Wombat Warriors by Samantha Wheeler

‘Look out!’ cried Mum as Dad braked to miss a large white duck waddling across the driveway.
I pressed my face to the window. I knew staying with Aunt Evie would be different, but I hadn’t expected an old sandstone cottage almost ready to collapse. Nor was I prepared for the raggle-taggle gypsy striding towards us. I swallowed hard. Tall and thin, with her dark curly hair tied up in a red scarf, Aunt Evie didn’t look anything like Dad. Plus, she wore socks with her sandals. Dad never wore sandals.

Nine-year-old Minnie, known as ‘Mouse’, is accustomed to being looked after by her loving but very protective parents. So when they tell her they are going to Ireland and she’s going to stay with the aunt she hardly knows, who lives in country South Australia, she’s understandably apprehensive. As if that’s not enough, she also discovers that the house is home to a wombat called Miss Pearl and a duck called Pumpkin. AND she has to attend school while she stays with Aunt Evie. Altogether, it’s not shaping up to be much fun. But Miss Pearl immediately befriends her, and despite a rocky start, school’s not all bad. But there’s a problem. While Mouse very quickly comes to love Miss Pearl, not everyone in the district is as fond of wombats.

Mouse is not used to independence, making her own decisions, and she’s a bit gobsmacked that she has to stay with her quirky aunt in the country. She’s not that excited about Aunt Evie’s neighbour either, and her neighbour’s not that thrilled about city girls. But she does find a friend in her neighbour’s son Harry. Quiet Mouse discovers her voice here in the country where not everyone loves all the wildlife. Her stay with Aunt Evie tips her world upside down in ways she could never have predicted. Themes of friendship, compromise, family and wildlife. Recommended for independent readers.

Wombat Warriors, Samantha Wheeler
UQP 2017 ISBN: 9780702259586

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller
www.clairesaxby.com

Mister Cassowary, by Samantha Wheeler

Mister CassowarySuddenly something big stepped out from the bushes on the road up ahead. It looked like a giant emu but with jet black feathers and a long blue neck. It’s sclay legs reminded me of a dinosaur’s.
‘Dad?’
But Dad was looking in the rear vision mirror at the jetty.
The creature ran out onto the bitumen.
‘Dad! WATCH OUT!’

Flynn has never visited his Grandad Barney’s banana plantation, and he doesn’t understand why. But now Grandad has died, and Flynn and Dad are on their way to clean it up, ready for sale. On the way, Flynn’s first encounter with a cassowary is when one runs out in front of their car, but it isn’t long before he discovers that his grandfather was passionate about protecting the big birds. His dad, on the other hand, hates them – and seems to be scared of them. As Flynn tries to find out what happened to Grandad Barney and what this has to do with Dad’s fear, he discovers two orphaned baby cassowaries and becomes their secret protector.
Mister Cassowary is a moving adventure story. Flynn and his dad’s relationship is good, but because Dad works away, they don’t know each other as well as either would like. This adds to the story, with tension between them as Flynn tries to convince his dad not to be overprotective and to be honest with him about the past.
Readers will enjoy learning about cassowaries through the story and through back of book facts about this unusual bird.
Mister Cassowary, by Samantha Wheeler
UQP, 2015
ISBN 9780702253881

Mister Cassowary by Samantha Wheeler

I’d never been to Grandad Barney’s farm, even when he was alive. He’d grown bananas in the middle of woop woop, at a place in north Queensland.

‘Look, Dad! That sign says Mission Beach. We’re nearly there!’

We’d been driving for two days, travelling nearly 1,600 kilometres from Brisbane, and it felt like we were almost at the tip of Australia. I thought Dad would be happy we were getting close, but his face was growing darker with every passing kilometre.

I’d never been to Grandad Barney’s farm, even when he was alive. He’d grown bananas in the middle of woop woop, at a place in north Queensland.

‘Look, Dad! That sign says Mission Beach. We’re nearly there!’

We’d been driving for two days, travelling nearly 1,600 kilometres from Brisbane, and it felt like we were almost at the tip of Australia. I thought Dad would be happy we were getting close, but his face was growing darker with every passing kilometre.

