Nest Boxes for Wildlife, by Alan and Stacey Franks

The lack of suitable nesting places is one of the biggest problems faced by many of Australia’s endangered animal species. Without hollows for nesting, these animals cannot breed, forcing population sizes into a dangerous downward spiral. The provision of nesting boxes can, however, be a lifeline.

In Nest Boxes for Wildlife: A Practical Guide, passionate wild-life advocates Alan and Stacey Franks share their experiences of building, maintaining and observing nest boxes. The guide includes plans and instructions for building and installing different kinds nesting box, as well as detailed advice for monitoring boxes and enjoying the vistors which might come to make use of a box.

This is an excellent guide for anyone interested in building a nest box and/or playing a part in the conservation and restoration of endangered animals. Written in lay-man’s terms, it is neither preachy or patronising, being instead accessible to all readers.

The book is available from good bookshops or at a reduced price from the Green Book Company, phone (03) 9427 8866 or (outside of Melbourne), freecall 1800 646 533.

Eugenie Sandler P.I., by David McRobbie

Eugenie Sandler just wants to be a normal teenager. Tired of moving and hiding regularly when her father’s work as a private investigator becomes tricky, Eugenie longs for the chance to stay in one place long enough to make some friends and perhaps even have a boyfriend. All that seems pretty unlikely when Eugenie’s father disappears mysteriously. Suddenly Eugenie’s life is even more haphazard than she could ever have imagined.

As she searches for her father, Eugenie realises that she is being followed. Someone is trying to capture her, possibly even to kill her. And, as she tries to unravel the truth, she realises that there is a mystery in her past which could have devastating consequences for her future.

Eugenie Sandler P.I. is a novelisation of a television series which screened on ABC television in 2001. It has a balance of mystery, soul-searching and light romance which will be very appealing for teenagers. The voice of Rachael Blake as reader is clear and appropriate for the subject matter and target audience. Available on 5 audio tapes, Eugenie Sandler P.I. runs for 5 hours and thirty minutes.

Eugenie Sandler P.I., by David McRobbie, read by Rachael Blake
ABC Audio, 2002

Len and Spike, by Wendy Elks

Len lives in the country, with his best mate Spike. The fact that Spike’s a bird doesn’t worry Len. Spike is good company – and he has a secret. Other cockatoos can talk, but Spike can do better – he understands what he’s saying, and can hold a real conversation. Len reckons they could be famous if the world knew about Spike’s amazing abilities. The only problem is, Spike refuses to reveal his secret to anyone other than Len.

But when Spike sees a television advertisement for a big fair in Sydney, he agrees to show the world his amazing skill if Len will take him to the fair. Len sells his car to finance their trip and together the two set out, certain they are on their way to fame and fortune.

In the city, things don’t go quite according to plan. It is a noisy and confusing place and Spike finds it hard to cope. When the pair get their big chance to appear on television, disaster strikes. It appears their friendship, which has lasted twenty years, could be about to fall apart.

Len & Spike is a fun book for upper primary aged children, who will enjoy the idea of a bird who can really talk, and the humour of the piece. Some may feel a little let down by the ending, which sees both Len and Spike happy, but loses some of the pace and action of the earleir chapters. Despite this, Len & Spike is worth a read.

Len & Spike, by Wendy Elks
An Omnibus Book from Scholastic Australia

The Very Best of Alison Lester

Alison Lester is well known for her picture books which are both beautifully written and delightfully illustrated. The two – words and pictures – are so equally impressive, that it is hard to conceive of an audiobook version which, by necessity, must do without the pictures. So The Very Best of Alison lester is a pleasant surprise. The absence of visual support is well-compensated for by the sound track on the recording.

With five of Lester’s stories, read by Peter Combe and Anna Steene, the disc makes use of music and sound effects to transport young readers to the setting of each tale, and to punctuate the narrative. The farm in My Farm comes alive with the mooing of cattle and the barking of dogs, whilst in Magic Beach, the sounds of the seashore make the reading truly magic.

