Platypus, by Sue Whiting & Mark Jackson

Platypus (Nature Storybooks)
Amlways moving.
Always busy.
Always looking for a meal.
Platypus is perpetual motion
– never still.

At dusk, Platypus leaves his sandy burrow and dives into the cool green pool. It is time for him to hunt and forage. As he dives, floats and swim, readers are taken along on his evening outing, all the way learning about this unqiue Australian animal. Alongside the story of this one platypus, there are platypus facts including physical features, diet, habitat and more.

The gentle text is informative, but is also poetic, with the feel of the nighttime meanderings. This is reinforced in the dusky colours of the mixed media illustrations. The platypus is realistically rendered, which makes him all the more endearing.

Part of Walker Books’ amazing Nature Storybooks series, Platypus is suitable for private enjoyment as well as classroom use.

Platypus, by Sue WHiting & Mark Jackson
Walker Books, 2015
ISBN 9781922077448

Avalable from good bookstores and online.

Portraits of Celina, by Sue Whiting

“What happened to her? I dare to ask. “Really?”
Mu eyes the floor as if the answer is contained in the grains and knots of the floorboards. “No one knows for sure,” she says after a while. “Set off to school one day and was never seen again.” She pushes herself clumsily to her feet, the memory of it seeming to weigh her down. “It’s ancient history, Bails…”

A few months ago, Bayley’s father died suddenly. Now, her mother has moved the shattered family to the country, to live in the house where Celina O’Malley grew up. Moving here is supposed to heal them, but Bayley feels the presence of Celina, her mother’s cousin, who disappeared forty years ago. Bayley is sleeping in Celina’s old room, is the same age Celina was when she disappeared and, she discovers, looks just like Celina. But that’s not the strangest thing. Bayley has memories of things she couldn’t possibly remember – because they happened forty years ago. Celina seems to want Bayley’s help – but giving that help could risk Bayley’s life.

Portraits of Celina is a spooky tale of revenge, love and family. Even without the ghost haunting her, Bayley has a lot to deal with – the loss of her much loved father, a sister who’s off the rails, a barely coping mother, a little brother who won’t change out of his Batman costume, and a boy who calls her Crazyeyes and seems to like her. Mostly she balances all of this, but as the story progresses she finds support not only from within but from those around her.

Whiting balances the supernatural, ghost elements with a story which deals with very real issues of grief, teen rebellion and family, offering a read which teens will love.

Portraits of Celina

Portraits of Celina, by Sue Whiting
Walker Books, 2013
ISBN 9781922077479

Available from good bookstores or online.

Get a Grip, Cooper Jones, by Sue Whiting

Mum’s words clunk around inside my brain. It’s the third day in a row where the temperature is expected to tip forty degrees, and my head feels thick from lack of sleep and from breathing all this stinky hot air.
“Come on,” she says, “get a wriggle on. It’s after five. Don’t want to be late.”

Cooper’s life is okay until the day Skye tells him she’s seen his dad. That’s not possible – Cooper doesn’t have a dad – not one he knows anything about. Suddenly he’s plagued with thoughts about this mysterious figure. At the same time, he’s frustrated by his fear of the beach, and by his mother’s strange behaviour.

The new girl next door, Abeba, also seems to have a complicated life. As Cooper gets to know her, life gets even more complicated.

Get a Grip, Cooper Jones is fast paced, lightly humorous look at growing up and taking control. Set in a hot summer with bushfires looming, the story is a mixture of action and self-exploration, as Cooper tries to work through his various dilemmas.

A wonderful read for upper primary and lower secondary aged readers.

Get a Grip, Cooper Jones

Get a Grip, Cooper Jones, by Sue Whiting
Walker Books, 2010

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

A Strange Little Monster, by Sue Whiting

‘You’re strange, Sasha,’ said Hissy.
‘So very strange,’ agreed Grissy.
Sasha shrugged. She didn’t care.

