The Geography of Friendship, by Sally Piper

They haven’t seen each other for years, but here they are, falling onto the same old pattern as though there’s no other worth considering. Maybe it’s more to do with the place they’re walking through. Maybe the land has designs on them – maybe it always had – robbing them of the power to choose alternatives.

It’s been twenty years since they first walked the rail as teens, and twenty years since their friendship fell apart. Now, Samantha, Lisa and Nicole are walking the same trail, in an attempt to salvage something, even though it is clear to at least two of them what its they are trying to salvage.
That first hike was meant to be an adventure, a kind of coming of age in the wilderness, but what happened in those five days changed all of them, and severed their friendship. Will revisiting the scene of those terrible five days really mend their friendship, and will it help each woman to heal the wounds which continue to effect their lives?

The Geography of Friendship is a finely woven story. the use of three perspectives, and the shift bewteen the events of the past, the present and those in the intervening years, could become complicated, but rather makes for a pleasing complexity as the reader gets to know each woman and gradually piece together what has happened.

Absorbing and satisfying.

The Geography of Friendship, by Sally Piper
UQP, 2018
ISBN 9780702259975

Time for School, Daddy, by Dave Hackett

‘Wake up, Daddy, it’s time for school.’
‘But I’m tired,’ says Daddy.

It’s morning, and a little girl has to get her faddy ready for school. But first he’s too tired to get up, then he has a rumbly tummy, and next he is missing a sock.  Finally, she gets Daddy ready, with lunch packed and hair combed and ont he bus to school.

Time for School, Daddy  is a funny take on the morning rush of school days, with the role reversal showing the child in control and  determined to keep things on track.  This use of humour helps to normalise the multiple worries and dramas which can be part of the routine, and will allow children and parents to see their own routines from a different angle.  Colourful, child-like,  cartoon-style illustration on white backgrounds also offer a lovleyw at for young readers to connect.

Time for School, Daddy, by Dave Hackett
UQP, 2018
ISBN 9780702260049

Turtle Trackers by Samantha Wheeler

Three spine-tingling wails pierced the night air. ‘Beach stone-curlew,’ I murmured, huddling closer to Mum.
A warm, salty gust blasted my face and waves crashed on the shore ahead. The people in front of us whispered, their voices ghostlike in the dark.
‘Everyone ready?’ asked the ranger, Shane, as our group of twenty hurried after him along the track. Shoes shuffled across the coarse sand.

Ten-year-old Isaac and his mother live south of Bundaberg in Queensland, where his mum manages The Pines Holiday Village, a council-owned caravan park. Since Dad is no longer around, Isaac helps his mum as much as he can. In between, he’s a huge fan of the local wildlife, particularly the turtles. Now there’s a full moon and turtles are coming ashore to lay eggs on the beach where they were born. But as well as too much work and not enough time to spend with his friends or the turtles, there are grumpy bloggers, dogs and cats to contend with. Isaac has his work cut out to keep the turtle nests safe until the eggs hatch and a new generation of turtles can make their first journey safely to the sea.

Isaac is doing it tough. He’s lost his dad, his mum is working too hard and no one seems to appreciate how hard he’s trying to keep everyone happy. This is Samantha Wheeler’s third title featuring young characters working to save iconic Australian animals. Each includes a fast-paced adventure and information about animals and the challenges they face for survival in the environment they share with humans. The bright covers on these fictional but also informative novels are very engaging. Recommended for mid-primary readers

Turtle Trackers, Samantha Wheeler UQP 2018 ISBN: 9780702259951

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

Jehan and the Quest of the Lost Dog, by Rosanne Hawke

That was when he noticed the water. It was all around him as big and deep as the sea Mr Nadeem spoke about. It splashed at the trunk of the tree just below his charpai.
‘Hei! I’m going to drown.’
Jehan closed his eyes to pray, then opened them again.
It wasn’t a dream.

Jehan’s life is uncomplicated. he goes to school, plays cricket with his friends, and helps with the chores his parents give him. His little brother might annoy him sometimes, and others he wishes someone else could fetch the water, but really he is happy with his close knit family. But when the monsoon comes early and causes a massive flood, Jehan is swept away on his bed – his charpai – and finds himself stranded in a tress, with the waters all around him.

As the days stretch by, with no rescue, Jehan has to use all his resources to figure out how to stay alive. Then he rescues a dog who has also lost her family and the pair offer each other hope as they struggle for survival.

Jehan and the Quest of the Lost Dog is a charming story of survival, set in flood-torn Pakistan. Hawke gives an insight into life in rural Pakistan and to the impact of natural disasters, with the events based on the real-life floods which ravaged the country in 2010.

As well as being an intriguing read on its own, Jehan and the Quest of the Lost Dog is also a companion book to Kelsey and the Quest of the Porcelain Doll.

Jehan and the Quest of the Lost Dog, by Rosanne Hawke
UQP, 2017
ISBN 9780702259609

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

Too Many Friends, by Kathryn Apel

I like my friends.
I like to be with ALL of my friends.
But sometimes my friends
aren’t friendly with
each other.

