A Year on Our Farm, by Penny Matthews

On any Australian farm, there are jobs to do, animals to care for, crops to grow and people who live there. In A Year on Our Farm, one of the children who lives on a farm shares his year with the reader. Having introduced the residents – both human and animal – he details the monthly activities and happenings. Each month is shown in a double page spread, with the relevant season named and the key events presented both in the story and the illustrations.

As fiction, A Year on Our Farm can be read as a simple story. At the same time, the nonfiction elemnts introduce months, seasons and farming to young readers, making it an excellent classroom sharing book.

The illustrations of Andrew McLean are delightful and a perfect complement to author Penny Matthews’ text.

A delight.

A Year on Our Farm, by Penny Matthews, illustrated by Andrew McLean
Omnibus, 2002

At War with the Tooth Fairy, by Rolf Heimann

Rory has discovered that the tooth fairies are not as sweet and loving as they’re made out to be. So he’s set out to teach them a lesson.

When he turns up at school showing the signs of his battle with two very feisty fairies, he is teased mercilessly and punished by his teacher for lying. Then Rory meets the Bullyboss, an evil, toady looking creature, who congratulates him on his behaviour and encourages him to join the ‘bully brotherhood’.

At War With the Tooth Fairies is a funny tale with a gentle moral. Heimann’s characters are humorous and well-rounded, with Rory being believably human, even as his lesson is learnt.

At War With the Tooth Fairies is a Start-Ups Level 2 title from Lothian, likely to appeal to 8 to 10 year olds as they make the change from illustration-dependent stories to junior novels.

At War With the Tooth Fairy, by Rolf Heimann
Lothian Books, 2003

Animal Architects, by John Nicholson

Did you know there’s a bird who can tie complex knots to build a basket-like chamber? Or that wombats can build warrens with thirty metres of tunnel (or more)? Author/illustrator John Nicholson, a qualified architect, was so fascinated with the way the animal world deals with the need for housing, that he put together Animal Architects.

Divided into chapters exploring different types of homes, from Weavers to Diggers and Carpenters, the book looks at how animals build their homes and what they use them for.

With plenty of Australian content – wombats, bower-birds and trap-door spiders among the animals discussed – there are also well known builders like beavers and woodpeckers.

Nicholson’s illustrations are both detailed and appealing, making the book a visual delight. Whilst the book has great appeal as a reference title, it will be a source of delight and entertainment for both children and adults.

John Nicholson is among Australia’s most respected writers of non-fiction for children. Other titles include Building the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Gold!

Animal Architects, written and illustrated by John Nicholson
Allen & Unwin, 2003

One Fourteenth of an Elephant, by Ian Denys Peek

At the start of the Second World war, Denys Peek was living as a civilian in Singapore, with his brother Ron and his parents. Like most other able bodied expatriates, he signed up as a volunteer to help in Singapore’s defense. When Singapore fell, in February 1942, Denys and his brother became prisoners of war, interred with tens of thousands of other British, Australian and Commonwealth men.

Transported to Siam, Denys spent the next three years living in Japanese run labor camps, forced to work on the building of the Burma-Thailand Railway.


In appalling conditions these men fought to keep both bodies and spirits alive, whilst enduring harsh and unreasonable work expectations, limited food rations, no sanitation, and the dismal prospect of never seeing their families or their countries again.


Over 20,000 men died in the construction of the railway. Many times during his three year ordeal Peek faced the prospect of joining their ranks. Miraculously, he survived, spurred on by a stubborn refusal to die, the bond he shared with his brother and his mates, and, at times, by psychic happenings that defied explanation.


In One Fourteenth of an Elephant, Peek shares his story with an intimacy and openness that stirs deep feelings in the heart of the reader. Writing in present tense, he recounts events as they happened, taking the reader with him on his daily quest for survival.


This is a book which reveals horrific suffering, events and brutality that almost defy belief – yet it is not a depressing story. Peek’s own survival and the courage and humanity showed by his fellow prisoners are an incredible demonstration of just how people can triumph over the strongest adversity.


Powerful, evocative – essential reading.


One Fourteenth of an Elephant, by Ian Denys Peek
Pan Macmillan, 2003


Taste Testers, by Dr Garry Egger

Can you lose weight AND enjoy food at the same time? Doctor Garry Egger thinks so, and sets out to prove it in this pocket size book of tasty recipes.

Egger, the originator of the hugely successful Gutbusters program and, more recently, Professor Trim’s Medically Supervised Weight-Loss Program, offers a range of healthy, easy-to-follow, but most importantly, tasty low-fat recipes for everyday. From creamy chicken and mushroom soup, to mustard and ginger pork and chocolate and amarretto cheesecake, the recipes are so tantalizing that it’s hard to believe they’re recommended for dieters. Each recipe has an indicator of fat content per serve and the book is scattered with cartoon illustrations which give a humorous touch.

Great for dieters and anyone interested in eating better.

Taste Testers: Menus, Meals and Mirth for Weight Loss, by Dr Garry Egger
Allen & Unwin, 2003

Gabriel Gate Guide to Everyday Cooking

More than just another cook book, Gabriel Gate Guide to Everyday Cookinglives up to its name. Alongside over 200 recipes are loads of tips, hints and information backed by Gate’s lifetime in the kitchen. Gate gives suggestions for shopping better, cooking quicker and generally reducing stress in the kitchen.

