The Cockroach War, by Jonathan Harlen

When the Judge family meet their neighbours, the Cadwallers, they like them almost as much as they like their new house and their new neighbourhood.

Unfortunately, the Cadwaller’s don’t stay nice for long. When Mrs Cadwaller wins forty million dollars in a big lottery, the whole family changes. First, they blow up their old house to build a new one, then they start staging big parties and flying helicopters at all hours. The final straw is when they try to buy the Judge’s house.

Emma, however, has an idea. With the help of her brilliant new invention, she and brother Toby are out to fight Dick Cadwaller and win.

The Cockroach War is a humorous novel for 8 to 12 year old readers. With a combination of humour, adventure and down right silliness, author Jonathan Harlen shows that anything is possible with a little inventiveness (and a whole lot of cockroaches).

The Cockroach War, by Jonathan Harlen
Allen & Unwin 2000, republished 2003

Horrible Harriet, by Leigh Hobbs

Horrible Harriet lives in a tower in the school and spends her days being truly horrible. Only the teacher, Mr Boggle, who can’t see very well, thinks Harriet is good. Whenever Mr Boggle isn’t looking, Harriet is truly horrible to the other students.

When a new boy comes to the school, Harriet takes it upon herself to make him feel welcome. But her plans don’t all go according to plan.

Horrible Harriet is a truly memorable picture book. Author/illustrator Leigh Hobbs creates a character who is at once horrible yet almost likeable and tells a story which will make kids laugh.

Horrible Harriet, by Leigh Hobbs
Allen & Unwin, 2001 (reprinted 2003)

Famous Australian Birds, by Gisela Kaplan

Did you know …
That most sulphur-crested cockatoos are left-footed?
Magpies can mimic other birds, as well as humans, dogs and horses?
Emus use their toes as weapons?

In Famous Australian Birds and Animals, author Gisela Kaplan, a recognised authority on Australian birds, shares these and many more interesting facts about Australia’s birds.

Kaplan runs a bird rescue centre at her home in Armidale, NSW. Many of the anecdotes and photographs come from her personal experience raising injured baby birds and rehabiliting them.

Filled with facts, interesting stories and outstanding photography, this is a volume sure to delight young bird enthusiasts. It would also make an excellent class or library resource.

Famous Australian Birds, by Gisela Kaplan
Allen & Unwin, 2003

The Verge Practice, by Barry Maitland

When the young wife of renowned architect, Charles Verge, is found murdered, suspicion falls on her husband. Verge has disappeared, having seemingly staged a fake suicide.

For four months, police have searched for Verge fruitlessly, with the mystery the subject of intense public interest. Now, Chief D.I. Brock and his team have been handed the case, their brief to find fresh leads and put an end to the investigation. They must establish if this was, indeed, a crime of passion, with Verge now living in Spain or elsewhere, or if Verge is dead, a victim of the same murderer that killed his wife.

Once again Brock is aided by Detective Sargeant Kathy Kolla, determined to make her own contribution to the case despite the distractions offered by a committee posting and a complicated private life.

Together with other members of the team, the pair are intent on solving the mystery once and for all.

This is the seventh title in Barry Maitland’s highly acclaimed Brock and Kolla series. Previous titles have been nominated for awards including the Ned Kelly Award and the John Creasey award.

The Verge Practice is an intriguing read.

The Verge Practice, by Barry Maitland
Allen & Unwin, 2003

Shaedow Master, by Justin D'Ath

Quickwater Lake, at the centre of the Kingdom of Folavia, is deadly. Ora is the only person to have survived its pull, and that when she was an infant. Now, as she nears her fifteenth birthday, Ora finds herself drawn to the lake, sensing it calling her.

When her uncle, the king, takes Ora to see the Cloudtouchers – trees which soar to meet the clouds – she is overwhelmed by their beauty and stature. But soon she learns that the trees are in danger and, with them, the future of the whole kingdom.

Ora must overcome her self-doubt and the shock of discovering her true identity if she is to make full use of her emerging powers and ensure the future of Folavia.

Shaedow Master is an absorbing new fantasy title from Justin D’Ath, an author who shows his flexibility and depth of talent in tackling a new genre and age group. Great reading.

Shaedow Master, by Justin D’Ath
Allen & Unwin, 2003

Drop Dead Fred, by Jonathan Harlen

When Sam Tucker saves a dingo from drowning in the mud, she doesn’t realise this event will change her life. Back home, her family is in trouble. Their wombat farm is struggling through a drought and Sam’s brother, Billy, has become a quadraplegic. If that isn’t enough to contend with, Sam’s Dad, Fred Tucker, has decided to turn to a life of crime to mend the family fortunes.

It’s up to Sam to help her dad out of trouble. She also has a plan for turning their fortunes around. This plan involves journeying deep into the desert to the legendary lost paradise of Malagar, where she will face the Ultimate Test and perhaps be granted a wish.

Drop Dead, Mad Dog Fred is the latest funny offering from author Jonathan Harlen. Packed full of silliness and the most unlikely of situations, it will appeal to 8 to 12 year old readers.

