Infamous, by Justin D'Ath

Tim is desperate to put the town of Daffodil on the map. Things aren’t looking good for the future of the town, and if it doesn’t pick up, more people will leave. Especially Tim’s best friend Greer and her mum.

Then Tim has a great idea. If a thylacine was spotted in the town, lots of people would come to see it. So, all he has to do is make one. Tim turns his dog Elvis into a Thylacine. When it is spotted, it looks like Tim’s plan has worked. The town is packed with visitors and bounty-hunters.

Everything looks good, until Tim and Greer realise that Elvis isn’t the only Thylacine in town. Could there be a genuine thylacine? And if there is, how can Tim save it from the bounty-hunters?

Infamous is a fun junior novel from talented children’s author, Just D’Ath. With loads of humour and silliness, it also deals with themes of friendship, honesty and conservation.

A great read.

Thylacine, by David Owen

The Tasmanian Devil, or Thylacine, once inhabited most of Australia. By the time of white settlement it was limited to the island state of Tasmania. Then as the human population of the island grew, the world’s largest marsupial predator was deliberately hunted to extinction through ignorance, fear and greed. Yet even today, many Australians, including scientists, claim to have seen the Thylacine, alive and well.

Thylacine: The Tragic Tale of the Tasmanian Tiger tells the tragic story of how false beliefs and lack of care led to the extinction of the animal which has since become the logo of the state which eradicated it and a symbol of the conservation movement world-wide.

With a mix of scientific fact, recount and photographic evidence, Thylacine is both educational and enlightening, and highly accessible to the reader.

Thylacine: The Tragic Tale of the Tasmanian Tiger, by David Owen
Allen & Unwin, 2003

Norah of Billabong, by Mary Grant Bruce

Reviewed by Tash Hughe

Norah of Billabongis the third in a series of fifteen books about Norah Linton and her family on their station, Billabong. The series was very popular with girls as they were printed, and has touched generations of Australians and others. Billabong is an isolated cattle station in Northern Victoria in the early 1900s. Having never known her Mother, Norah lives with her Father, David, elder brother, Jim, and their friend, Wally Meadows.

This book opens with the closing of Norah’s first year at school. Although Bruce takes care not to portray school in very negative terms, it is clear that Norah longs for the bush, the cattle station and her Father.

For the first time, Norah develops a female friendship in the form of Jean Yorke. Jean’s family is in New Zealand so she spends the summer at Billabong with the Lintons and Wally.

Before leaving the city, David Linton treats them to a pantomime and dinner, which greatly excites the country-bred children. The morning is spent doing Christmas shopping and a charitable visit to a children’s hospital. As usual, Bruce introduces her characters to the “right thing” without moralizing about it to her readers.

Back at the station, the children settle into horse riding, mustering, working and playing. Their lives are interrupted by Wally’s misadventure with a snake and a lazy station hand.

The disgruntled station hand was dismissed, but, in a drunken state, took his revenge by starting a bushfire on the station. No lives were lost, but the house was uninhabitable for a while so David took the children on a horseback holiday. Their holiday adventures complete the book.

Norah of Billabong, by Mary Grant Bruce
Ward, Lock & Co, 1913

About the Reviewer: Tash has always been an avid reader, which has lead her to running her own writing business. Melbourne born and bred Tash is proud to be an Australian and be Mum to two beautiful little girls. To learn more about Tash and her writing, visit Wordconstructions

Muddle in A Puddle,by Belinda Nadin

When the animals decide to leave the zoo and search for a new home, it is giraffe who leads the way, marching proud and strong. Camel brings up the rear, with the other animals calling to him to keep up.

Soon though, giraffe comes across an obstacle. There is a puddle across their path – a deep, wide puddle, that cannot be crossed. First Giraffe, then Rhinoceros, then Hyana and Meerkat fail to cross the puddle. They are in a muddle. Will camel be able to help them out?

Muddle in a Puddle is a cute new picture book by Belinda Nadin. The story is sweet, with a nice message about the unlikeliness of heroes. Although the rhythm in places seems a little strecthed, kids will love the silliness of the story and the outstanding illustrations of Lloyd Foye, who creates adorable characters and expressions.

A fun picture book.

Muddle in a Puddle, by Belinda Nadin, illustrated by Lloyd Foye
Koala Books, 2003

Misconceptions, by Terry McGee

Julia loves her job. An obstetrician, she helps women to bring their children into the world safely and with as little intervention as possible. Although her job is gruelling – long, irregular hours leave her little time for herself or her daughter – keeping busy keeps her thoughts from dwelling on painful memories. In one painful year she lost her unborn son, lived through a very public court case involving her husband, and saw the demise of her marriage. The intervening years have dulled the pain and now Julia thinks she may be starting to move on.

Then a letter arrives which shakes Julia to the core. She is being sued for malpractice, by the mother of a child born brain damaged and permanently disabled. For Julia this is a double blow – not only will her professional integrity be challenged, but she must also revisit the pain of her husband’s traumatic court case. Will she be able to survive the court case and keep her personal life intact?

