Loz & Al, by Julia Lawrinson

Loz (her real name is Laura, but no one calls her that) has a great best friend, Al (Alice) and belongs to a group of future stars – the Teen Queens. Soon she’ll be finished primary school and starting high school. All in all, life is pretty good. Until her Mum decides to leave home and her best friend decides to hate her.

Suddenly Loz’s life is upside down. Nothing is as it should be and she feels powerless to get it back on track.

Loz finds help and answers from the people and places she least expects.

Loz & Al is a rich mix of humour and heartache, of harsh reality and happy endings. Author Julia Lawrinson blends these seeming opposites to perfection, weaving a story that young readers can both believe in and enjoy.

Already an award-winning writer of young adult titles, this is Lawrinson’s first children’s novel (aimed at the 10-12 year old age group). It is sure to be equally as succesful.

Loz & Al, by Julia Lawrinson
Fremantle Arts Centre press, 2004

Growing Things to Eat, by Janice Marriott

Kids love gardening, and growing their own vegetables is especially exciting. Growing Things to Eat has all the information a young gardener needs to get started.

As well as discussing different types of plants – vegetables, fruits and herbs – the book details how and when to plant different varieties. For many plants details are given about cultivation in small areas. Potatoes can be grown in a stack of car tyres, strwaberries in a hanging basket and cress on a plate inside.

As well as practical gardening tips, there are experiments, games and puzzles, jokes and more. Although only 32 pages long, the book is packed full of fun and information.

Growing Things to Eat, by Janice Marriott
Harper Collins, 2003

The Empty Beach, by Peter Corris

Cliff Hardy is an established Private Investigator, but has private demons to battle. He’s given up smoking and cut back on alcohol. His brief marriage and other ghosts still haunt him.

When he’s offered a case in Bondi, Cliff thinks it will be a chance to enjoy the attractions of that suburb. The case seems straightforward – establish whether or not a long-missing millionaire is actually dead. Hardy soon remembers, though, that nothing is ever as simple as it seems. He finds himself fighting to stay alive as others around him are murdered.

One of twenty six Cliff Hardy titles, The Empty Beach was first published in 1982, and has been rereleased to coincide with the release of the latest installment, Master’s Mates. This edition includes a bonus novella, Man in the Shadows. Both are gripping reads.

For those new to the Cliff Hardy stories, The Empty Beach will provide an insight into the character in his earlier life.

The Empty Beach, by Peter Corris
Allen & Unwin, 2003

Modern Classics Book 2, by Donna Hay

If you have a sweet tooth, or love to impress your friends and family with delectable treats, then you will adore this volume.Following on from the delights of Modern Classics 1, Donna Hay shares the secrets to making perfect biscuits, slices, cakes and desserts.

As with the first book, Hay presents old favourites, such as sponge cakes and gingerbread men, along with delightful modern offerings such as her Summer Pudding. As she says in her introduction, these are the sweet treats that everyone wants to know how to make. With her straightforward instructions and accessible ingredient lists, Hay ensures anyone CAN make these delights.

Modern Classics 2, with its focus on deserts and sweet snacks is an excellent stand-alone volume. It is also, however, an excellent complement to the first volume.


Modern Classics Book 2, by Donna Hay
Harper Collins, 2003

Modern Classics Book 1, by Donna Hay

Times may have changed in the kitchen (as elsewhere), but that doesn’t mean modern cooks want to reinvent the wheel. They still want to make soups and salads, roasts and pasta, pies and puddings.

In Modern Classics renowned food writer Donna Hay takes these traditional numbers and combines them with the best of modern ingredients and techniques to give them a fresh new life.

Old and new are wonderfully intermingled so that as well as explaining how to roast a leg of lamb and make gravy, Hay also shows to make Pad Thai and risotto. Dishes such as risotto, she explains, will be as commonplace to the next generation of home cooks as macaroni cheese has been to the current one.

These delicious and easy recipes are mostly made with ingredients that can be sourced at the local supermarket, a boon for busy shoppers or country residents like this reviewer.

The book is gorgeously illustrated by the photography of Con Poulos, whose images seem so real they make the reader’s taste buds tingle.

The presentation of the book is beautiful. It seems almost too good to live in the kitchen – seeming to deserve to be shown off.


Modern Classics Book 1, by Donna Hay
Harper Collins, 2002

Bridie's Fire, by Kirsty Murray

Thirty percent of Australians have Irish ancestry and a quarter of convicts sent to Australia were Irish. It was this fact, combined with a concern at the lack of Australian historical fiction that lead Kirsty Murray to write the Children of the Wind series.

In this first book, Bridie O’Connor finds herself alone in the workhouse after her family die of hunger during the potato famine. At the age of eleven she is given the chance to go to Australia where she is given work as a scullery maid for a wealthy Melbourne family.

But being a scullery maid is not part of Bridie’s dream for a better life. Together with the younger son of the house, Gilbert, she sets out for the goldfields, looking for fortune and happiness.

Bridie’s Fire is a gripping read for 10 to 14 year olds, creating a deep sense of time and place which will draw the young reader in.

