Guess What? by Mem Fox

Reviewed by Tash Hughes

A beautifully illustrated and fun book for children of all ages.

The pictures are very Australian: the isolated, ramshackle farmhouse amongst brown bushes, the outhouse with graffiti and recognizable product labels such as Vegemite and Defender.

Guess What? is about a crazy lady called Daisy O’Grady, who is tall, wears a black dress, likes to fly at night and is, you guessed it, a cranky old witch. Both the story and the illustrations move slowly towards knowing Daisy better, until the final twist of the story.

There are few words per page, so the text is simple enough for young children, but the pictures are worth a long look and many discussions. Each page asks a question then tells the reader to “Guess!” the answer. It is actually answered on the next page; the predictability of all answers being yes adds to the excitement for children.

Each page of text is opposite its relevant illustration, which is clear and eye-catching. Most pictures have a focus that dominates, but all include incredible detail and realism that makes the book so delightful and approachable. It is by looking at the illustrations carefully that adults and older children will pick up some of the humour and reality of the book. For instance, a glance at her kitchen shows familiar packets of flour, tomato sauce, baked beans and spices. Reading labels will give a very different view of her cooking! As will a careful inspection of her recipe bookshelf.

Guess What?by Mem Fox, illustrated by Vivienne Goodman
Omnibus Books, 1988

Dick, by Caroline De Costa and Michele Moore

The subtitle of this book – A Guide to the Penis for Men and Women– says it all. The authors, both practising doctors, discuss everything about the penis – from what it’s called, to its anatomy and physiology: size, shape, function, circumcisions and more. They discuss what can go wrong – stds,infertility, impotence and cancer.They also explore (and debunk) the myths of male sexuality and take a humorous look at the names we call it and the things it does.

Both educational and entertaining, Dick offers serious health information for both men and women of all ages. Information is presented with a healthy dose of humour with language that is accessible and honest.

The authors are well qualified to speak both on this topic, and on health issues in general. Caroline De Costa (MD) is an Obstetrician and Gynaecologist currently based in Queensland. Michele Moore (MD) is a family physician who lives in the US.

Dick: A Guide to the Penis for Men and Women, by Caroline De Costa and Michele Moore
Allen & Unwin, 2003

Women on the Move, by Sandy Givens

Reviewed by Tash Hughes

This is not a book to be read in one sitting and then put on the shelf. It requires time and effort to fully appreciate its beauty and benefits.

The author herself suggests writing in the margins and using highlighters wherever something grabs your attention. Givens also suggests setting up a workbook to use as you read the book. Her suggested format matches with exercises in the book. In other words, Givens wants this book to be a tool in your journey, not a book to be read then shelved.

Givens has written this book to help women identify where they are, where they want to be and how to find ways to navigate the difference between these two places.

This book is not unique in the topic of teaching others to move ahead in their lives; what is unusual about this book is that is written by an Australian woman for Australian women. That’s not to say that it is anti non-Australians or men, but just that it is easy for Australian women to relate to.

Givens frankly uses herself as an example in her book and admits that she herself is still working on setting and achieving goals and maintaining her self-esteem. She doesn’t preach or use terms that require a dictionary near by; the book is for everyday people to read as and when they can.

There is no sense of dictating what your personal goals should be, just an acceptance of working towards what is valuable to you. That is, the book shows no expectations that your goals will be professional or world shattering. By this, Givens shows herself as interested in her readers and purely sharing her knowledge, rather than setting herself above anyone else.

The book is divided into seven sections, each dealing with a different issue along the road to self-fulfillment. Within each section, text, cartoons and diagrams describe concepts and this is supported by exercises for the reader to do. At each exercise, Givens encourages doing the exercise before continuing on with the text as this increases the impact and understanding of the following thoughts.

Reading the book from front to back allows for a gradual development of ideas, but it isn’t necessary to enjoy the book and Givens invites you to use the book in whatever order best suits at the time.

Women on the Move, by Sandi Givens
Knowledge-Able Pty Ltd, Melbourne, 2002

Available direct from the author.

Antarctica, by Margaret McPhee

Antarctica is a popular theme for classroom study in both primary and high school classes. This 32 page reference title provides a wealth of information of use both to teachers in planning and to students in conducting research.

Part of the Australian Focus on Issues series, the book looks at a range of topics, from early exploration of Antarctica, to international treaties and current ventures. Natural aspects are also covered – including geological and neteorological facts and thw wildlife of the region.

All facts are presented in language accessible to upper primary and high school students, supported by internet links for further research and illustrated with excellent photographic imagery.

A valuable resource for cross-curricular studies, language, science and social studies classrooms and as an addition to school library collections.

Antarctica, by Margaret McPhee
Watts Publishing, 2003

Whose? Four Book Set, by Jeanette Rowe

Jeanette Rowe’s Whose Nose?, Whose Ears?, Whose Feet? and Whose Tail?hav already established themselves as popular with the preschool set. Now, though, these titles are available as a four book set in mini-book format.

