The Song of the Casskins, by John Fitzpatrick

While his parents are off having an adventure in Patagonia, Kaz is sent from his home in Japan to stay with his grandparents in Far, Far North Queensland. He doesn’t realise he is about to have an adventure of his own.

When Kaz is on his way to the Dairy Day Parade in Milaa Milaa, he is kidnapped by a group of Casskins. The Casskins are large birds, related to the Cassowaries, but much bigger and far more intelligent. Not only are they more intelligent than cassowaries – Casskins are more intelligent than any other creature – especially mankind.

The Casskins need Kaz to help them prevent a dam being built and a uranium mine opening – two events which could have disastrous consequences for the local animals. At first scared and reluctant, Kaz finds himself becoming increasingly willing to help the Casskins and the other creatures he meets on his adventures.

Although this is a work of fantasy, The Song of the Casskins is both a humorous and exciting adventure story and an educational tool – with a message about conservation and appreciating our environment and our wildlife. A useful aid is the addition of facts about the cassowary in the early part of the story.

The Song of the Casskins will appeal to 8 to 10 year old readers, although may be less appealing to those still adapting to the language of the novel.

The Song of the Casskins, by John Fitzpatrick
Scholastic, 2002.

Bones Maloney and the Raspberry Spiders, by Glenda Millard

Bones Maloney might look tough, but his heart is as soft as a cherry brandy chocolate. Bones and his Jazz Doggies are the star attraction at Barker’s café every Friday night. But, if there is one thing that Bones loves more than singing it is the raspberry spiders that are served at Barkers. Unfortunately, he isn’t paid enough to be able to buy one. What would happen if his throat was too dry to sing half way through his performance?

This humorous picture book combines children’s fantasy with the blues scene for an effect that will entertain both children and their adult readers. The illustrations of Matt Cosgrove are awesome, with vibrant colours and adorable dog-characters ranging from chihuahuas to dalmations to mutts and hounds.

Most likely to appeal to readers aged 4 to 8, Glenda Millard’s story will have you hankering for a raspberry spider.

Bones Maloney and the Raspberry Spiders
, by Glenda Millard, illustrated by Matt Cosgrove
A Margaret Hamilton Book from Ashton Scholastic, 2002

Cowtime, by Kim Barnes

When the sun goes down and the farmers go to bed – it’s COWTIME!

The girls in the cowshed really go to town, dancing and mooing up a storm. But that’s not all – soon the pigs start jumping, horses start wiggling, and the goats, sheep, ducks – even kangaroos and possums – all join in.

This high energy book, by talented writer/illustrator Kim Barnes, is guaranteed to thrill every young reader. The rollicking rhyme, compelte with mooing chorus, is silly enough to have the most serious listener smiling and mooing along.

There are even actions, demonstrated on each page by a dingo, making the book an excellent resource for preprimaries, playgroups and child care centres.

The illustrations are outstanding. Every page is packed full of colour and action. The detail is exceptional, with loads of surprises to be discovered on rereadings. A cat (who refuses to take part in the silliness of the dance) is cleverly hidden on each page, and other clever touches, include the multicultural faces of the human characters, as well as one who is wheelchair-bound.

Cowtime is sure to be an enduring classic.

Cowtime, written and illustrated by Kim Barnes
Scholastic Press, 2002

The Magic Hat, by Mem Fox

One fine day, from out of town, and without any warning at all, there appeared a magic hat.

As the magic hat moves through the town, spinning through the air from person to person, its magic causes chaos – and hilarity. Young readers will join in the guessing, with the hat changing each person it lands on into something surprising. Where and how will this magic end?

The Magic Hat is the latest magical offering from renowned Australian children’s author, Mem Fox. Beautifully illustrated by Tricia Tusa, the book continues the fine tradition of outstanding offerings from Ms Fox.

As with earlier books, the charm of this book is in its rhythm and its simplicity. Children will love the repeated refrain which will help them guess what is going to happen next as the magic hat weaves its way through the town.

Mem Fox is one of Australia’s best known and most celebrated children’s authors, with 25 best selling titles to her credit. Her very first picture book, Possum Magic, first published in 1983, remains the best selling ever picture book in Australia, with over 1.5 million copies sold in Australia. Other popular titles include Boo to a Goose, Koala Lou, and Wilfred Gordon Mcdonald Partridge. Outside Australia Mem has also achieved great popularity, having reached Oprah’s list of twenty all-time best children’s books, with her title Time for Bed. For adults, Fox has written Reading Magic, recommended reading for parents and teachers, and Mem’s the Word, her autobiography.

The Magic Hat is wondeful bedtime reading for 3 to 6 year olds.