The monsters of Grotty Hollow are loud and tough – all except Sasha. Sasha would prefer to enjoy the flowers, or a starry night, preferably while playing her flute. Her family think she’s strange, and her parents wonder where they went wrong. But Sasha likes being different.

When Sasha sees a Mountain Troll heading straight for the other monsters, her difference is the very thing that allows her to save them – and show all the monsters that being different can be a good thing.

A Strange Little Monster is a wonderful easy read tale about having the courage to be yourself. Part of the Aussie Nibbles series, the text is complemented by delightful black and white illustrations, by Stephen Michael King, on every spread.

A fun read with a gentle, but important, message.

A Strange Little Monster (Aussie Nibbles S.)

A Strange Little Monster , by Sue Whiting, ill by Stephen Michael King
Puffin Books, 2010

This book is available online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy, by Sue Whiting

There are no finer candymakers in the land than Marcus and Mary. They boil and toil making all sorts of delectable delights. But when the greedy king tastes one of their sugarplums and orders fifty jars be made by sun-up, Marcus is sure they will be in trouble. There is no way they can fill the order in time. They work late into the night, but cannot fill the order. To their surprise, in the morning there are fifty jars waiting on the bench for them to deliver to the king.

When this pattern is repeated, Marcus and Mary discover they are being helped by a sugar plum fairy – and when trouble really strikes it is the sugar plum fairy who again helps them out. Mary decides it is time that she and Marcus do something to repay the fairy – and this is exactly what they do.

This absolutely gorgeous picture book is a treat as sweet as the lollies which adorn its pages. The story is delightfully reminiscent of the tale of the Elves and the Shoemaker and the illustrations are filled with colour and quirky characters. As if the story and illustrations weren’t enough, the book is accompanied by a CD featuring the story read by Antonia Kidman and a recording of Tchaikovsky’s music which is the source of inspiration for the story.

Dance of the Sugarplum Fairy is part of New frontier Publishing’s innovative Music Box series which aims to introduce children to pieces of classical music in an innovative way. Little girls will love it, and music teachers will also find the book a useful classroom tool.

Sheer delight.

Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy

Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy, by Sue Whiting and Sarah Davis (ill)
New Frontier Publishing, 2009

Freaky, by Sue Whiting

On close inspection there was nothing really extraordinary about it. It had a hick coat of thorny barbs and the branches snaked out from the trunk sideways before turning to the sun.
But it gave me the heebie-jeebies. There was something about it. Its branches seemed alive somehow – ready to grab. It had an aura – a dark, sinister aura.
Get a grip, I told myself. You’re losing it! It’s a C-A-C-T-U-S.

When Jayden is sent to stay with his rellies that he hardly knows, he thinks things can’t get any worse. But he’s wrong. The rellies live in the country, in a town with no skate park. What’s worse, they are cactus freaks, with a yard full of spiky plants. Then, when Aunty Nina and Uncle Trev buy a new cactus, things get really freaky. The cactus seems to be coming alive.

Freaky is a fun, but scary, tale based on an urban legend which sounds frighteningly true involving spiders and cacti. Jayden’s adventure is fast-paced and short enough to entice the most reluctant reader.

Part of the wonderful Lightning Strikes series from Walker Books, Freaky is a great offering for primary aged readers.

Freaky, by Sue Whiting
Walker Books, 2009

The Firefighters, by Sue Whiting

Briiiiiing! Briiiiiing!
The alarm screams
‘Quick!’ I say. ‘Coats and boots!’
‘Hats, too,’ says Mia…
We’re being firefighters – just like the REAL ones.

Jack, Mia and their kindergarten friends – and even their teacher, Mrs Iverson – are playing at being firefighters. With a cardboard box as a fire engine they race off to put out the fire. It’s fun being a pretend firefighter. Later, though, Mrs Iverson has a surprise for them – a visit from a real fire engine. The children learn about fire safety at the same time as enjoying the excitement of exploring a real fire engine and meeting real firefighters.

