Rescue on Nim's Island, by Wendy Orr

Walking on Shell Beach with their people was slow and strange. The jangle of voices filled Nim’s ears so she couldn’t hear the cry of birds or the shushing of the sea. Her toes didn’t notice the warm sand beneath them. But most of all her mind was too busy noticing what other people were doing to think her own thoughts.

Nim has always liked living alone on her island with her dad Jack, their writer friend Alex Rover and her animal friends Fred and Selkie. Visitors are not wanted, because they might want to damage the island. But Jack has invited some special visors – scientists who will work with him to try to find a a source of safe energy which might help the whole world. The scientists are bringing their children, and Nim’s friend Edmund, and Nim thinks it might be nice to have some company for a change. But when they arrive, Nim isn’t so sure. The twins Tiffany and Tristan think think the island is boring, and one of the pairs of scientists is not the couple they invited. Could they be up to no good?

Rescue on Nim’s Island is the third book featuring Nim and her unusual friends. The island is a magical, idyllic place, and in previous adventures Nim has had to fight to save it from tourists and developers. Now, it seems its treasures are attractive to would-be scientists. Nim has to use all her ingenuity – and the help of her friends, animal and human, to save the island and outwit the crooks.

As with instalments of most good series, Rescue on Nim’s Island can be read on its own, with enough back story given to keep a new reader abreast of what’s gone before, but reading the books in sequence will add to the experience.


Rescue on Nim’s Island, by Wendy Orr
Allen & Unwin, 2014
ISBN 9781743316788

Available from good bookstores and online.

The Nim Stories, by Wendy Orr

In a palm tree, on an island, in the middle of the wide blue sea, was a girl.

And what a girl she is. Nim is adventurous, funny, loving, brave – the list goes on. Being bought up on an island with only her father, Jack and animal friends for company doesn’t stop her. In fact, perhaps it is the very thing that makes her so resourceful and such fun to read about.

The Nim Stories brings together two books featuring Nim and her friends Fred (a marine iguana), Selkie (a sea lion) and Chica (a turtle) as well as human friends including Alex Rover, a reclusive author of adventure stories. The first book, Nim’s Island was first published in 1999 and follows Nim’s adventures after she is left alone on the island when her father is trapped at sea. The second Nim at Sea was published in 2007 and once again sees Nim and her father separated, this time when Nim leaves the island to rescue Selkie when she is kidnapped by a smuggler. Both books have now been made into feature films, with this new edition of the books released to coincide with the second film.

Full of fun, adventure and love, The Nim Stories are a suitable for readers of all ages.

The Nim Stories

The Nim Stories, by Wendy Orr, illustrated by Kerry Millard
ISBN 9781743316498

Available from good bookstores or online.

Rainbow Street Pets, by Wendy Orr

What would you do if you lost a pet?
Where would you go if you found one?

When Lachlan has to move from the family farm to a house in the city, the only consolation he can find is that his dog Bear is going to come with him. He loves Bear more than anything else in the world – and Bear loves him, too. But on the way to the city something terrible happens – Bear gets lost. He is devastated, and after searching for days he almost gives up hope. But miracles can happen, and when Lachlan starts at his new school there is someone there who just might have seen Bear.

‘Lost Dog Bear’ is the first of six wonderful animal stories in Rainbow Street Pets. Each is self contained but all are centred about animals lost or adopted from the Rainbow Street Animal Shelter, with the result that characters – animal and human – feature across several stories. There’s the tale of a brave cat that saves its elderly owner’s life, a stolen pony and even an orphaned lion cub.

Highly readable and lots of fun, Rainbow Street Pets is a boon for young animal lovers.

Rainbow Street Pets

Rainbow Street Pets, by Wendy Orr
Allen & Unwin, 2012
ISBN 9781742379081

This book is available from all good bookstores and online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

Raven's Mountain, by Wendy Orr

My face is in the snow. My head is whirling. I can’t think. I don’t know where I am or why. Lifting my head hurts. There’s a rumbly thunder noise floating up from below me.
The last thing I remember is being afraid that Lily would laugh if she saw my Top-of-the-World Dance.
Then I see the sick in the snow. My whole body remembers the fall and nearly throws up again.

Raven isn’t happy about moving away from the home she’s always known, to the mountains on the other side of the country. Now her step-father, Scott, is taking Raven and her sister Lily hiking up the mountains. After a trek through the wilderness Raven feels for a fleeting moment like she’s on top of the world – until the mountain top comes alive, and Raven finds herself part of a rock fall. When she comes to, she is alone, with no sign of Scott or Lily. It is up to her to retrace their route to get help.

Raven’s Mountain is a gripping adventure story of the courage of a young girl who must rely on her untapped strengths to survive and to save her family. Along the way she develops a unique connection with a family of bears and with a raven, helping her to survive and to connect with her inner reserves.

From the award-winning author of Nim’s Island , Raven’s Mountain is a satisfying read which middle and upper primary aged readers will adore.

Raven's Mountain

Raven’s Mountain, by Wendy Orr
Allen & Unwin, 2011
ISBN 9781742374659

This book can be purchased in good bookstores, or online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

The Princess and Her Panther, by Wendy Orr & Lauren Stringer

One afternoon…
a princess and her panther crossed the desert sand.
The princess was brave, and the panther tried to be.

This charming picture book follows the adventure of the princess and her panther – who are really two sisters spending the night camping out in a backyard tent. As the night is filled with more and more noises, the active imaginations of the pair build a bigger and bigger (and scarier) adventure – until their bravery takes over and banishes their fears.

The illustrations combine the actual scenario of the older sister dressed as a princess and the younger as a panther, with their imaginings, so that as they trek across the real backyard sandpit, they lead an imaginary camel piled high with their camping gear, and so on. The final two spreads show only reality, with the reassuring scene of the sisters settling down peacefully, enjoying their backyard adventure.

