Heather and Heath, by Sally Odgers

‘Here it is, lassie!’ he cried jubilantly. ‘The blaze – a bit o’ bark sliced awa’ wi’ a dirk!’
‘What’s to do wi’ that?’ asked Ness, cold and tired.
‘Lassie – ‘ Hector loomed out of the night and caught her out of the wagon in a giant’s hug. He gave her a smacking kiss and swung her in a circle until the stars wheeled and the world contracted about her. ‘Lassie, it means we’re home!’

When Ness McCleod arrives in Sydney Town in 1837, she is alone and penniless. An orphan, she had departed Scotland with a travelling companion to seek employment and adventure., but the death of her companion en route to Sydney has left her alone and unsure of what she should do. On the docks, she meets Hector Campbell, some years her senior, and a fellow Scot. Believing she has no other option, she hastily weds Campbell and accompanies him to Launceston and on to their new property – Glen Heather. It is there that Ness falls in love – with this beautiful property, if not with her husband.

Heather and Heath follows the trials and triumphs of three generations of women and their love for the property. Each must fight to stay there and to keep it running, and all find both joy and heartbreak. The question is, how far will each woman go to hold on to what is theirs?

Each of the three viewpoint characters – Ness (1837-39), her daughter in law Isobel (1860-1885) and Isobel’s granddaughter Alice (1913-1920) – is strong in her own way, yet distinct from the others. Readers will enjoy getting to know each woman and the Tasmanian landscape on which Glen Heather is built.

Heather and Heath, by Sally Odgers
Satalyte Publishing, 2015
ISBN 9780992558093

Ramses Rat and the Great Cat Bastet, by Sally Odgers, illustrated by Dushko Zafirovski

Ramses Rat PBThe statue stepped down from its cushion and stretched. Its tail lashed like a whip. It crouched until its huge nose was level with mine.

‘I wear eye paint and earrings as a sign of my royal blood, you foolish rat,’ it hissed. ‘I am not an offering. Offerings are made to me. This temple belongs to me. I am the Great Cat, Bastet.’

Ramses Rat is looking for adventure and a place to live, so when he finds the Temple of Bastet, from which come delicious smells, he thinks he has found the perfect home. But what he has found, instead, is an adventure. When Ramses tries to get into the temple, he is stopped by the Rats of the Nile, who say they control the temple. Not only are they determined to keep Ramses out, but they want to remove all other rats from the city. Ramses and his new friend Ka are in danger.

But when Ramses meets the Great Cat, Bastet, he finds an unlikely ally. Bastet does not want the Rats of the Nile ruining her city. With Ramses’ bravery and ingenuity and some help from Bastet, peace is restored.

Ramses Rat and the Great Cat Bastet is a junior novel set in Ancient Egypt, apparently the first in a series. Ramses Rat is an adventurous, interesting character, and the story is told in his first person voice.  Readers will enjoy the novelty of having a rat as a viewpoint character, as well as the chance to discover Ancient Egypt. The text is complemented with several full page black and white illustrations.

Ramses Rat and the Great Cat Bastet, by Sally Odgers, illustrated by Dushko Zafirovski

Prints Charming Books, 2015

Rainforest Lullaby, by Sally Odgers & Lisa Stewart

In the drowsing tropic scene
Tree frog’s clinging green-on-green.
Snuggled safe till the sun slips down
Ringtail possum’s sleeping sound.

Across the rainforest animals are settling down to sleep, with the exception of Boobook, who hunts in the dark, and Sugarglider, who glides through the moonlight. The rainforest itself also settles, with creaking boughs and the sounds of rain, making a gentle backdrop for a young listener to be lulled to sleep.

Rainforest Lullaby is a dreamy rhyming picture book perfect for bedtime reading. The gentle, lulling text is complemented by soft pastel illustrations of watercolour and gouache and the whole will withstand repeat readings.

A lovely gift for a new baby or young toddler, Rainforest Lullaby is also a lovely companion to Bushland Lullaby by the same pair.



Rainforest Lullaby

Rainforest Lullaby, by Sally Odgers & Lisa Stewart
Scholastic, 2013
ISBN 9781742838205

Available from good bookstores and online.

Bushland Lullaby, by Sally Odgers and Lisa Stewart

Reviewed by Dale Harcombe

Bushland Lullaby

Publishers often say they don’t want rhyming picture books but when they are done well as this one is, they are a delight to read. Sally Odgers has been writing books for a long time and she knows exactly what she is doing and it shows.