These four small format lift the flap books with the same colourful illustrations, are packaged in a clear carry bag, adding to their novelty value for youngsters and gift-purchasers alike.

Very cute!

Whose?, by Jeanette Rowe
ABC Books, 2003

Wicked Jokes and Wicked Rhymes & Knock Knocks

What do you call a sick bird?
An ill-eagle.

What does a hippy pea say?
Peas dude!

Kids love jokes, and these two little books are filled with jokes contributed by kids from all over the world. From the plain silly to the hilarious, kids of all ages will find plenty of jokes they haven’t heard, as well as revisiting some they have.

The jokes have been chosen by webmistress Kate Booker, from those contributed to her highly succesful website wicked4kids. With 70 000 children visiting the site every month, wicked4kids is a great success. Booker, in recognition of the popularity of the jokes section of the site, invited children to contribute jokes for consideration and received an overwhelming response. The result is these two books.

Each book has 125 pages of jokes and is small enough to be slipped in a pocket or backpack. At just $7.95 (rrp) they are also a great buy!

Wicked Jokes 4 Kids and Wicked Rhymes & Knock Knocks 4 Kids, by Kate Booker (&Kids)
ABC Books, 2003

Lulubelle and her Bones, by Vashti Farrer

Lulubelle is the pampered lapdog of the Duchess of Daftby Dingleby. She has been with the Duchess for so long and been so protected that she believes she is human. But one day, as the Duchess naps, Lulubelle chances upon Bones, a working dog, whose job it is to turn the spit for the Duchess’s roast dinners.

The pair feel an instant attraction and next day Lulubelle frees Bones and together they flee into the countryside.

Life on the road is not easy. Lulubelle is not used to being outdoors and the duo must keep moving to avoid recapture. Along the road, though, help comes from unexpected quarters. Together, Lulubelle and Bones, seem destined for a change in fortunes.

A cute junior novel, Lulubelle and her Bones will appeal to young dog lovers aged 8 to 10.

Lulubelle and her Bones, by Vashti Farrer, illustrated by David Cox
Scholastic, 2003

Bluestocking in Patagonia, by Anne Whitehead

A century ago, 500 disillusioned Australians set out for Paraguay to found a socialist colony. One of the travellers, schoolteacher Mary Cameron – has perhaps been better remembered than the rest. She was to become renowned not for her participation in this social experiment but for her writing and contribution to the arts in Australia. To this day her face graces Australia’s ten dollar note.

Mary Gilmour (as she became on her marriage soon after her arrival in Paraguay) joined the Paraguay group believing she would be part of a better life, both for herself and others. This dream didn’t last long but, by then, Mary was married to shearer William Gilmore. The couple remained in South America – in Buenos Aires and Patagonia – for six years before heading home.

Blue Stocking in Patagonia is an interesting blend of biography and travelogue, as author Anne Whitehead retraces Gilmore’s steps to reveal an interesting chapter in the writer’s life.

Intriguing reading for those fond of biography.

Bluestocking in Patagonia, by Anne whitehead
Allen & Unwin, 2003

Through the Tiger's Eye, by Kerrie O'Connor

When Lucy and Ricardo see the house their mother wants to rent, they are not impressed. But when they explore the house they feel differently. There is something inexplicable in their attraction to the house and, especially, an old carpet in the room which will become their bedroom.

After they move in to the house, a cat eerily similar to the tiger on the old rug leads them to a secret tunnel which connects their home with a country where children are kept as slaves, weaving rugs and making toys. Soon, Lucy and Ricardo are involved in a daring rescue of the slave children, aided by the tiger-cat and other animals.

This gripping adventure tale, suitable for children aged 10 to 12 is a skilful balance of mystery, suspense and issues. Author Kerrie O’Connor balances exploration of political repression and child labour with humour and excitement.

A great read.

Through The Tiger’s Eye, by Kerrie O’Connor
Allen & Unwin, 2003

Remember Me? by Moya Simons

Amber’s Mum has bought her a diary, because she thinks it’s a good way for Amber to get rid of the worries that clutter her mind. If she writes them down every night before bed, she’ll be able to sleep better.

Amber’s mind is cluttered because her life is more than a little cluttered. For years it’s just been her, her mum and her dog Buster. Now, though, things have changed. Her Mum has married Thick Nick and he’s come to live with them. And if that wasn’t enough to cope with, her real dad, who she hasn’t seen for years, has suddenly reappeared.

Having survived without a dad for so long, Amber now has both a real dad and a step-dad to deal with. And it seems the pair aren’t just competing for her affections, but for business in their hardware shops too.

Amber’s diary gets a real workout as she works through her confusing family.

Suitable for ages 10 to 12, Remember Me? is a lively mixture of humour and insight, from popular author Moya Simons. Great reading.

Remember Me?, by Moya Simons
Omnibus, 2003