The Magic Hat, by Mem Fox
Scholastic Australia, 2002. rrp AUD $24.95 (hardback)

Six White Boomers

If you are an Australian parent then there is a good chance that you grew up singing Six White Boomers at Christmas time. This song, and the legendary singer Rolf Harris, have been a art of Christmas in Australia since 1960. This Christmas you can share the magic with your children.

Rolf Harris and Scholastic Australia (under its Margaret Hamilton imprint) have combined to produce the song lyrics in a beautiful picture book with accompanying compact disc.

The book includes the full lyrics to the song, written by Rolf and his friend John D. Brown, with watercolour illustrations by Bruce Whatley bringing the song to life.

The CD includes a recording of the song so that you and your young ones can sing along with Rolf. And, if you want more, there are two bonus Rolf Harris tracks – Christmas in the Sun and Pavlova

An introduction at the beginning of the book explains how Rolf came to write the song. he explains that he was always amazed to hear Australian sing songs about snow and icicles in the middle of Australian, and so set out to write a song more appropriate to our climate and culture. The longevity of this song’s success indicates that he struck a chord with fellow Aussies.

Every Australian child deserves a copy of this book – one of the few Christmas songs written especially for Australian children. Friends and relatives overseas may also enjoy this piece of Australiana.

Six White Boomers by Rolf Harris and Bruce Whatley
A Margaret Hamilton Book from Scholastic Australia, 2001

Shooting Stars – Maddy's Big Break

Maddy wants desperately to score an acting role. She’s always landing jobs to sing jingles, but she just wants a real acting job. So when she finds out she has an audition for Halfway Hospital, she is determined to get the role.

This is not as easy as it seems. Her Dad doesn’t even want her to attend the audition. He thinks the role is disgusting and inappropriate. Then, when she does get the job, Maddy discovers that the acting business does not always go as it should. Her friends try to warn her, but will she still be disappointed?

Maddy’s Big Break is the second title in scholastic Australia’s new Shooting Stars series. Writer Tempany Deckert is better known for her acting roles – she appeared in Australia’s Home and Away for several years, before her more recent role in The Secret Life of Us.

Maddy’s Big Break is especially likely to appeal to girls in the 10 to 14 year old age range.

Maddy’s Big Break, by Tempany Deckert
Scholastic Australia, 2001

Shooting Stars – The Green-Eyed Monster

Louise can’t stand the Billingham twins, Evie and Cameron. In fact, she thinks they’re vomitus. So when they join the Shooting Stars acting school, Louise does nothing to help them fit in. Her friends feel the same way.

Things start to change when Louise’s brother, Jake, gets teased at school for being in a television commercial. Louise tells him the other kids are just jealous. Then she wonders – is she jealous of Evie and Cameron?

The crunch comes when the twins and Louise go to an audition together and she discovers that these girls aren’t as perfect as she first thought.

The Green Eyed Monster is the first in Scholastic’s new series for teenage girls The Shooting Stars. It is the first series for girls from Scholastic since the phenomenally popular Babysitter Club series.

Author Tempany Deckert will be familiar to many readers. She appeared in Australian television show, Home and Away for three years before heading off to the US more recently appearing in The Secret Life of Us. Her experiences as a child actor make her well qualified to write a series set in the television industry.

The Green Eyed Monster, by Tempany Deckert.
Scholastic Australia, 2001

My Story – Who Am I?

“Matron Rose said I should write in you every day about all the things I do and stuff. And I do lots of things that I’m gunna tell you about.” So begins the diary of Mary Talence, aged 10, Sydney 1937.

Mary’s story, presented via her diary entries, begins at Bombaderry home for Aboriginal children. Mary has been living here since she was five, but remembers another home- with her Mum and Dad and lots of brothers and sisters. Mary likes her family at Bombaderry, including her best friend Marj, and the babies she looks after, but she still misses her Mum and wonders why she doesn’t come to visit.

Mary’s life changes again soon after the diary begins, when she is fostered by a white family. The diary follows her struggle to assimilate into the white society she finds herself living in. Mary is repeatedly told that to be Aboriginal is bad and that she must forget her past. To Mary this is incomprehensible.

Who Am I ? creates an awareness and understanding in young readers of the policies of protection and assimilation of Aborigines which were practiced in Australia until 1969. By using the intimate first person format of the diary, readers are given a first-hand experience of the emotional effects on the children from the ‘stolen generation’ of being removed from their families and stripped of their identities.

Who Am I? is part of Scholastic’s ongoing My Story series, presenting the stories of young people in different periods of Australian history. A quality read for readers aged 10 and over, and also suitable for study as an in class text.

My Story: Who Am I?, by Anita Heiss
Published by Scholastic Australia, 2001