Farther Than Any Man, by Martin Dugard

Born the son of a farm overseer, James Cook had never even seen the sea until he was in his teens. When he did, he began a love affair with the water and with exploring its farthest reaches, which would persist until his death.

Managing to get a job at the lowest of ranks aboard a merchant ship, Cook began a meteoric rise through the ranks, transferring to the Navy and eventually becoming the first ever commoner to command a Navy vessel. On the Eneavour, Cook led a three-year journey which changed the face of modern exploration. He charted New Zealand’s coastline and the eastern coast of Australia for the first time, and returned home a hero. His subsequent trip, in charge of another ship, the Resolution searched for the elusive Southern Continent of Antartica. This trip cemented Cook’s place in English society and gave him the fame and respect he had long sought. He could retire, having achieved his life’s goals. Unfortunately for Cook, the lure of further glory and the prospect of being replaced in the record books drove him to take command of one more voyage. It was to be his undoing.

Further Than Any Man recounts Cook’s voyages in vivid detail. The highs and lows of each journey, the friendships and the foibles of the man who was Jame Cook are detailed, as are the motivations for the man who wanted to go further than any man.

Informative, balanced, real.

Farther Than Any Man: The Rise and Fall of Captain James Cook, by Martin Dugard
Allen & Unwin, 2003

I Saw Nothing, by Gary Crew & Mark Wilson

Rosie lives in 1930s Tasmania, with her father, a timber cutter, and family. Although they are in wild country, Rosie and her family are happy and safe.

One day, though, a fur trapper who Rosie fear- Elias Churchill – comes to the camp, looking for her father. When her father returns, he takes Rosie with him to see Churchill at the railway station. There, while her father is off talking to the trapper, Rosie sees what Chrichill is up to. In a train carriage she sees a thylacine, caged and ready to be sent to Hobart Zoo. Churchill has trapped it and sold it. Rosie is saddened to see the wild animal, hurt and scared.

Several years later, Rosie goes to see the thylacine in the Hobart Zoo. She learns that it is possibly the last thylacine alive. When it dies, she wonders if she could have done something to save it, and perhaps the whole species, by helping it when it was trapped and frightened in the train.

I Saw Nothing is a story which educates rather than uplifts. With an important message about conservation, and protection of endangered species, its use of a child character makes it accessible to younger readers.

The illustrations of Mark Wilson, contrasting the rich and peaceful greens of the bush with the dank colours of disaster and images of the thylacine, are an integral part of the message.

This is an outstanding book, perfect for primary classrooms and for home collections.

I Saw Nothing: The Extinction of the Thylacine, by Gary Crew & Mark Wilson
Lothian, 2003

Written in Blood, by Beverley MacDonald

Tell the average teenager that they should read a history book, and you shouldn’t expect a polite reaction. Most kids think history is dull – after all you’re studying the past, old people, times when there were no computers, no cool music, and people wore daggy clothes. But share Written in Bloodwith these same teenagers, and you can hope for a change of heart.

This is a history book with a difference. Author Beverly MacDonald has worked hard to share only the interesting , the gory and the truly amazing parts of history, and to write about them in a lively and entertaining manner. Readers are encouraged to look at the events and influences which have shaped our lives and beliefs and to examine the environment in which events considered as shocking took place.

As well as being an interesting read for entertainment purposes, Written in Blood provides parents and teachers with an springboard to discussions of history, morals, politics and philosophy.

Including fun cartoons by Andrew Weldon, the book includes loads of provocative facts and true stories of courage, rebellion and survival. It is likely to appeal to children aged 13 and over.

Written in Blood, by Beverley MacDonald
Allen & Unwin, 2003

Jessie, by Mike Carter

Jessie’s not so sure about moving to an Outback Australian town, but her Dad and her therapist think it might be good for her. She’s leaving her life as Ginny Ford, famous pianist and all-round smart kid, and starting again as Jessica Rutherford. It’s supposed to help her get over her breakdown.

In small town Nagoorin, Jessie finds friendship with three boys – local ratbags Martin, Grant and Oomu. Always in trouble, the three accept Jessie into their group and show her all about friendship and fun. They form a band, teach her to swim and ride a motorbike. Jessie, in return, shares her talents to get the boys out of some of their scrapes, as well as landing herself in a few of her own.

Jessie is a story about depression and recovery, and about mateship. Likely to appeal to 12 to 15 year old readers, it is both humorous and uplifting.

Jessie, by Mike Carter
Lothian 2003

Monstered, by Bernie Monagle

Pat is battered and bruised. He has a spirit to match. For years Bugge and Kosta have been making his life hell, and he’s been unable to stop them. Now, though, a chance encounter with a girl on the train has left him with the courage to stand up to the bullies.

For Pat, who has always been alone and is not used to relying on anyone, one of the biggest challenges is accepting help from his friends. It is only by working together that they can make sure Bugge and Kosta get what they deserve.

Monstered is a novel which shows the awful depths bullying can plunge to, but it is also a novel about self-discovery, survival and, importantly, friendship. Pat finds that he is battling the bullies not just for himself, but for the whole town, and that the townspeople are right behind him.

A touchingly real, gently humorous and uplifting novel for ages 12 and up.

Monstered, by Bernie Monagle
Lothian, 2001

Various Faerious, by Jacqui Grantford

Sometimes it can seem,
in the blink of an eye,
Some magical beings
have just passed you by.