Flynn and his dad travel to Flynn’s grandfather’s banana farm to prepare it for sale. Flynn has never met his grandfather, never been to his farm. No one will tell him why. Mum, left behind in Brisbane, asks Flynn to go easy on Dad. Flynn’s dad seems to get angrier every day, and no matter how many times Flynn asks, he won’t say why. This is cassowary country and their trip begins with a close encounter with a very tall cassowary. Flynn meets Abby, whose grandfather runs the local cassowary shelter. Day by day, he learns more about these endangered giant birds, his grandfather, and his father. But nothing comes easily. It’s hot and steamy and Flynn is about to explode with frustration.

Book Cover:  Mister CassowaryMister Cassowary is a junior novel set in tropical north Queensland. The title refers to the name of a particularly large cassowary that is legendary around Mission Beach. Flynn struggles to reconnect with his father, who works away at a mine and only comes home now and then. Travelling to the home where his father grew up seems to make things worse, rather than better. Dad is taciturn and full of rules that Flynn doesn’t understand. He doesn’t want Flynn to explore and he won’t tell him why. No matter what Flynn does, it seems to be wrong. But gradually, with the help (and hindrance) of Abby and her grandfather, and despite Dad’s silence, Flynn begins to fill in the spaces in his family history. ‘Mr Cassowary’ explores notions of family and conservation. Recommended for mid-primary readers.

Mister Cassowary, Samantha Wheeler
UQP 2015 ISBN: 9780702253881

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

www.clairesaxby.com

Spud and Charli by Samantha Wheeler

‘Kill it!’

‘Quick! Make it die!’

The girl perched on the top bunk was practically emptying a whole can of fly spray into the corner of the room while three others stood watching, their backs pressed flat against the wall. By the looks on their faces, the monster receiving the blasts must have been nothing less than a spiny-legged cockroach – like the ones that lurked around our bin in the middle of the night.

Each of the girls took turns screaming instructions.

‘Here it comes!’

‘Spray it! SPRAY IT NOW!’

I peered inside the door. A tiny brown spider about the size of a ladybird was huddled helplessly in the corner, making a feeble attempt to hold out its front legs while being drowned in torrents of Mortein Fast Knockdown.

‘Kill it!’

‘Quick! Make it die!’

The girl perched on the top bunk was practically emptying a whole can of fly spray into the corner of the room while three others stood watching, their backs pressed flat against the wall. By the looks on their faces, the monster receiving the blasts must have been nothing less than a spiny-legged cockroach – like the ones that lurked around our bin in the middle of the night.

Each of the girls took turns screaming instructions.

‘Here it comes!’

‘Spray it! SPRAY IT NOW!’

I peered inside the door. A tiny brown spider about the size of a ladybird was huddled helplessly in the corner, making a feeble attempt to hold out its front legs while being drowned in torrents of Mortein Fast Knockdown.

Charli is excited to be at riding camp, where she will finally learn to ride. And then, it’s just a short jump to owning her own horse. Well that’s what she hopes. But from the minute she arrives, things are not quite as she imagines. Firstly, she’s sharing a room with the snobbish Mikaela. Not her choice, but she’s already rejected the other options. Then she’s beaten to choosing the beautiful palomino and nothing, it seems, will convince Mikaela to swap. Charli is stuck with the massive retired racehorse Spud. This is not how it worked in her dreams. And as if this isn’t enough, there are bats. According to Charli’s research, bats and horses are a recipe for disaster.

Spud and Charliis perfect for horse-loving preteens. Jam-packed with horse details from grooming to saddles, to riding terms, they’ll eat it up. Charli discovers that Spud is not as scary as he at first appears, and before too long, she is smitten. Along the way, Charli learns the difference between dreams and reality, making good and bad decisions and why it makes sense to gather all information before judging others. Despite some hasty decisions, Charli’s good sense and caring nature shines through although she has to learn some lessons the hard way. Recommended for mid-primary readers, particularly horse fans.

 

Spud and Charli

Spud and Charli, Samantha Wheeler UQP 2014 ISBN: 9780702250187

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

www.clairesaxby.com