Misconceptions is a touching drama, which draws the reader to the character of Julia and to the friends and family who fill her life. It also provides an insight into the world of obstetrics, hospitals and litigation. Author Terry McGee, herself a practising obstetrician, is able to share her own knowledge in a believable way.

Great reading.

Misconceptions, by Terry McGee
Macmillan, 2003

Eustace, by Catherine Jinks

Allie thinks she’s through with ghosts. Eglantine, the one who haunted her new home, has moved on, and Allie doesn’t like to talk about it. She would rather put the whole incident – and people’s reactions – behind her. So when she attends a school camp, the last thing she’s looking for is another ghost.

The thing about ghosts, though, is they seem to pop up when you least want them to. Hill End, the site of the camp, seems to have more than one ghost. The museum is haunted by the pacing ghost of Granny Evans. Young Eustace Harrow is blamed for things being broken in Taylor’s Cottage. And the miner hiding out in golden Gully could be less alive than he seems. Allie’s not sure what to make of all this ghostly activity, but when two of her classmates go missing, she realises that this is serious.

Eustace is a spooky but fun ghost story. A sequel to the outstanding Eglantine, it will appeal to 11 to 14 year old readers.

Eustace, by Catherine Jinks
Allen & Unwin, 2003

The Tiger Project, by Susanna Van Essen

When Bella sees the baby Thylacine floating in a jar of preserving fluid, something clutches at her. She is moved more than she can explain. For weeks, the thylacine haunts her dreams, becoming a symbol of the frustrations of her own life.

Bella is in a wheelchair, disabled since birth. She wonders about her absentee father – who left when she was born – and whether she has inherited his genes. She is also involved in the struggles of her friends – Sylvia who has fallen in love with another girl, Claire, the class brain, and Adrian, the class clown. She also forges an unlikely friendship with a neighbour, elderly Olivia Peeves.

All of the strands of this story cause Bella to question how much genes influence an individual’s make up. As she works with her three friends on a project studying the thylacine, she gains a new perspective on life and love.

The Tiger Project is a humorous and insightful young adult novel, which explores complex issues in a simple way. Great reading.

The Tiger Project, by Susanna Van Essen
Pan MacMillan, 2003

Invisible Girl Stories, by Glyn Parry

Having the run of the school at night should be fun, but Kelly isn’t so sure. School isn’t the same as it used to be. There are no students here – only herself, her friend Sally and the head girl. And, late at night another visitor -an angry boy called Jeremy.

Kelly’s story Songs for the Dead is the first in this anthology of ghostly tales by West Australian author Glyn Parry. Other stories feature big brothers who continue to bully the living even after death, midnight rides on ghost trains and flights that seem to be bugged.

These stories, blending the magical and the macabre will appeal to young readers and leave them thinking.

Invisible Girl Stories, by Glyn Parry
Fremantle Arts Centre Press, May 2003

Junkyard Dogs, by Margaret Balderson

In an uptown mansion, four pampered pooches – Billy, Bolly, Bella and Blue – live in luxury. They have a great view and a lovely lawn, and are bathed weekly in ‘la Poochette’ shampoo, but they have absolutely nothing to do. Across town, two mutts called Molly and Moo live in a junkyard and spend their days frolicking and clowning around.

One day Molly and Moo cross town and visit their pampered friends. They decide to liberate them and take them out for an excursion – to the tip. The six dogs have a wonderful time, but the four from the hill are in trouble when they get home dirty and smelly.

Times change, however, when the pampered pooches’ owner goes bankrupt and is forced to sell his big house and move across town. Guess who his new next door neighbour is?

Junkyard Dogs is a fun rhyming picture book by Margaret Balderson. Her quirky rhyme style is well complemented by the watercolour illustrations of Janine Dawson, whose dogs are adorable.

A fun text that preschoolers will love.

Junkyard Dogs by Margaret Balderson, illustrated by Janine Dawson
Scholastic, 2003

Hapless, Hopeless, Horrible, by Joshua Wright

Something is amiss in the land of Sausagopolis. The lovely Princess Sugar has run away, and only the heroic Sir Glame and his trusty steed, Bill, can find her. Together, they travel the land, following clues, getting into trouble and making silly jokes as they search for the missing Princess.

The sequel to the well-received Plotless, Pointelss, Pathetic, Hapless, Hopeless, Horrible is full of humorous cartoons, sappy jokes, toilet humour and all the trademarks of author/illustrator Joshua Wright.

This volume does, however, have one disappointing aspect. Very early in the book Wright explains Sir Glame’s recovery from illness and mental instability, saying he found (and took) some expired medicine in a public toilet, and is now fully recovered. The humour in this statement is non-existent: with a recommneded reading audience of 8 to 13 year olds, this seems an irresponsible piece of text. It is a pity that a text which will be of such appeal to young readers has to be marred by this one page.

If it were not for this flaw, this would be an excellent book – likely to appeal as much to struggling readers as to confident, and full of laughs.

Hapless,Hopeless, Horrible, by Joshua Wright
Allen & Unwin, 2003