Various Faerious reveals the magical world of faeries to young readers, with simple rhyming descriptions and captivating illustrations.

Author and illustrator Jacqui Grantford details the various kinds of faeries which inhabit different climes – from the Faeries of Snow, with crystalline wings, to the devilish Contrary Faeries, with their weird ways, and on to the debonair Flippant Faeries, who tap dance and kick up their heels.

The descriptions and verse are sweet, but there is no question that it is Grantford’s illustrations which make this book a winner. Each faerie type is depected in awe-inspiring detail in its natural surrounds, with each new spread revealing more of Grantford’s talent. The illustrations are as different as the faeries themselves and readers of all ages will be enthralled.

This is no mere book of pretty fairies with tutus and no substance. This is a collection of wonderful images, which will appeal to boy readers as much as to girls.

This is artist and graphic designer Grantford’s first picture book. Her talents are sure to be used in many more titles.

Various Faerious, written and illustrated by Jacqui Grantford
Lothian, 2002

Marching Powder, by Rusty Young

When Australian Rusty Young reached Bolivia on his backpacking holiday, he wasn’t expecting to spend time inside a prison. Curiously, he wasn’t arrested, and he was free to come and go as he liked. This was the notorious San Pedro prison and Young’s reason for staying there was an English drug trafficker, Thomas McFadden.

The pair met when Young visited the jail for one of Thomas’s tours – where tourists were shown around the inside of the jail by inmates. Young was fascinated by Thomas’s story, and felt compelled to learn more and to help him. Thomas, in turn, had been wanting to write his story – Young could help that dream be fulfilled.

For three months Young stayed inside the prison, sharing Thomas’s cell, and documenting his story. The result is this book, Marching Story, which follows Thomas’s story from his arrest for trying to shift a large amount of cocaine out of the country, through his tumultuous adaptation to life inside a corrupt and violent prison system, through to his eventual release.

It is hard for a Westerner to comprehend that these are actual events – the stories of violence, of endemic corruption and blatant unfairness, are so incredible, they seem to be a well written novel. But this is nonfiction. San Pedro prison, where inmates are expected to buy their cells from real estate agents, to feed and clothe themselves and to have their innocent wives and children live with them in the prison, is real. Thomas and his prison mates are real. In fact the whole story is so frighteningly real that it is compelling reading. This is the story of one of the strangest places on earth, and one man’s struggle to survive in it.

Gripping stuff.

Marching Powder, by Rusty Young
Pan Macmillan, 2003

Fake ID, by Hazel Edwards

When Zoe starts researching her family history for a school project, her Gran is strangely evasive. Then Gran dies, leaving Zoe with a pile of unanswered questions.

Zoe’s Mum (Gran’s only child) is wintering in Antarctica, leaving Zoe to attend the funeral and meet the executor of Gran’s will, as well as trying to solve the mystery of just who her Gran was – if she was even her Gran.

Zoe struggles to come to terms with the fact that her Gran had another name and another life before she came to Australia – and that she had taken over someone else’s life on her arrival. With the help of her friend Luke, Zoe finds answers to some of her questions via www.finalthoughts.com, the Dead Person’s Society and the executor of Gran’s will, who hosts a television show called Missing Millions.

But there are some questions, Zoe finds, that don’t have answers. What she has to learn is how to deal with that realisation.

Fake ID is an intriguing tale for teen readers. Part mystery, part personal exploration, and with themes of family and identity, this is a great read for twelve to fifteen year olds, and would also be suitable for class reading.

Fake ID, by Hazel Edwards
Lothian, 2002

Wife For Hire, by Dianne Blacklock

Sam has made a career out of being a perfect wife and mother to her husband Jeff and their three children. So, when Jeff leaves her for another woman, she is devastated – and angry.

With her perfect life in tatters, Sam must make a new one for herself – and quickly finds the perfect job – working as a wife for hire. Sam works for professionals – men and women – who don’t have time for the jobs traditionally handled by a wife – shopping, travel arrangements, bill payment, gift purchasing and more. But when she is assigned Hal Buchanan as a client, she finds him a little difficult to work for, primarily because he doesn’t want to use her services.

As her up and down relationship with Hal develops and her family faces the challenges of new arrangements, she can longer organise everything to perfection. Letting go of her control is not always easy, especially where her emotions are concerned.

Wife For Hire is a lively combination of personal growth, romance and light humour. The effects of divorce on the individual and the whole family are explored, as are relationships between generations, and the search for self identity.

Great reading.

Wife for Hire, by Dianne Blacklock
Pan Macmillan, 2003

When I Was Little, Like You, by Mary Malbunka

There are books whose sole purpose is to entertain and books whose purpose is to educate, but it is a rare treasure when a book is able to succesfully entertain AND educate at the same time. When I was Littleis one of these treasures.

Author/illustrator Mary Malbunka shares the story of her childhood, growing up in the Papunya settlement in central Australia. While young readers will be entertained by Malbunka’s tales of playing, exploring, hunting and daily life, they will also be educated about traditional aboriginal culture and lfiestyle, and some of the ways that lifestyle has been affected by the white man’s world.

Malbunka’s text is conversational in tone, creating an intimate connection between the author and reader, whilst the illustrations are an engaging combination of traditional and contemporary styles. Malbunka’s Luritja language is used frequently throughout the book, witha useful glossary and notes on language included at the end.

A valuable text for school and family sharing.

When I Was Little, Like You, by Mary Malbunka
Allen & Unwin, 2003