The recipes themselves are easy to follow, well set out and generally use common ingredients. They include soups, vegetable dishes, light meals, desserts and more.

This is a book you will use over and over, and would be ideal for the nervous novice.

Gabriel Gate is one of Australia’s favourite chefs, recognisable by his French accent and known for his delicious recipes and sound advice.

Gabriel Gate Guide to Everyday Cooking
Allen & Unwin, 2003

Wolfspell, by Anna Ciddor

It is the hungry season. Winter is nearing an end and food stores are running low. When Thora and Oddo’s families are told they must now pay harsh taxes or forfeit their land, it seems unlikely either family can find the means.

Once before Thora and Oddo have worked together to solve their problems. That was when Oddo, a farmer’s son, discovered he had magical skills and Thora, from a Spellworking family, discovered she could grow and use plants to heal. The two had worked together and undertaken a risky journey, whilst Oddo’s father lay bewitched and ill. This time, however, it seems there is nothing either can do for their family.

When Oddo’s parents leave him to look after the farm while they hunt for furs to pay their taxes, Oddo finds he must fight to defend the farm from his scheming neighbour. Thora, meanwhile, has been entursted by her father with the task of solving their taxation worries. Together, the pair undertake a journey to ensure the future of each of their families. Their path lies through thick forest, over perilous waterways, thorugh bog and over mountains. They must reach home in time to defeat Oddo’s neighbour and deliver Thora’s silver to the taxman.

Wolfspell is the second title in Anna Ciddor’s Viking Magic Series. As in the first title, Runestone, readers are presented with a strong story and a richly woven world. Ciddor melds her research into the real world of Vikings with her fantasy with great success.

Another winner.

Wolfspell, by Anna Ciddor
Allen & Unwin, 2003

Take 40, by Leanne Mercer

There is no birthday more talked about, more anticipated than a woman’s fortieth. For some it is a daunting age – perhaps signalling the end of youth, and admitting to being middle aged – for others a time of great challenge as they face changes in life, career, relationships.

In Take 40 Leanne Mercer, executive producer of Good Morning Australia talks to 40 women about their experiences of turning – and being – 40. They discuss how they felt at the time and how they feel now looking back.

Amongst those who share their thoughts are radio and television personality Amanda Keller, swimmer Tracey Wickham, singer Marina Prior and Sarah, the Duchess of York. Each woman’s experiences of reaching this milestone are different, but the common thread is that turning 40 is not a signal to sit back and admit defeat, but rather a time to go for it, to move forward and do whatever it is you want to do.

Take 40 also shares tips for looking and feeling good, as well as advice on careers, dating, marriage and more. An excellent gift for a woman approaching this age, Take 40 is an inspirational and insightful read.

Take 40, by Leanne Mercer
Pan Macmillan, 2003

Cappucino Diva, by Samantha Ellen Tidy

Angie has always considered Fremantle home so, when she returns from travelling overseas, she is drawn to live there.

Sharing a house, working in a coffee shop and drifting in the tide of the harbour town, Angie begins to develop a sense of self, an ego which is built up and diminished over again. Darcy, the man she has slept with once but longed for both before and since, is one of the keys to her happiness or lack of it.

Don’t be fooled, though, that this is in any way a love story or even a light romance. Cappuccino Diva is a story of self discovery, of self belief and self absorption. As the novel unfolds, Angie grows in a manner whcih is both endearing and believable.

This is also a book about a place – Fremantle. The port city, forever struggling to be more than a suburb of Perth, is an entity that those who have spent time there have to love. Author Samantha Ellen Tidy captures the elements of Fremantle witha precision which will make those who have lived there home sick. The houses, the cafes, the hotels and – most importantly – the people, fill the pages with the life that is Fremantle.

Cappucino Diva was runner up for the T.A.G. Hungerford Award in 2000 and is the first publication of Tidy’s fledgeling publishing venture, Black Coffee Press. You can learn more about the Press, and about Cappucino Diva, by visiting the company’s website, where teachers will also find access to ideas for using the novel in the classroom.

Cappuccino Diva, by Samantha Ellen Tidy
Black Coffee Press, 2003

Who Killed Bianca, by Emma Darcy

Succesful romance novelist K. C. Gordon is looking forward to her trip on the Ghan from Sydney to Alice Springs. Part research opportunity, part relaxation, she has no desire to be caught up in a murder investigation.

Unfortunately for K.C., it seems she might have little choice. Among her fellow travellers is a group of eight of Sydney’s elite, all of them with dramas, pasts and secrets they don’t want to see exposed. They are dogged by another passenger, the infamous gossip columnist, Bianca Bernini, who has joined the trip purely to dig dirt and expose the secrets of her eight adversaries. She does not forsee that the trouble she is about to cause will result in her murder.

K.C. finds herself drawn into this group and into trying to figure out who the murderer is.

Who Killed Bianca is a gripping murder mystery from one of Australia’s most popular female novelists, Emma Darcy. Darcy, better known for her numerous romance titles, shows her versatility with this, her second murder mystery featuring the sassy 40-something K.C. Gordon.

Good reading.

Who Killed Bianca, by Emma Darcy
Pan Macmillan 2002