Drop Dead, Mad Dog Fred, by Jonathan Harlen
Allen & Unwin, 2003

Dabu – The Baby Dugong, by Selena Solomon

Reviewed by Tash Hughes

Although not a happy story, this book is a vivid recounting of a baby dugong’s growth to adulthood.

Dabu is born and finds comfort in his mother’s presence. His mother teaches him survival means and the strength of family, as Dugongs travel in great family herds.

Each page is predominantly blue, with clear pictures to enhance the story. The first half of the text is in English, followed by a repetition of the story in Kala Lagaw Ya. This language is the traditional language of the Western Torres Strait and is slowly becoming extinct.

The Dugong, or sea cow, is also facing extinction. Traditionally, hunting the dugong was dangerous but very prestigious, and young men still hunt them with traditional methods today.

As Dabu grows, he learns about the dangers of mankind and actually sees his mother speared by men. She cries, tells Dabu to get away, and swims for her life. Dabu stays with his mother until the end, before finding his family again and realising he is no longer afraid of the ocean.

Although this story could happen anywhere tropical, Solomon set it in the Western Group of Torres Strait Islands. The Dugong was named, via an anagram, after Badu Island.

The book includes a full list of Kala Lagaw Ya words used in the story with an English translation beside each word.

Dabu – The Baby Dugong (kazi dhangal), by Selena Solomon, Illustrated by Dennis Nona, Translated by Ephraim Bani Magabala Books, 1992

Forefathers, by Nancy Cato

Reviewed by Tash Hughes

At nearly 700 pages long, this epic story takes time to read. It is an interesting concept for a book – the overall central character isn’t born until page 546! The preceding parts are about the ancestors of young Joseph as they dealt with life in white Australia.

The story covers the period from 1824 to 1969, and it moves through the different eras seamlessly. Cato doesn’t waste time describing the differences between times; her characters live their lives, and their world is defined by the story.

Reading this book gives a broad overview of Australian history as it covers convict labour, aborigine extinction in Tasmania, early settlers, gold rushes across the nation, world wars, shearers’ rights, the depression, conscription, the aboriginal referendum, the Vietnam War, land rights, Holt’s disappearance, Collins’ trial and the Granville train disaster. It is an interesting refresher on our history, and often shows both sides of an issue through different characters.

The final part is the most political as much of the story revolves around the conditions of aborigines in the 1960’s and student politics.

Adventures in the story abound, with characters experiencing desert crossings, snowfalls, car crashes, a train accident, snakebite, diseases, a ferry sinking, fishing losses, droughts, floods and infidelities.

In its favour, the movement through generations and branches of Joseph’s ancestral tree ensures that there are characters for every reader to like and dislike. There is also enough overlap that characters in one part of the book may well be mentioned in another part, although it may be in passing.

However, the large time period and many generations covered makes for a vast cast of characters in the book. Although family trees are provided at the beginning of the book, it can still be difficult to keep track of who individuals are and how they interrelate with other characters.

Forefathers, by Nancy Cato New English Library, London, 1983

Rhyme and Song Singalong, with Matthew Perry

Want to get your children or preschool students up and marching to the beat? Rhyme and Song Singalongwill help you to do just that. This fun new book and CD set, from Matthew Perry and Jane Curry Publishing, provides an excellent introduction to music for babies, toddlers and kids up to age five.

The book offers mainly familiar rhymes and songs, including favourites like Old MacDonald, Twinkle, Twinkle, Hickory Dickory Dock and more. For parents and teachers, each song is supported by a page of activity suggestions. From simple ideas such as rocking a baby in time to the beat, to suggestions for introducing concepts such as ostinato to older children, these pages are a valuable addition which make the set different from other nursery rhyme collections.

The accompanying CD is suitable for playing by itself as well as with the book. Each song is performed in an echo-response format with loads of repetition, encouraging children to participate and learn.

Activites in this set facilitate early music skill development, enhancing listening skills and laying a foundation for future music skills. The use of familiar rhymes, repetition and movement will also help develop early literacy, communication and motor skills. Importantly, the book and CD are also great fun.

Childhood music educator Matthew Perry has worked in schools for 20 years, teaching music to all ages. He has also written musicals and music education resources and worked as a composer, conductor and pianist.

A valuable resource for school and home.

Rhyme and song Singalong, with Matthew Perry
Jane Curry Publishing, 2003

ISBN 1-920727-03-5

Baby Boomsticks, by Margaret Wild

When a teeny-tiny mum and a teeny-tiny dad have a great big baby, they are very proud. He is a wonder and a joy. But Baby Boomsticks is so big that the other villagers won’t let their babies play with him. They are scared of a baby who is bigger than the houses and bigger than the trees.

So Baby Boomsticks has no friends, which makes him very sad. But one day, something happens. The village is flooded and only Baby Boomsticks can save his mum, his dad and all the other villagers. The other villagers soon see that Baby Boomsticks is a hero.

Baby Boomsticks is the latest picture book offering from award-winning Aussie author, Margaret wild. The illustrations by David Legge are a delight, with gouache and oil paintings of a delightfully cherubic Baby Boomsticks and his dwarfish neighbours.


Baby Boomsticks, written by Margaret Wild, illustrated by David Legge
ABC Books, 2003