Whilst this audio recording could be used as an addition to a viewing of the original books, it also stands alone. The gentleness of the reading would also make it ideal for relaxation sessions or preschool nap time.


The Very Best of Alison Lester, read by Peter Combe and friends
ABC Audio, 2003

Wonderful, by Andrew Humphreys

In the years of prohibition and the Great Depression, a Hungarian ‘doctor’ by the name of Jozsef Kiss arrives in Hollywood with his chimpanzee, Siggy, who he is determined to make a star. Siggy soon becomes Siggy the Wonder Chimp, with a rapidly growing list of movie credits, including the widely applauded Jungle Man films.

Both Siggy and Joszef must adjust to life amidst the whirl of Hollywood, at times stumbling from one movie to the next, one drink to the next.

At times funny, at others poignant, the story seems to capture the essence of the golden age of the Hollywood studio system, where stars were stars, and where the world of film offered an escape from the economic, social and political troubles of the time. Movie buffs will love the nostalgic feel of the book, and the movie blurbs which punctuate the novel, illustrating Siggy’s career.

The second novel for Sydney-born Andrew Humphreys, Wonderful is a story of friendship, dreams and history.

Wonderful, by Andrew Humphreys
Allen & Unwin, 2004

The Rocket Ship of Dreams, by Moya Simons

Tom’s parents are following their dreams. His mum is busily writing her third book and his dad owns the Alien Toy Shop, which only sells things to do with aliens and space.

But things change when Dad’s alien suit causes a car accident and he is forced to close the shop to pay his debts. Now Dad is more like a regular father, right down to the suit he wears to work. Tom misses his old dad.

The only thing that remains of the fun loving Dad and his cool shop is the amazing rocket ship ride that sits in the corner of the garage gathering dust. Strangely, though, it is that very ride which might hold the answers to all the family’s problems. Tom discovers something strange about the ride. If he can convince the rest of the family to give it a go things might get back to normal.

The Rocket Ship Of Dreams combines two common elements of Moya Simons’ work – science fiction and family themes – to create a fun tale with a gentle message about family life and following dreams.

Excellent reading for 8 to 12 year olds.

The Rocket Ship of Dreams, by Moya Simons
An Omnibus Book from scholastic Press, 2004

Children's AudioBook Review: Bandaid, by Kym Lardner

Kym Lardner entertains 30 000 primary school children in Australian every year. Now, for those children who can’t get to one of his performances, or who have seen him but want more, ABC Audio presents a live recording of his work.

Bandaid, recorded with a live audience, is great fun. Lardner combines tales of his childhood with silly songs and sound effects for 40 minutes of non-stop giggles.

It is refreshing in these days of constant visual stimulation, to see young listeners laughing and enjoying an audio tape presentation so much.

Bandaids is suitable for classroom listening, but is just as appropriate for private enjoyment for primary school aged children.

Bandaid and Other Stories for Giggling, by Kym Lardner
ABC Audio 2002

A Handicap for the Devil? by Allen Lyne

Reviewed by Molly Martin

Jonathan Goodfellow, accountant nearing retirement lives a humdrum life, and works at a humdrum job. Landlady O’Reilly tells him what to do. Overweight Miss Bloomingdale, company receptionist is a real pain in the neck. His fellow workers, Jones P senior THE boss, and Jones P junior the head of the accounting department all are vexatious and perhaps even more. Jones P. – the P stands for Percival – is a devilish member of an occult Black Circle Club whose members practice trances, and all become lawyers. The world’s attorneys, led by the obese Jones P. senior, have formed a strange alliance with Satan. In exchange for particular compensations he will give them the world. Hell has been transformed into a golf course where the Devil wants to be left alone to play golf and hopefully break 100. The dwarf, Earnest Jamieson, Marijuana, an odd assortment of roomers, Cowley, Sampson, The Crone, a handgun and a five iron all figure in Goodfellow’s strange move toward death and return to earth to act as a Messiah. Jonathan wakes up in heaven facing a hippie god, who is moved to give humankind one more chance. God charges Johnathan, who has to be the mildest man on earth, to serve as his Messiah to bring back the directive that we mortals are to revise our behaviour. If we falter, God vows that he will disregard his plan to end the world when it becomes due. Jonathan and the astonishing bedlam he creates while on his mission from God is a most extraordinary jaunt and a most startling aftermath. Talking bunnies, a star over his boarding house – life is getting strange.

