition to win the chance to host a television show, he is determined to win. The prize involves hosting an extreme sports show with two of his friends. Choosing the friends is easy – his best mates Nathan and Sally are perfect. Winning the competition is more of a challenge. They have to abseil off a building!

The Xtreme World of Billy Kool is a brand new chapter book series from Scholastic Education. Each book in the series involves preparing for and shooting one episode of the television show which Billy and his mates host. Book 1 – All or Nothing shows how the three manage to win the competition and the shooting of an introductory episode. Book 2 – Whitewater Rafting shows the trio shooting the second episode, which involves going whitewater rafting for the first time.

This is a fun, fast-paced series. Part of each book is presented in television script format, which is both a novelty and also a useful classroom tool. There are also nonfiction elements including a glossary, details about the hisory of the sports, and illustrations of the equipment used.

As well as being fun for private reading, these would be great for classroom media studies or for reluctant readers.

The Xtreme World of Billy Cool. Book 1: All or Nothing and Book 2: Whitewater Rafting, by Phil Kettle
Scholastic Education, 2004