Bridie’s Fire, by Kirsty Murray
Allen & Unwin, 2003

Fergus Makes a Difference, by JW Noble

Fergus is doing his rounds of the harbour when he meets two tugs towing a rusty oil tanker to the dock for repairs.

Soon, however, one of the tugs blows its engines under the strain, leaving its partner to tug alone. Seeing the remaining tug – Jimmy – struggling, Fergus offers to lend a hand. He may be small and it might be a struggle but Fergus shows that with determination he can make a difference. The tanker is soon safely docked.

Fergus Makes a Difference is the sixth story about the ferry and his adventures on Sydney Harbour. With colourful illustrations from Peter Townsend and written in rhyming couplets, these are cute stories for the preschool age group.

Fergus Makes a Difference, by JW Noble, illustrated by Peter Townsend
Scholastic, 2003

A Box Full of Phaeries, Phreddes and Fruit, by Jackie French

In her introduction to each of these three books Jackie French avows that stories can be eaten in much the same way one would eat a banana or a plum. And she’s right. The stories she shares in this delightful trilogy are ones which kids are likely to devour.

In the first book, A Phaery Named Phredde, Pru meets a phaery (NOT fairy), called Phredde, who soon becomes her best friend. If you think that’s strange, then what about the pair having a teacher who is a vampire, and Pru’s brother becoming a werewolf? Anything is possible in the Australia created by French. In each of the five stories in the book, Pru and Phredde have wild and wonderful adventures which will amuse and delight eight to tweve year olds.

In the following two volumes, Phredde and a Frog Named Bruce and Phredde and the Zombie Librarian, Pru and Phredde have even more adventures, including meeting a talking frog who is really a phaery prince (and does NOT want to be kissed by a princess), and escaping the clutches of a zombie librarian intent on feeding them to her blood-starved books.

With the three books packaged together in a slipcase, this set would make a great gift for a hungry young reader.

A Box Full of Phaeries, Phreddes and Fruit, by Jackie French
Angus & Robertson, 2003

Fergus at the Fireworks, by JW Noble

It’s New Year’s Eve, the year’s last day
Time for the annual fireworks display.

Fergus the Ferry, with a load of passengers is watching the fireworks. He sees Fireboat George start the display with a big swoosh, and wishes he too could do something to make everyone cheer.
When the fireworks end, other boats send up distress flares. George realises they are doing this for fun, and so does not respond. But, when a flare hits a boat’s sail, fire breaks out and the people on board need help. Quick thinking Fergus and his Captain, Joe, rescue the trapped sailors and Fergus is rewarded by the cheers of the watching crowd.

Fergus and the Fireworks is a cute story in rhyme, likeley to appeal to preschoolers. The Sydney Harbour setting and the bright illustrations by Peter Townsend will appeal to Australian youngsters, whilst the message about responsible use of flares and being wary of crying wolf may appeal to parents.


Fergus at the Fireworks, by JW Noble, illustrated by Peter Townsend
Scolastic, 2003

Mind's Eye , by Wendy Laing

Reviewed by Molly Martin

This is a delightful little work of twenty-two stimulating odes written for and about everything from the writer’s pets to what might have been ‘IF.’

Within the lines of “That’s Life” is presented: ‘The future will happen, despite what we ask. The present is precious, a time to enjoy all life’s moments, pain, hope and joy.’ Laing introduces Kaspar in “My Best Mate”, along with “Unspoken Love” portraying the unspoken devotion of a dog. I especially enjoyed odes “Cats” and “Break of Day” which are both directed toward my favourite critter: cats.

The question of what might have been is asked in the ode: “If”. ‘Have you ever wondered what might have been, if you’d been born of a different being?’ “Games that we Played” and “Summer Daze” ‘Just ponder about this lovely vision of two young girls, having loads of fun, in the long days and the hot summer sun’ forward the idea of childhood happiness. “Day Dream” time ruminations during a walk in nature, “I am What I Am” lauding an acceptance of self while “The Cross”, written about soldiers, along with “Magical Mist” (‘Our home town framed by this special treat. The magical mist spell was now complete!’) are guileless fine reading.

“Twilight Years” (‘Some of these folk, at the sunset of life are unable to talk, but manage in spite of all odds, to smile from inside.’) and “A Tranquil Walk” offer plain feel-good odes, while “Tinderbox” and “One Careless Match” are written about a scourge here in the US as well as in Australia. Wild fire is a terrifying experience when viewed close up or from afar.

“Forget-Me-Not” with ‘A Cottage and garden called Forget-Me-Not’, “The Trek” and “Seduction” each hold a surprise for the reader to enjoy. “Grains of Time” is Laing at her poignant best.
“The Light of Hope” and “An Ode to the Phantom Light” are written following Laing’s visit to a lighthouse. Writer Laing again proves her marvelous talent as author, children’s writer, poet. “Mind’s Eye”, filled with twenty-two very enjoyable works is a treat. The vast array of subject matter has proven no undue challenge for author Laing. Each ode is marvelously wrought.

The book is a perfect companion to a warm sunny afternoon sipping lemonade in the hammock on the porch, or curled up with a cup of hot chocolate in a huge chair in front of the fire in the midst of a January snow storm.

Mind’s Eye, by Wendy Laing
Crystal Dreams, 2002