The language of Bushland Lullaby is rich and lyrical. Children will be introduced to some words with which they may not be familiar and that’s a good thing. Some of the verse is so picturesque. I loved the description of the creek where eddies dance with winking sun and the hushing waters by the river’s smile, where little crocodile sleeps, not to be woken and down in the bush where gum trees thrive, Where the lazy breeze brings scents alive, you’ll find baby koala. Equally as effective a description is that of the baby wombat, Burrowed into an earthy mound, In the summer day when the sun bakes down. The text takes the reader through the day in the wild red desert where the sun’s alight or the sky flings stars in a winter’s night to the ancient calm where little dingo is safe from harm and into the night of sparkling skies.

The rhyme and rhythm works perfectly. It has a gentle lilting feel while each double spread introduces Australian animals and birds. Some like the koala and wombat are well known while others not so much and that’s good.

The illustrations in their muted colours blend perfectly with the text. I liked all the illustrations but particularly the baby platypus lying on its back, the crocodiles, the penguin page, the koalas curled in the fork of the tree, and the fruit bats .The second last page is simply a gem as is the last page, yet they are both very different.

This is a delightful picture book which will no doubt please children and their adult readers. It deserves a place in many homes and libraries.

Bushland Lullaby, by Sally Odgers and Lisa Stewart
Scholastic, 2012
ISBN 9781742831770

Available from good bookstores and online.

Bushland Lullaby, by Sally Odgers & Lisa Stewart

Asleep in a gently snoozing ball
Little possum’s soft and small.
In a twisty tunnel and cosy bed
Little wombat rests his head.

From possums and wombats to crocodiles and bats, the baby animals of the Australian bush settle down to sleep, until finally the young readers is reminded that when s/he settles down to sleep in bed, you’re not the only sleepy head.

Bushland Lullaby is a gentle bedtime read suitable for children from birth. In lyrical rhyme the text is like a soft song. It is perfectly complemented by the pastel watercolours and mixed media of the illustrations, with dusky pinks and blues prominent.

A lovely touch is the use of not only the predictable Australian animals – possums, wombats and echidnas – but also some probably less expected in a cuddly book – crocodiles, bats, even lizards. Another nice touch is that each illustration shows the baby animal either cuddled by a parent or with one close by, a reminder to young readers that they are watched over even while asleep.

This would make a treasured gift for a newborn.

Bushland Lullaby

Bushland Lullaby, by Sally Odgers & Lisa Stewart
Scholastic, 2012
ISBN 9781742831770

Available from good bookstores or online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

The Pup's Tale, by Darrel & Sally Odgers

One sunny Thursday morning, I was doing rounds with Dr Jeanie. I was surprised when she drove the Pet Vet van to Jeandabah instead of straight to a farm.
I say up tall so I could see through the van window. We’d stopped in an ordinary street. Maybe someone had a pony or a house cow behind a house? I sniffed at the gap in the window.
Dr Jeanie looked at her notes.
‘Number seven,’ she said. ‘This is the place.’ She got out of the van with her bag, and hesitated. ‘I don’t know if you should come, Trump.’
I whined to let Dr Jeanie know I certainly should come. I am her A.L.O. and I can’t do my job if I stay in the van. Besides, I was lonely.

Trump is an A.L.O.: an Animal Liaison Officer, and he helps Dr Jeanie in her veterinary work. Together they are an unbeatable team in the Pet Vet series. The Pup’s Tale is Book 6. In this adventure, a Labrador Retriever has delivered a very large litter of puppies. 15! And that’s one too many even for devoted mother, Pipwen. A little chocolate-coloured puppy is at risk of abandonment. Trump and Dr Jeanie to the rescue! Black and white illustrations are scattered throughout and potentially challenging words or concepts are in bold text with an explanatory information box nearby.

The Pup’s Tale is an engaging story for children new to independent reading. The print is largish, with interspersed illustrations and short chapters. There’s an adventure, with drama and solution, but there’s also factual information about how a vet practice works and about different animals. Readers can learn about different breeds of dog and some of the work involved in having pets or show animals. The main characters are introduced at the beginning, with a personal introduction from the narrator, Trump. The animals can communicate with each other, but stay in ‘character’ of their breed. Recommended for newly independent readers and anyone wanting to know a bit more about whelping, dog breeds and their behaviour.

The Pup's Tale (Pet Vet)

The Pup’s Tale (Pet Vet), Darrel & Sally Odgers
Scholastic Press 2011
ISBN: 9781741697254

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

This book is available in good bookstores or online from Fishpond

The Kitten's Tale, by Darrel & Sally Odgers

The kitten squalled crossly and clawed at the bars of the cage.
‘That’s not a prison,’ I said. ‘It’s a cage, with a bed and food and water.’ I turned to the kitten. ‘It’s all right,’ I sad. ‘You’re safe. Just make yourself comfortable and Dr Jeanie will—” I broke off. I had started the speech I made to our patients when they’re nervous, but this kitten wasn’t our patient.