Writer Lyne has composed a whimsical, jocose work heavy in perceptive understanding about the human animal. A Handicap for the Devil? is an animated exploit filled with an extravagance of energy that strings together smoothly and grasps the fascination of the reader from the opening lines. Professional playwright Lyne’s inaugural novel, draws on his many years of stage experience to produce a premium and exceedingly engaging work.

Lyne’s plentiful list of intriguing characters, including even Jonathan’s talking bunnies are vivid and creditable. The band of often obsessed disciples, are as richly drawn as the at times preoccupied, psychedelic hippie god, both Jones’ P. Senior and Junior, the toughs, the dwarf and the balance of the often motley but always entertaining coterie gracing A Handicap for the Devil?

On the pages of A Handicap for the Devil? writer Lyne presents his tenets with respect to many of today’s social ills including the growing disparity between haves and have-nots, inhumanity, war, and famine. His notions are sure to agree with those held by with many readers.

Not for everyone: some graphic language included, and for the super religious some notions presented are sure to cause consternation.

A good tongue in cheek type work for reading on a rainy afternoon. Happy to recommend for those who enjoy the genre.


A Handicap for the Devil? , by Allen Lyne
Books Unbound E-Publishing Co.

The Ballad of Cauldron Bay, by Elizabeth Honey

Henni is back. First seen in 45 & 47 Stella Street, and later in Fiddle-back, this third book has all the laughs and growing pains that can be expected from author Elizabeth Honey.

When Tibor is offered the use of a house at remote Cauldron Bay for the Easter holidays, he invites his friends from Stella Street to come along. Henni can’t wait to get there, but it takes time to negotiate who is going and for how long. Still, like all good things the holiday finally begins and is going just great, until Tara comes along to ruin it.

Tara is sophisticated and very into boys. She’s come on holiday because things are not going well at home. Tara doesn’t do things the way Henni and her friends do, and Henni is not happy about her holiday being wrecked by this intruder. She is learning that not everything goes to plan and that being a teenager is complicated.

The Ballad of Cauldron Bay sees Henni growing from a child into a teenager. As with the earlier books, Henni acts as narrator, recounting the tale in a chatty-first person style which is complemented with the pictures she draws both to explain and for simple illustration. This time round Henni has a new computer on which to compose her story. She has given her computer a name (Byron) and addresses him directly within the story, reminding the reader of her youth and her presence as a narrator telling a story in retrospect.

In true Honey style, The Ballad of Cauldron Bay is a delightful mix of humour and drama, of issues and dilemmas and of poetic language. An outstanding read.

The Ballad of Cauldron Bay, by Elizabeth Honey
Allen & Unwin, 2004

123 – A First Board Book from Scholastic Australia

One of four titles in Scholastic’s First Board Book series, 123 is, as the title suggests, a first counting book. With bright photo illustrations and clear labels, the book presents the numbers 1 through 10, as well as 20, 50 and 100.

Each number is illustrated by objects which youngsters will know – 1 teddy bear, 2 socks, 3 trucks and so on. Kids will especially love the 50 bright buttons and 100 lollies (yum!).

There are also four double page spreads encouraging counting and discussion, with children being asked to count various objects.

The board book format provides a sturdy learning tool perfect for viewing and interaction for chidlren from birth through to preschool age.

123: A First Board Book, from Scholastic Australia, 2004