A lovely concept, executed brilliantly.

The Princess and Her Panther

The Princess and Her Panther, by Wendy Orr & Lauren Stringer
Allen & Unwin, 2010

This book is available in good bookstores, and online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

Peeling the Onion, by Wendy Orr

Jenny rushes in; stops and turns pale at the sight of my scaffolded neck. This isn’t what she expected to see – and for a moment Jenny, sunny, effervescent, ever-optimistic Jenny, stares at me and can’t speak.
‘They made a mistake – I broke my neck after all.’

Anna is on the way to the top. She’s won another karate competition, and this year she’ll go for her back belt. And she’s just shared her first kiss with Hayden, who could well be the love of her life. But Anna’s life is shattered when she and Hayden are in a car accident. He’s fine, but she’s in hospital with multiple injuries, including a broken neck, and a long road to recovery ahead of her.

As Anna deals with the pain of her injuries and the reality that her life will never be the same again, she discovers that there is no such thing as ‘normal’. Things that once seemed so normal no longer matter to her; things which never concerned her now matter a lot. And her friendships and relationship are changing, too. Anna wonders if she’ll ever put herself back together again.

Peeling the Onion is an absorbing first-person account of Anna’s journey through the healing process – both physical and emotional. Anna is a likeable character and the use of first person narration allows the reader to see her strengths, her weaknesses and her insecurities in an intimate way.

This is the fifteenth time this book has been reprinted since its first release in 1996, a testament to its appeal.

Peeling the Onion

Peeling the Onion, by Wendy Orr
Allen & Unwin, 1996, this edition 2006

You can buy this book online at Fishpond.

Across the Dark Sea, by Wendy Orr

The half-moon came out, its crescent of light shining in the calm sea.
It shone on the soldiers who burst out of the woods, and on the sampans racing up the river to hide.
It shone on the shore where Ma waited with Mai, while the fishing boat with Ba and Trung sailed out to cross the sea to Australia, 6000 kilometres away.

It is 1978. Trung, his sister Mai and their mother live together in Vietnam. Their father has been in prison for two years, because he was a doctor for the army that lost the war. In the dead of night Trung, Mai and Ma make their way to the beach where they are briefly reunited with Ba. Then, in the mad rush to get aboard boats which are their chance to leave Vietnam, the family is separated – Trung and Ba make it aboard, but Ma and Mai have been left behind.

After a long and dreadful journey, Trung and his father arrive in Australia, where they begin their new life, but both of them have challenges to face, living in a strange country with a strange language. The biggest challenge of all is missing those they left behind.

Across the Dark Sea is a junior novel which shares one boy’s story of coming to Australia as a refugee. Because the issue is humanised through the endearing character of Trung, children will be able to better understand some of the challenges both of getting to Australia and of building a new life here.

Making Tracks is a new series of junior novels produced by the National Museum of Australia Press, presenting history to primary school aged children through accessible stories. Each story is written by a well known Australian author, and based around an artefact from the National Museum’s collection.

A wonderful little book.

Across the Dark Sea, by Wendy Orr
National Museum of Australia Press, 2006

Spook's Shack, by Wendy Orr

Reviewed by Sally Odgers

Finn is between worlds. His old house has been sold, and his parents have flown to ‘the biggest city in the world’ to choose a flat. Finn is left to spend the hiatus with his mother’s aunt, Agatha Greene. Agatha lives on a bush block between a farm belt and Boris Banks’ mansion. She tells Finn to watch out for snakes, explains the procedures for surviving a bush fire and basically leaves him to himself.

Down in the bush, Finn discovers a fire-singed shack. When he enters, he wakes the inhabitants; an old swagman, Jack Henry, and his collie, Nipper. Jack and Nipper are surprised to find themselves waking as ghosts, but they discover that swallowing green fungus from the inside of the shack renders them easily visible.

Finn makes friends with the odd pair, and together they rescue a joey wallaby, foil the land-grabbing Boris Banks’ plans to foreclose on Aunt Agatha, and preserve her house from a fire.

The plot may sound like a standard bush/fantasy adventure, but the style, the themes and the deft interweaving of worlds and times sets this novel apart as something rather special. The narrative is both elusive and allusive, as Finn moves through Jack Henry’s world experiencing the old ghost’s kinship with the local wildlife and introducing him to the modern joys of radio, computer games and mobile phones. Their shared fascination with one another’s knowledge and skills is touching and very believable. Jack’s life story is one of wandering and betrayal, of a friendship turned to enmity with Boris Banks’ ancestor. The past impinges on the present, and the various elements of the plot move forward in a dream-like way. At times, the reader is enmeshed in Jack Henry’s perception, either directly or while he is recounting an incident to Finn. This led to me needing to reread a few brief passages, just to make sure I really understood what was going on.

There is humour in the story, but Wendy Orr has not taken the easy route of making Jack Henry into a comic figure. As Finn discovers, Jack is not dangerous, but allowing himself to become immersed in Jack’s world is. The thrilling defence of a goat and kid from a pack of dogs is a triumph – but the appearance of the farmer with a gun brings real danger to Finn.

In the end, Jack redeems his long-ago betrayal with a favour for an undeserving enemy, but it is not the redemption that could send Jack into limbo…

Symbolically, Jack casts off his modern delights, but Nipper is able to join him – somewhere. Aunt Agatha has her happy ending, and Finn is able to move on to the next thing; his life in ‘the biggest city in the world’.

Spook’s Shack, by Wendy Orr (illus. by Kerry Millard.)
Allen & Unwin 2003

Sally Odgers is a Tasmanian author of children’s and young adult books. By Sally Odgers By Request – visit her new project at her website and have your say.