This gorgeous picture book offering serves the dual functions of teaching about fire safety and the role of firefighters, and highlighting the fun of imaginative play. It would be a great classroom tool for fire safety lessons, but is equally just a fun read for home or school.

The illustrations, by award winning illustrator Donna Rawlins are in bold acrylics with plenty of red and yellow, matching the bright red endpapers.

Sue Whiting is an exciting writer, creating stories which kids want to read, and which adults enjoy sharing.

An excellent offering.

The Firefighters, by Sue Whiting and Donna Rawlins
Walker Books, 2008

Elephant Dance, by Sue Whiting

Nervously, Hugo’s trunk began to sway.
His middle jiggled.
Then he bobbed…
and bounced…
and sang out loud!

Hugo and Millie, two young elephants, are the best of friends. They do everything together, and when they first hear music, they dance together. But Millie gets sick of dancing, and Hugo wants to do nothing else. They argue and separate. But when Hugo finds himself in trouble, Millie uses music to help him out.

Elephant Dance is a beautiful picture book about friendship and compromise. The repeated refrain of ‘boom-boompa-chee’ will delight youngsters who will echo it during and after the story – when I read it to a class of year one students they wanted to boom-boompa-chee around the school for the rest of the day.

The illustrations, by Nina Rycroft, are in beautiful pastels with the browns and greys of the elephants offset by rich orange and blue skies and green grasses. The music weaves through the illustrations on coloured ribbons, symbolising the way it drifts through the air and carrying the tune from page to page and across spreads.

This is a beautiful picture book offering.

Elephant Dance, by Sue Whiting and Nina Rycroft
Koala Books, 2007

The Hairy Legs Heist, by Sue Whiting

She had only finished two bags when a dreadful chill crept through her. It was too quiet. Something was wrong.
She wandered outside. Hairy Legs wasn’t there. She wandered back in; he wasn’t on his inside stand either.
‘Where’s Hairy Legs?’
Leo scratched his beard. ‘He’s outside.’
‘No, he’s not,’ Britt said, her cheeks flaming.
Hairy Legs was gone.

When Hairy Legs, the foul-mouthed galah who sits outside the pet shop, is stolen, the residents of Tompkin Park are devastated. Everyone loves Hairy Legs – well, nearly everyone. And no one loves him more than Britt Brady does. She is determined to figure out what happened to the galah, and to get him back. But when Britt finds herself in as much danger as Hairy Legs is, she wonders if either of them will survive this ordeal.

The Hairy Legs Heist is an exciting and humorous adventure for primary aged readers. It is wonderful to see a strong girl character at the centre of a mystery story, especially for this age group. Britt is feisty and likeable, and she doesn’t give up.

It is hoped that there will be more stories in the Britt Brady series.

The Hairy Legs Heist, by Sue Whiting
New Frontier, 2007

Eyes in the Paddock, by Sue Whiting

Jack is scared of the dark. So when his friend Nathan invites him along on a camping trip, he is horrified. No street lights, no house lights, and no nightlight. He is going to be in the pitch black in the bush. But Jack doesn’t want Nathan to know he is scared and he doesn’t want to let him down either, so he tries to brave it out.

When Nathan’s dad asks the boys to collect some more wood for the fire, Nathan heads off into the dark. Jack has little choice but to follow him. Then something terrible happens – the batteries in Nathan’s torch start to run out, just as the boys start to hear strange noises. When they see three pairs of eyes looking at them in the dark, both boys are terrified.

Eyes in the Dark is a cute chapter book from the talented Sue Whiting, exploring fears and friendship in a humorous tale. Part of the Breakers series from Macmillan Education, it is suitable for classroom or private reading and will appeal especially to 7 to 10 year old readers.

Good fun.

Eyes in the Dark, by Sue Whiting, illustrated by Tom Kurema
Macmillan Education, 2003