A strange kitten has appeared at the vet surgery, and Trump isn’t sure what to think. The kitten doesn’t have a home, but has been brought here by Trump’s friend, Major Higgins. While the kitten is looked after by vet Jeanie, other strange things happen. Someone is stealing Trump’s kibble, and another, vicious cat is on the loose in the area.

The Kitten’s Tale is the fifth instalment in the Pet Vet series, an outstanding series of books for middle primary aged readers. Told from the viewpoint of Trump, the young Jack Russell dog who lives with vet Dr Jeanie the story is part mystery, part educational and wholly fun. Supported by text boxes, black and white line illustrations and front of book character introductions , The Kitten’s Tale can be read without knowledge of the earlier titles.

Pet Vet: #5 Kitten's Tale

The Kitten’s Tale, by Darrel & Sally Odgers
Scholastic, 2010
ISBN 9781741697247

This title can be purchased online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

The Python Problem, by Darrel & Sally Odgers

The snake hissed, hunching and sliding. Now I was looking straight at it, I couldn’t believe I hadn’t noticed it immediately. I bounced back out of range. ‘It’s the escaped python everyone’s been looking for,’ I told Peter Wu. ‘Why didn’t you warn me it was in here?’

When a Python escapes from its tank, the whole neighbourhood is concerned, and Trump must help Dr Jeannie reassure the patients. But on a wet day, Trump finds more than she bargains for when he responds to a distress call from a trapped Siamese cat. She needs to rescue both the cat and the snake.

The Python Problem is the fourth title in the wonderful Pet vet series, featuring Trump, the daughter of Jack Russell, dog detective, from the series of the same name. There are plenty of dog and cat characters in the series, but also the more unusual animal characters such as Diamond, the python. As well as a high-interest story, The Python Problem has elements designed to both appeal to young readers and to enhance their reading – including black and white line illustrations (by Janine Dawson) , definitions of difficult words, and comments on pet care from Trump.

Another great offering in a wonderful series.

The Python Problem (Pet Vet)

The Python Problem (Pet Vet), by Darrel & Sally Odgers
Scholastic, 2009

This book can be purchased online at Fishpond . Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

Inspector Jacques, by Darrel & Sally Odgers

Snap! I had my Jack-jaws at his throat. A dog howled for mercy. That was me.
I backed away, chattering my teeth. The other dog smirked. I’d almost broken a fang on the metal studs in his collar!

Jack Russell is not impressed by Sarge’s houseguests – Inspector Cook from the Art Fraud Squad, and his dog, Jacques. The Inspector is on the trail of an art thief who has stolen a famous dog painting – and he suspects Sarge of being the thief. It is up to Jack to solve the mystery and make sure Sarge is not sent to jail.

This is the eleventh title in the Jack Russell: Dog Detective series, and features favourite characters from previous books as well as new ones, especially the humorous French-accented Jacques. With a mystery to be solved, some laughs and lots of intertextual elements including glossaries of unfamiliar words and Jack-Facts, this is sure to appeal to readers aged 6 to 10.

Inspector Jacques can stand alone, with an introduction which explains the series to readers who have not read the earlier offerings.

Inspector Jacques (Jack Russell, Dog Detective S.)

Inspector Jacques (Jack Russell, Dog Detective S.), by Darrel & Sally Odgers
Schoalstic, 2009

This title can be purchased online from Fishpond . Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

The Blue Stealer, by Darrel & Sally Odgers

Sarge is a clever person.
Even clever people sometimes get hold of the wrong end of the stick.
This is a fact.

Jack Russell, dog detective is back on the case. Someone is stealing special things from the humans of Doggeroo. But what is worse – much worse – is that the favourite things of Doggeroo’s dogs are also going missing. Foxie’s boot, Shuffle’s pug cloth, even the Squekes’ plastic chop, have all gone missing. Jack needs to help his friends get their things back – and, if he does, perhaps he can help Sarge solve the mystery.

The Blue Stealer is the tenth title in the Jack Russell: Dog Detective series, a series which doesn’t become stale. Authors Darrel and Sally Odgers manage to come up with new twists and new characters each time, as well as the familiar first person (first dogson?) narrative of Jack, the Jack Russell terrier who never lets a mystery rest.

Good stuff, sure to entertain young readers.

The Blue Stealer (Jack Russell, Dog Detective S.)

The Blue Stealer, by Darrel & Sally Odgers
Scholastic, 2009