Tahnee has lots of friends, and she likes to do different things with them. But it isn’t easy having so many friends – some of her friends don’t like each other, or like doing different things, so it gets hard to be a good friend to everyone. Luckily, Tahnee has a big heart, and wise, loving support from her parents and her teacher, Miss Darling.

Too Many Friends is a delightful, warm-hearted verse novel about friendship. Like most classrooms, Tahnee’s year two class is populated by kids with a range of interests, problems and personalities. Miss Darling is energetic, enthusiastic and loves her job. Tahnee loves Miss Darling and she loves school, but she finds it hard to know how to keep her friends happy, and still do the things she loves, and when one of her friends stops talking to her, she needs to figure out what to do. Her solution is lovely.

This is Kat Apel’s third verse novel, and shows the same tender touch as her previous work.

Lovely.

Too Many Friends, by Kat Apel
QUP, 2017
ISBN 9780702259760

Love, Ghosts & Nose Hair and A Place Like This, by Steven Herrick

I’m a normal guy.
An average sixteen-year-old.
I think about sex, sport and nose hair.
Sex mostly.
How to do it,
how to get someone to do it with me,
who I should ask for advice.

Jack is a pretty average sixteen year old boy. He worries about sport and nose hair, and how to get a girl. But not just any girl: Annabel. He also talks to a ghost: the ghost of his mother, who died seven years ago. As he gets closer to Annabel, he wonders whether it’s time to let his mother go.

First published in 1996, Love, Ghosts & Nose Hair is a classic verse novel for young adult readers. Exploring themes of first love, bereavement and family, as well as teens coming of age, in the honest verse form for which Herrick is known. With Jack as the main viewpoint character, there are also poems from the point of view of his father, his sister Desiree and his girlfriend Annabel, just one of the facets which makes the verse novel form special. Readers are taken inside the head of these different characters with an intimacy which the verse novel form especially facilitates.

This intimacy is also seen in A Place Like This, first published in 1998 and picking up on the story of Jack and Annabel two years later. Having finished school and both successfully got places at university, the pair instead decide to take a year off to work and travel. But, closer to home than they had planned, they find themselves picking apples on a farm where another teen, Emma, is struggling with a pregnancy and her uncertain future.

This classic pair of verse novels from Australia’s finest verse novelist for young adults has been republished  by UQP,  meaning they are now easily available for a new audience, and for teens who have grown up with some of Herrick’s work for younger readers.

Love, Ghosts & Nose Hair, ISBN 9780702228780
A Place like This ISBN 9780702229848
Both by Steven Herrick
UQP, 2017

Another Night in Mullet Town, by Steven Herrick

People like you and me, Jonah,
we drag down the price of everything we touch.

Jonah and Manx have been happy living on the wrong side of Coraki Lake – the side which does’t have beach access. They fish and swim in the lake, and spend their Friday nights watching Ella and Rachel and wishing they had the courage to talk to them. But life is changing. Their run down town is being sold off by a greedy real estate agent. Manx’s dad’s servo struggles to keep its doors open, and Jonah’s parents argue non-stop. The things that happen at their Friday night gatherings by the lake will bring change, and not all of it will be good.

Another Night in Mullet Town is a gritty, realistic verse novel told from the perspective of Jonah, a boy with just the one close friend (though he hopes Ella will become his friend, or something more). He and Manx have always been mates, but he worries that Manx is drifting away, consumed with hatred for the wealthy new-comers. He’s also struggling with the effects of his parents’ fighting. For all that’s going wrong, he manages to find things to be happy about, and he is a likable, often humorous narrator.

Herrick’s poetry is, as always, accessible to young readers with each poem only a page or two, enticing readers to read just one more. The use of the verse novel form means that there is emotional depth, character development and a wonderful sense of place, delivered with a satisfying compactness which means it will reach readers of all abilities.

Another Night in Mullet Town, by Steven Herrick
UQP, 2016
ISBN 9780702253959

Portable Curiosities by Julie Koh

Sight

A lizard keeps following me around the house.

I tell the Tattoo Man about it when we’re sitting on his verandah one afternoon. The Tattoo Man has puffy eyelids and a black beard that he strokes when in deep thought. He’s in his rocking chair with a stray orange cat sitting at his feet, swishing its tail.

Sight

A lizard keeps following me around the house.

I tell the Tattoo Man about it when we’re sitting on his verandah one afternoon. The Tattoo Man has puffy eyelids and a black beard that he strokes when in deep thought. He’s in his rocking chair with a stray orange cat sitting at his feet, swishing its tail.

‘Portable Curiosities’ is a collection of twelve surreal and satiric short stories. In ‘Cream Reaper’, the story reflected in the cover art, the search for the ultimate ice cream flavour becomes deadly serious. ‘Sight’ offers the opportunity to see what others miss. Stories are told in first, second and third person, and explore myriad ‘landscapes’.  ‘The Fat Girl in History’ is story within story, twisting and turning, keeping its truths shifting.

‘Portable Curiosities’ is funny, sad, disturbing, pointed, merciless and merciful. Each story in this collection engages the reader then makes them squirm. A wonderfully black-humoured, multi-flavoured assortment which uses fiction to illuminate truths about the world we live in and how we live in it. Much to think about, great fun.

Portable Curiosities, Julie Koh
University of Queensland Press 2016 ISBN: 9780702254048

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